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Khalif Kairo: From Selling Cars to Flying Planes

Khalif Kairo envisions expanding his business empire to cover Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean

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Joseph Kairo Wambui, also known as Khalif Kairo, is a familiar name in Kenya for his successful car dealership venture, Kai and Karo. However, this young entrepreneur has recently drawn attention for his ambitious foray into the aviation sector.

In August 2023, Kairo unveiled Jetman Global, a company specializing in aircraft leasing, sales and consultancy services, marking a significant milestone in his entrepreneurial journey. The transition from the automotive industry to aviation was not impulsive, he says, but rather anchored in a lifelong passion that dates back to his childhood.

During his formative years, Kairo’s fascination with aviation was kindled during school trips to Wilson Airport, where the allure of planes captured his imagination. Also inspired by a Tanzanian musician, Kairo recalls the impact of a music video featuring a romantic plane trip as a pivotal moment in fuelling his aviation dreams.

“The song Siamini, by TID 2002, really inspired me to attempt the flight experience that was in 2003; the song shows the singer flying to Zanzibar with his fiancée,” Kairo says.

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Immersing himself in aviation knowledge, Kairo spent hours at the community library in Kawangware studying encyclopaedias on planes, nurturing a determination to become either a pilot or a lawyer. Beyond personal ambitions, Kairo envisions instilling and fostering an aviation culture in Kenya, aiming to make aircraft ownership and leasing more accessible for group travels and family vacations.

“I can relate with other out there who we share same interests in aviation. I believe that there exists an unexplored aviation enthusiast community in Kenya, which I am driven by a divine calling to cultivate,” he expressed.

Acknowledging the complexities of introducing planes to the Kenyan market, Kairo remains steadfast in his belief that success in this endeavour could pave the way for a burgeoning industry that could benefit various sectors, such as mechanics and spare parts dealers.

Transitioning from the automotive to aviation sector presented challenges for Kairo, who emphasizes the importance for entrepreneurs to have a basic understanding of their chosen industry. His pursuit of knowledge led him to acquire a private pilot licence from Flightstar in 2022, with plans to obtain a commercial pilot licence.

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Attributing his success to innovative marketing tactics, Kairo adopts a Blitzkrieg strategy, drawing parallels to WWII military tactics, which involve a dynamic interplay of video content and consistent social media engagement to captivate his audience.

“The Germans employed a strategy of initiating by bombing the target to disorient the enemy and diminish their morale, followed by deploying mechanised units such as infantry and tanks to eradicate the opposition; I am so steadfast in my efforts that every time you wake up, you can expect to find around 30 posts focusing on Kai and Karo,” he remarked.

Looking forward, Kairo envisions expanding his business empire to cover Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean, with ambitious plans for establishing an airline and democratising aircraft charters for the wider populace, tapping into substantial market opportunities.

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Steve Wambugu is a journalist based in Nairobi.
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