Subtleties of startups on an exotic island!
My business partner, and friend Diego Alonso van Camp brought me to Mauritius in November 2010. Despite of my sceptical position - we launched the project, and in 6 months time - we had already most popular website in Mauritius for selling & buying used cars.
1,300,000 of Mauritian population at that time for 3,000 unique visitors a day - was making our project really successful, however uniqueness of Mauritian dealerships such as small quantity of used cars and very small range of vehicles - was making our business a bit complicated.
Lets say we connected 5 used car dealers online, and we had the following vehicle range online:
1. 10 Honda Fit (2006-2010)
2. 10 Toyota Vitz (2006-2010)
Then we connected 50 used car dealers online, and we had the following vehicle range online:
1. 120 Honda Fit (2006-2010)
2. 150 Toyota Vitz (2006-2010)
3. 100 - Nissan March (2006-2010)
4. 100 - All other used cars models.
And now imagine to come to the website and see 120 Honda Fit with more or less same mileage, price range and year. What you do? How do you choose your car online?
Exactly! Our business has come to a standstill, where everything comes down to a personal relations of the seller and the customer, rather than a successful online advertising. Virtually the same scenario as Botswana, only because of the lack of a large range of cars on the market of Mauritius.
Therefore, “a piece of cake” which we had - was not enough for everybody, and worked only for a small part of the market. It was dramatically limiting our market capacity and we found the solution to recover our lost by launching “Private deal” service, where we were providing a brokerage service to private individuals, who were selling their cars and paying us some commissions for getting customers for them.
Having some car dealers + Private deal - the project began to generate some revenue, enough to feel financial independence, but not enough to make a decision to stay in the country permanently. And any attempt to employ a local person to run and maintain it - ended in failure, until the banal theft of clients' money and the disappearance of the employee later.
Since then, the project has been left online as a pilot, ie for the collection of statistics and in the hope of Lightstone in the future.