Warehousing, office space, residential and commercial projects in Kenya

Interview with Jiten Kerai, General Manager at Purple Dot International

Can you provide some background on Purple Dot?

Purple Dot International specializes in industrial warehouse and residential projects as well as commercial space. We started in 2017 and have had a lot of success. The challenge is the current market situation, which we study in order to push new projects. One of our key upcoming projects is located in the South Seas area on Mombasa Road in Nairobi where we are building a ground floor plus 14 storey office space with showrooms and FnB (Food and Beverage) space. It is a ‘green building’ concept and we planned it well in terms of space, parking and openness. The prime office building itself is called Purple Tower and is the first project of its kind in Kenya. Initially we built individual projects and didn’t have partners, but then we formed Purple Dot, which was formed by a group of eight friends. We have built around 400 warehouses so far as there has been a great demand for them since 2017, and in 2019/2020 we started looking at residential projects as well. There were many other projects being built back then, but we wanted ours to focus on quality.

Can you give an overview of your ongoing projects? What’s the latest news?

As far as our upcoming projects are concerned, we are increasingly focusing on warehouse locations because that was our main focus when we started the company. High quality bearings at good prices. We are planning to build 200 or more warehouses and are also working on commercial office buildings and an industrial park. In terms of housing we are looking towards the Langata area where we are working on a project called Amerigo and once we have that completed we have other projects in the pipeline.

Who are these projects aimed at?

Expect a price of around 30 million Kenyan shillings for the residential projects in Langata. Our apartments are not geared towards high-end, but in relation to the quality that we offer, we are not overpriced. At the moment mortgage lenders in Kenya are very strong in lending for affordable housing, but as the market moves they are also flexible in supporting the middle class. There was more risk during the pandemic because projects slowed down and didn’t move as well, but now the mortgage market is recovering.

What are the trends in the real estate sector in Kenya and how is Purple Dot positioned?

There’s a lot of competition. Let’s say you have a residential or commercial office project; You have to study the market very carefully because there are other developers who are competing with you and bringing new designs to the market. Our focus at the moment is to bring new ideas and new design concepts to keep us visible in the market. Your projects must have something unique. Overall, in the last two years, the property Industry in Kenya was slow and is now moving well.

Do you still want to be present in East Africa after your previous plans for Kampala in Uganda?

We wanted to spread about two years ago, but the pandemic has forced us to stop it. Now that we have new projects underway in Kenya we want to focus on these and once we are halfway through we will start surveying the East African region to develop new projects for this area. At the moment we are limited to Nairobi so we are looking at cities like Mombasa and Machakos and from there we are also planning projects in Kisumu. As soon as we get at least one project outside of Nairobi, hopefully in the next year or within a few years, we also plan to move to Kampala.

What are your wishes for the next three years?

We want to achieve so much with industrial and commercial sites. If we are successful with our commercial office building on Mombasa Road we will try to do more work in the commercial space which involves building in the market at a good price and also good returns. The office industry in Kenya is doing better now because during the pandemic everyone started working from home and people didn’t use office space. But we can see that there will be more demand for office space in the next two or three years. Working from home isn’t good for some people because they need more space to be alone to think and there are too many distractions at home. It is better to have a good office space to work and fulfill your plans.

The most important thing we want to do with all our projects in the next three to four years is that they are environmentally friendly, whether they are residential, commercial or industrial. We want them to have some green energy and incorporate a green building concept. In Kenya, especially in the industrial market, nobody focuses on a green building concept on a warehouse site and that’s where we want to go. And the same goes for the housing market, where I haven’t seen a project with green building certification.

Are there concrete success stories since the company was founded?

Our proudest moment so far is that we’ve done pretty well during the pandemic. Purple Dot does not want to be silent in the market, we still want to come up with many projects.

Do you only use concrete or other building materials?

We have a team that recommends the best materials for specific projects and those that don’t harm the environment, but we still use concrete for up to 60% or 70% of our projects.

What inspires you to do what you do?

The group of eight friends who started this company are all from the same part of India and when they came to Kenya they had their own separate companies and skills so we used those skills to develop the company. I am the son of one of the eight directors and they wanted a full-time employee who could focus heavily on the real estate side and run the business. When I started, I wanted to be part of the team to help the company grow. Our structure is slightly different. We are not a developer and we can say that we are not a designer. We have brought our competencies together. We still build in-house and our designs are created in-house. We also sell 50% to 60% of the projects internally, through our recommendations or through our investors. In order to deliver a quality product, the team invests in it themselves. As a Purple Dot team, we invest our money in it.

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