Here on Whoot Africa, we not only showcase brands, but we also talk to the people behind those brands and have them share with us their back stories as well as give tips on how to successfully start and run a business.
Welcome to Whoot Africa’s – 15 Questions with the CEO.
Today, we will be talking with Karl Sturesson, CEO of Carmudi.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and Carmudi as a brand you represent?
I am the co-founder and CEO of Carmudi West Africa. I am a Swede living in Lagos, Nigeria since the summer 2013. Carmudi is the only premium car classified site in Africa, which enables Nigerian’s and African’s to buy or sell their cars with ease. We focus on delivering a first class experience when it comes to showcasing cars online, meaning having top quality pictures and descriptions, actively working for a fresh and updated inventory (usually a huge problem here in Africa) and being in the front-line for new innovative solutions and ideas.
How did you get started in Business and what did it take you to get to where you are today?
The key factor when building a successful business is setting up the best team possible, with different individuals and different knowledge. I only focus on two things when recruiting and that is humbleness and street-smartness, also the classic “outside of the box”-mentality. When you have the ultimate team set up, then you need to share the same vision for the company and then just full speed ahead.
What were you doing before Carmudi started and why did you decide to start Carmudi?
Before joining Carmudi I worked for the largest Nordic bank working towards international hedge funds, before that I had a position at a New York based hedge fund.
Did you know you were going to be an Entrepreneur all along, or did it happen by chance? Also, tell us about your leadership style?
I have always been interested in the entrepreneurial atmosphere, I´m a farmer´s son, I guess I always had it in me to start and drive my own business. I see my leadership style as an opened minded style with a humble attitude to the team and colleague and then a clear decision maker that keep his words. Also, I always lead my team from the frontline, meaning that I would never send out a team member for any task (boring or interested) without being there with him/her.
What do you love most about your business and your life as an Entrepreneur? What drives you?
The fact that when I wake up in the morning I know that the results of today’s work solely depends on me and my team – we are having the success in our own hands, every day! That is a wonderful feeling for me.
The Automobile industry in Nigeria is not exactly for the average Nigerian, one would ask; how does Carmudi as a platform benefit the average earning Nigerian?
We do not discriminate when partnering with dealers. We understand that some sell Nigerian used, foreign used and brand new cars. Each dealer has its own specific niche which he bases his business on and that is what we do also. We have dealers from Ibadan who sell cars below N500,000. We also have dealers who sell very affordable bikes on the site.
Marketing and selling cars online is not an easy or feasible business for the average Joe, how does Carmudi find its business sustainability balance as well as ensure safe transaction practices to avoid the problem of fraudulent sellers and buyers?
First of all we have a Zero fraud tolerance, we quality check everything that goes online, we physically visit dealers and for those who list by themselves we have to check their listings one by one and make sure they don’t raise any flags before we approve; secondly we do not carry out any transaction online and we also advice buyers to meet with sellers in person and visibly inspect before they go ahead with any transaction.
What do you think are the most important personal skills someone must have to be successful in business?
1) Be humble to everything and everyone. Extremely important when you arrive in a new country, especially when the cultural differences are so significant from what I was used to in Sweden.
2) Minimize micromanagement – instead establish a winning and creative cultural and give mandate and responsibilities to your employees. You will see great results, which will help you focus on the right stuff.
3) The team is everything – if you have a great team in place, you can manage everything. It doesn’t matter if it is the online car classified business or other types of businesses.
What keeps you and the Carmudi team motivated? How do you envision Carmudi in 5-10years from now?
The positive response we get from the car sellers in Nigeria is really overwhelming, both from sellers and buyers, this makes us want to work even harder to give them a great experience with our premium service! And then of course, it´s fantastic for us to see that we have achieved a super growth in only 6 months, where we now have over 20,000 unique listings online.
In 5 years, we will be by far, the number one classified car site in every African country! Our goal is to make sure that when people think of buying or selling a car in Africa, they will think only of Carmudi. The positive thing here is that it will take much less than 5 years!
What are the obstacles you encountered in your business journey, especially unique to operating in Nigeria as a foreigner and how did you overcome them?
The cultural difference was quite huge for me as a Swede, coming from Stockholm to Lagos. The differences were not only related to the huge weather differences, but the way business is done and also how teams are led. My way to overcome these cultural challenges was to focus on local knowledge and personnel, rather than getting more expats involved. I mean, I had limited knowledge about the Nigerian car business. So rather than getting more expats down to Lagos I recruited the best guys for the job – Nigerians.
If you had to choose repeatedly, would you decide for or against doing business in Africa? Would you encourage your colleagues to come down to Africa to invest, especially those in the Diaspora?
As an international sports brand says – “Just do it”! That´s the only thing I have to say, if you are an investor or just want to start your own business in Africa, just do it, and do it now!
What do you think about college education? Should kids go to college now or get into business if they feel it’s a better choice? Considering some of the world’s greatest never had college education, your thoughts?
It all depends. If we look at the team, two people started their own start ups based on the experiences they got from Carmudi. I want my company to be a “springboard” to other start up businesses. When people leave me for starting their own businesses, then I have achieved something. Kids should always go to school if they want to and have the possibilities, because you often learn critical thinking and improving your analytical skills and also meet a lot of other individuals that you may start a business together with in 10 years’ time. So, it depends on so many things but I will always support going to school, if you have the means for it.
What would be the most important piece of advice you could give to young entrepreneurs and why?
Don´t think much about consequences; will this work or will it not work? If you think so, you will never succeed in business. You need to risk something, and for myself I really enjoy that thrill of having your own business, knowing that this could be the next million dollar idea, or a complete failure. But even if it´s a complete failure, you will have learnt much more than in 3 years in college. Entrepreneurship for me, rocks!
If you missed the previous parts of the 15 Questions with the CEO series, please click here