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Platform links travellers to authentic local cuisines – Business Daily

PieMe founder Joshua Kainja (left), Raphael King’ori, commonly known as Chef Raphael and PieMe’s Head of growth Robert Okello (right). PHOTO | POOL
Finding authentic local food can be challenging for travellers visiting new countries or places.
Most hotels usually offer continental or foreign food, leaving traveling foodies hungry for local cuisines.
This was Joshua Kainja’s experience when he travelled to Kenya in 2018 from Kasese, Uganda.
Together with a friend, he had booked an Airbnb accommodation in Ruaka, Kiambu. Apart from experiencing Kenya’s beauty in wildlife and city life, they also wanted to try local food like nyama choma, kales or sukuma wiki and ugali.
“One of the biggest challenges we faced was food. You either have to use Google Maps to find high-end restaurants, which are costly or prepare it yourself if you are in for it,” the 30-year-old says.
It was then that together with John Muhindo that he thought of starting a platform to enable local and international travellers to find authentic local foods among indigenous hosts.
In 2018, the two started PieMe, a social platform that connects people to hosts offering authentic local foods.
“We identified the gap because we hardly got what we wanted. It sounds good but finding the authentic ones in these high-end restaurants is very tricky. They do continental dishes.”
“Our social platform helps people turn their homes into part-time restaurants,” Mr Kainja who graduated with a degree in Procurement and Supply Chain from Makerere University says.
So far, over 10,000 people have participated on the platform during mass testing. A total of 2,000 hosts have signed up on the platform.
Their target for September is to reach 50,000 bookings.
Whereas local food in a restaurant may go for Sh600 ($5), he says dishes prepared by hosts could cost as low as Sh400 ($3).
“We do not dictate the food price. It is determined by the host but the price will go much lower because there is competition,” says Robert Okello, the firm’s head of growth.
“These people [hosts] do not incur overhead costs, nor do they pay rents or buy new utensils,” Mr Kainja says.
The firm, which has spent about Sh66.1 million ($500,000) to set up the solution, is looking to raise additional funds from angel investors and venture capitalists.
It targets the middle class and will be taking three percent or the earnings from hosts and service fees 10 percent maximum.
It also operates in Uganda where it has over 10,000 users.
“Our main focus is on the East African market. We shall be expanding to West Africa, especially Nigeria and Ghana but we want to first see how it goes. I am more excited about the Kenyan market.”
The platform also allows travellers to book accommodation offering local foods. “If I find accommodation then the next thing is that I will find food which has been missing on the Airbnb platform.”
“You can choose to dine with them, have them deliver to you or ask them to cook from your place,” Mr Kainja says, adding that the firm has hired 30 individuals in Kenya and Uganda.
Some of the biggest challenges include getting the best talent as well as funding.
Lesson learned running the start-up: “You must go in when you are ready; it is more like marriage. You must be committed if it must succeed.”
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