JUNADIA DANSO-EDIM is the Group CEO of Arkbridge Integrated Ltd, as
well as the company’s former Director of Admin & Finance Operations. Within eight years, the accountant’s ability to solve problems and wanting to make a difference has helped her to position the company as one of Africa’s leading Real Estate Sales and Marketing companies.
Junadia beams light on standardisation and quality control which, according to her, makes the organisation stand out. She also speaks on how Middlechase, the Property and Marketing subsidiary of Arkbridge, is creating products for women to ensure that everyone owns a house regardless of status or income.
What did you do differently to make you rise so fast?
I want to resist the urge to say God, but it is God and also because I just tried my best to make sure I was a problem solver. Every company has its own issues; there is downtime and also peak time. In all these, I make sure I remain consistent and also ensure that whatever it is, I make a difference. I always like to ask people what their superpower is, because my superpower is different from your own.
I discovered mine early in life. I like to organise stuff, I like to arrange stuff and I like to make sure that things are done the way they should be.
The kind of person that I am, I will scatter something and try to put it back together so that I can understand the process. Even while I was an accountant, I would take on hard tasks that do not concern me, just to understand how things work. The good thing about it is that our organisation knows the worth of my hard work.
When the opportunity to hand over to someone came, it was now obvious that this person should have knowledge about everything.
What is your average day like?
Some days are a lot easier but most times, my day starts with me getting into the office and trying to put things in their proper place because we are expanding departments and we are also shrinking departments. We are trying to innovate our operations and I need to be in front of it.
Every new person that gets into power, whether it is the president or the governor or a CEO, has to be able to set things right first to be sure that it is exactly what you want.
So my days in the past few months have just been in making sure that things go according to plan. I have the blueprint that I share with everybody to be sure that people do what they are meant to do. I work Sundays some days and it can be stressful, but if I want to take time to rest, I just unplug and hide. I know how to hide very well, nobody is going to find me until I am ready to be found.
The real estate industry has just exploded; how easy has it been creating structures where none existed?
It has been interesting. Nobody really thought Real Estate a couple of years ago would get to this point. The truth is that I like to study trends and as long as we keep having human beings on the earth, we are always going to provide housing. Nigeria has housing deficits and it’s really not getting better because it is actually not about that housing deficit, it’s an affordable housing deficit because there are thousands of houses that are being built every week which I too cannot afford.
When we started, we used to be on the mainland, we moved to the island; we said we were going to try to do things a little different and we said, let us test and start to build apartments because everybody used to build terraces.
We decided to build apartments to see how they would fare in the market. At that time, we started selling at N5 million and N6 million in 2018 and 2019.
We were shocked by the turnout and we realised that people don’t mind buying apartments. That same house they bought at N6.6 million, my last sale was over N28 million for it.
Some of them who bought at that time are now regretting they didn’t buy more than one at that time. It was after we started that so many other people started selling apartments.
We want to build houses that you can make money from. If I have a mansion, how much will I make? These days we have short let, which was not popular then. There are so many ways you can make money and we don’t just want to be selling houses, we want to sell what you can use to make money in the first place.
One of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG is to eradicate poverty by 2030, what are you doing to alleviate poverty?
I am more particular about women. I am a woman, and also because over the years, I have seen women crying due to different scenarios. I have seen where people took over the property left for widows when their husbands died and the women were thrown into the street. She had to start afresh. It is one of the reasons why we have gone on to create a product for women to see how we can solve this problem.
So we are creating a product for a small community of women. We have women who are in the lower class, women in the middle class and women at the higher level based on their different needs. If you are a salary earner, there is an amount that you can afford. We have a package where people can put that money into good use and they are earning returns. So, even if I can’t afford to buy a full house now, I can be getting 20% of the money. We tried our best to break down these plans, so even for as little as N100,000, you will get your interests at certain times.
Once you get it, you put it back in because you know women like to save more than the men.
We want to take advantage of some of these things that women have as their natural strengths. There are also market women who get their money every day- we want to be able to create plans they can use because sometimes, we just save money without knowing it is losing value. So I know that if I am paying this money consistently, at the end of this period, I will collect my house.
In no time, women will start to be more financially stable.
There is a lot of building collapse these days mostly attributed to corruption in using substandard materials everywhere; how have you been able to manage this?
On the aspect of quality control, we have our own engineers and we also have consultants. So the consultant is like the second eye in whatever we do. We don’t just pick people from the road. Before we even engage them in building, we have done our own checks before they do theirs. We also have our own consultants that will double-check whatever has been done. So there is no issue of compromise or people cutting corners. We have been doing it for more than three years now and we have not had any such issues because everyone is on their toes. We do what we need to do and also see that what we have done is the right thing.
They say Nigerians don’t like to do skilled labour anymore; that developers now depend on foreigners from Togo and Benin; is that true?
The team that I have, I don’t think I have any Cotonou person, they are all Nigerians. Some people will prefer those ones because maybe they pay cheaper or whatever but for us, it’s always about quality. Where you are from doesn’t really matter because we test people. For us, it’s about the quality.
There has been a sudden influx into the real estate space and there is this suspicion that it’s for money laundering…
I will only speak for myself, I don’t know anybody’s books and I don’t know anybody’s pocket. That does not apply to us. We don’t have any cause to doubt or think about this, we give proper care to all our clients.
There are some regulations from EFCC, so we always like to make sure there is compliance. We always try to make sure that the KYC (Know Your Customers) that they fill out has all the information. We have not had any of these issues.
Do you believe there is gender equality in your industry?
Yes and No. The truth is that all humans are equal and we all have access to our rights but there are some things that I know I shouldn’t be forced to do and the same thing goes for men. So when we start talking about rights, I always want to put it in the right context.