Kenyan startup Gari SMS has launched a mobile platform for individuals to find used cars and for owners to list their vehicles for sale, bidding to simplify and secure the process.

The startup is one of 37 Kenyan semi-finalists mobile startups event PIVOT East, which will be held in Nairobi on June 24 and 25, and is waiting to discover whether it has earned the chance to pitch at the event.

George Mwangi and Eric Muriuki started the company last year after a mobile application and entrepreneurship class at m:lab East Africa, and the company has recently completed a two-month pilot project with customers at the Jamhuri Car Bazaar in Nairobi.

“We already have some users after less than two months of operation,” said Mwangi.

Sellers register the details of the car and the cost using a Gari SMS shortcode, and are then able to print out a sticker which lists a Gari SMS query code and stick it onto the vehicle to inform buyers it is for sale.

“The prospective buyer then queries the car details by sending its registration number to the SMS shortcode which then sends the details [back to the buyer] immediately via SMS as per the seller’s description,” Mwangi said.

The seller is then notified that a potential buyer has queried his or her listing.

“This provides sellers with an easy way to sell cars anywhere, even in traffic jams and car parks,” he said.

The company’s business model is based upon registration fees and SMS advertising.

When a seller registers the vehicle, Gari SMS sends the individual an invoice via SMS requesting the registration fee be paid into the company’s M-Pesa account before activation.

“We also make revenue by charging advertising fees when advert text is placed on the feedback trailer [footer text]. For example, when a potential buyer queries for a particular car’s details, the response SMS may have advert text in the [footer],” said Mwangi.

Gari SMS is also available online, where all listings submitted via SMS are displayed and new listings can be created.

While the company is yet to secure investment, it hopes its entry into the PIVOT East mobile startup competition will attract potential investors.

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