In this web-exclusive Q&A with Mary Njema of Active Car Hire in Nairobi, Kenya, she explains how local rental demand has decreased as more Nairobi residents can afford car ownership. But through tourism and rentals by researchers, non-governmental organizations and the like, Active Car Hire has steadily increased to a fleet of 50 cars since starting in 2006.
Photos courtesy of Active Car Hire
What's your fleet size?
We have a fleet of 50 cars. We started in 2006 with one car that we bought through a loan and worked with it as a taxi. Now we are a full-grown car rental/leasing and transport company.
How many locations do you have and in what types of areas?
We have two locations: One at the city center in Nairobi and the other at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in the arrivals area. The town office is the head office and is where all operations are done.
How did the business start?
The first sedan car we bought in 2006 was used for taxi services within Nairobi and airport transfers from and to JKIA. The business grew and at the end of 2006, we had acquired another sedan.
With two cars, we started doing car hire services and our clients could lease the vehicles on monthly basis for long-term rental. Our rates were very competitive and that made us grow at a high speed and by 2009 we had been able to get more vehicles including safari land-cruisers and other 4WDs.
At the moment, we have a fleet of 50 vehicles. Most of them we have leased, but now we buy brand-new vehicles from Toyota Kenya for our clients who need vehicles on a long term rental, and we have supplied hard tops land-cruisers for oil exploration in Kenya.
What are your primary sources of rental customers?
We work with both local and international organizations, including non-governmental nonprofits and other institutions. We have many repeat clients that we have served for more than five years. We also serve individual clients who make bookings through our online reservation form. We’re at about 50% online reservations and 50% locally made reservations.
Are you an affiliate of any kind?
We work with Njewa Safari Tours and Travel Ltd, who is a mother company to Active Car Hire.
What made you decide to include tour and even hired drivers in your business model?
Tour is doing quite well in Kenya and that’s why we decided to included safari Land-Cruisers and safari vans to transport our clients to various national parks and game reserves. Investors and business people are in large numbers in Kenya, and they rent vehicles for either long or short terms.
What have the advantages and/or disadvantages been in including these services?
Advantages of tour vehicles are that we have a high season from Jan. 1 to end of March, then from June 15 to end of December. During this period, the safari vehicles are in high demand — especially the 4WDs. These vehicles transport tourist and they use our driver guides.
Disadvantages of tour vehicles are during the low season when they are not in demand. The income is minimal but the drivers still have to receive their salaries.