‘Integrity is the soul of business’

The Chief Executive Officer of Komo Online, Ademola Amokomowo, 30, tells Tope Omogbolagun why it is better to start a business at a very young age

When did you start your business?

The business started over four years when I was still in the university. It is an online retail of men’s products, especially shoes and jeans.

How has the business been since you started?

It has been nice and challenging. But the good thing is that we have been able to overcome several challenges at different stages of the business. We have been able to adopt different strategies and innovations that enabled us to adapt to market situations. But it’s good; the opportunities are there to expand and make good money. We are focused strictly on men’s shoes within the ages of 18 years and 35 years. Based on the niche market, which is our strategy, we try to focus on people within a certain income level; we stick to the plan and follow it through. Most times, it works and anyone that doesn’t work, we drop it and take to another plan.

Why did you go into online business?

Basically, I will say it is necessity. In my days in the university, anytime we needed to get shoes as men, it was very difficult. We would comb all major markets while in search of unique shoes. Of course, if you wanted the regular shoes, we could get it anywhere but to get the unique and satisfactory ones was no mean task. The shopping experience was really tough; you can imagine how one will look like after the stress of roaming about the streets. You might not even get your size. One might end up wearing oversized or undersized shoes. To ease the trouble being encountered in the search of good products, I felt there was a need to provide something like that. So, I started business in my university days. I started with shoes, before I hooked up with another partner, who was selling jeans. Jean was the main focus then because it was what people were wearing.

Another factor that made me to venture into the online business was my experience while shopping abroad. I was fascinated by way people shopped for varieties of what they wanted. It made me to understand that shopping should be enjoyed and not a stress. So, that was the rationale behind converting the business into an online business.

Did you receive any form of encouragement from other online marketers?

I will say no, because komoonline started last year, almost about the same time with others. In fact, we had business with some of these people; that is another side of the business established for people who are still in higher institutions and want to make money like we did while in school. We get stocks and we sell to them at a wholesale price; this, we did with some of the online marketers. I can say they saw komoonline and discovered that there was an opportunity in this thing and decided to venture into the business.

The problem when we started was that the online business had not received so much awareness in Nigeria and many people were sceptical about shopping online. We’ve had a shopping mall online since 2005. We have been having business online for so long.

The problem is that the basic facilities are not there and besides, the business is capital intensive.

In the last two years, the Nigerian business environment has changed; people are now becoming aware of the online business. So, with the increase in the degree of the awareness, we have had to change our business in such a way that it will position us properly in the market place.

How did you feel combining studies with business?

It wasn’t an easy thing at all. I was studying Banking and Finance then. It was really tough, especially as a full-time student. There was hardly a free time as lecture periods fluctuated. The only time my partner and I had to deliver was before and after the school hour. We had to jingle around our time. It is good to do business in school but it is not easy combining the two. In fact, I will advise if anyone is to start any business, it is better to start very early; if possible, it should be as early as when one is in the Senior Secondary School three (SS3). It is even better to have an entrepreneurial school where people can choose their careers at young age. One would have settled for something at a young age because one already knows what one wants to do and how to go about it. But many people attend the conventional schools and by the time they finish from school, they will now start preparing for the market and by then time will be far spent. But time is never gone. For example, the owner of Kings Fried Chicken started at an old age. Today, he owns one of the biggest eateries in the country.

What are the challenges that you face?

The challenges are quite numerous but most of them can be overcome. The one that we are currently facing is the people’s scepticism about online business. There is the fear of how safe is the product they are buying. How safe it is to shop online? There is also the fear of whether what they are ordering for is what they are going to get. But we have been able to overcome these by building the trust of the people. Anything you do, put integrity into it; offer the best that you can. Basically, it is the issue of payment online and getting what they see. Another challenge is the problem of hackers in the aspect of payment. But we haven’t had hackers because we often secure our websites. Few cases that we have had are fraudulent transactions; but those issues are normal. Another problem that we have had is transportation, especially with the ban of motorcycles. It’s difficult to beat the traffic and meet up with delivery time. We have cases where we go on delivery and people reject their orders. But such cases are rare because we deal with men who easily identify want they want. When someone says he doesn’t want something, we push another set of products to him; but if the person doesn’t want anything at all, there is nothing we can do than to bear the cost.

We try to look for new ways to overcome the challenges. There are some issues that we react to immediately while there are some that we take our time to brainstorm and then work around it. What we are trying to create is a system that can stand on its own.

How do you beat competition?

Our competitive strategy is pricing. We try to explore more competitive pricing. We also deliver 24 hours mostly. We try to be the most competitive in the market in term of price; and we try to deliver good service and we improve on our service delivery daily. Basically, the two major things are pricing and the 24 hours service delivery.

Have you received any form of help from government to boost your business?

The government has not really been helping. This is because government’s officials insist on the need to follow due process. The Nigeria business environment is very harsh; it’s not encouraging at all. We spend a lot of money on generator because there is no regular power supply.

In fact, one may get frustrated while executing a lot of ideas that are considered brilliant. For instance, just to open a bank account, one is required to bring a lot of documents, some of which a young businessperson may not readily get. Imagine an enthusiastic young person who is just starting a business having to face several obstacles. He is easily discouraged and may lose interest.

What is your advice to young people that are interested in business?

They should not be discouraged; it may be tough at the beginning. It is, therefore, important for them to get involved in business now. I believe the earlier, the better. There are enough opportunities in the economy for everyone. We need to utilise the opportunities very well. They need not wait until they graduate from the university before they start thinking of what to do. If you start early, you will gain abundant experience; even when you are not making money, you are less worried. The energy is also there to push the business forward. Another thing about starting a business at a young age is the fact that the time is there for you to grow the business.

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