By Laju Iren
IT is becoming a cliché that Nigerians have a reputation for being consumers of goods rather than being producers. Considering the fact that more developed countries have better environments for manufacturing and exportation, combined with Nigerians love for imported goods, local businesses suffer, and so does the economy.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Cokodeal.com, Mr. Mike Dola chose to do something about it. His Start-Up, usually referred to as Africa’s alibaba.com, sell only goods produced in Africa to customers around the world. In this interview, he talks about his Cokodeal journey, and why he believes that Start-Ups are not about the best environment, but should be created out of adversity.
Tell us about your start-up? What do you do and what was the inspiration behind it?
Cokodeal is an online ecommerce marketplace that helps to increase sales for Local manufacturers and exporters with best-in-class sourcing and negotiation technology to help local manufacturers and farmers access a growing network of suppliers and buyers. It is Nigeria’s premier online B2B platform, an e-strategy and sales advisory company.
The inspiration behind cokodeal is that Nigeria is mostly perceived as a dominant consumer nation, however we have what we are rich in, from Arts and Crafts, to minerals, locally produced goods and agriculture. That we can sell to the world if we have the enabling platform.
More also, most Nigerians do not know how rich we are especially what is produced in other neighboring states. We see the need to showcase diverse goods across states in the nation for an increase in trade flow across states.
What challenges have you faced? How did you overcome them?
Firstly, it was challenge of a world class IT infrastructure, which we had to outsource to a big partner company in England UK, to build in 2012.
Secondly, it was educating our clients after launch of cokodeal platform, how a marketplace works and why it is necessary to join to increase sales of goods in the global economy. Thirdly, it was forex, paying in British Pound Sterling at an astronomical exchange rate. Forex scarcity in 2016, forced us to migrate our platform to a robust SwissIT firm that operates in Nigeria (Ringier Digital marketing that owns pulse.ng and dealdey.com)
Succinctly, the challenges are numerous over the past four years, however we device an alternate method to mitigate it in a lean form.
Please share some of your success stories
Many manufacturers on our platform have experienced sales coming from Europe, United States, and many other African countries. Even during peak of recession we still get orders from other neighbouring countries. We have operations in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, South Africa through our multi-faceted platform.
This means when Kenya displays cokodeal.com platform they can see Nigeria goods in Kenya shillings, and it”]s same for Ghana in Cedi’s. This helps the local trader to know if the goods is cheaper in the neighbouring country and they make orders for it. We are enjoying a larger trade community.
Does Nigeria have an enabling environment for start-ups? Please share from experience
Yes, as strange as this may sound, it is my personal opinion. Most people do think start-ups need the best environment to thrive, however what makes them start-ups is considering all the conditions in the environment and thinking uniquely to accommodate all those challenges and create something of value.
For example while I started with idea generation before we got to cokodeal, I had about a thousand written ideas that I had to take through a thorough checklist in the nation before emerging with one. For example If the business required 60-70% of constant electricity, I remove the idea.
If it required 50% governmental bureaucratic processes I removed it as well. Succinctly, the idea of start-up is not about the best environment, its creating out of the adversity. This does not deny loads of improvement the environment needs. I believe we can improve the environment individually, if we contribute our quota.
What do you think about the future of Nigeria’s tech-o-system?
Affirmatively I know Nigeria will lead Africa in the technology industry. Nigerians are hungry for growth and highly ambitious
infrastructure, tech networks and room for start-ups, it could become one of the biggest economic sectors for the nation.