Executive Suite: In this exclusive interview with Mr. Nick Imudia, Co-CEO, Konga, he shares insights with 1st News’ Olanike Akinrimisi on the business of E-Commerce in Nigeria…..Excerpts
#ES: How has it been so far serving as the co-CEO of Konga?
Nick: So far, it has been exciting, challenging, rewarding and a whole new experience. Rewarding in the sense that everyday brings on new challenges that require innovative solutions.
#ES: What have been the major challenges?
Nick: First and foremost, ‘Time’. There are only 24 hours in a day to serve the many loyal consumers that come to Konga. Secondly, dealing with challenges that are beyond my control: like bad infrastructure – bad roads that make logistics difficult, unreliable payment systems and bad internet connectivity.
#ES: How have you been able to manage lack of trust which is the most common challenge in this industry?
Nick: With Konga, we are very transparent and easily accessible. There are physical stores in major locations in the country; where a customer can walk in with a concern and it would be resolved.
This also means that it is possible for a customer to check the quality of a product bought through our “Buy and pay on Collect” arrangement. We also have warehouses across the country and this helps improve supply chain and ensures that deliveries are made faster. As a third measure, we also believe in a flexible return policy.
#ES: You were the former VP of Nokia. What was your experience like?
Nick: Nokia taught me everything I know today. With Nokia, I experienced tremendous success and learnt the true meaning of product creation, impact of technology in our lives and the importance of creating a product that consumers want.
At the same time, I learnt that it does not matter how successful you are. If you do not embrace innovation and change fast, you will fail – regardless of size. The notion that one person or a company has all the answers is in the past. It is solely about collaboration and working within an ecosystem.
#ES: Do you think Nigeria has embraced e-commerce business?
Nick: E-commerce is still at its infancy in Nigeria and the growth potential is immense. At the same time, it will be a tough road to get to the promised land. With organized retail at about 2%, there is so much room to grow and a lot to offer to consumers.
The more developed the infrastructure in Nigeria is (mainly telecoms), the more Nigerians will embrace it. However, one thing is for sure: e-commerce or organised retail will dominate the industry whether we like it or not. Therefore, it is important to invest for the long haul – just as Konga is doing with its investments in infrastructure and technology.
#ES: What has been the effort of the company to fulfil its mission statement in becoming Africa’s no 1 leading e-commerce firm?
Nick: Improvement in our payment methods, faster delivery timelines – and finally, by planting more retail stores all over the country.
#ES: What effect do you think the proposed VAT increment would have on the business?
Nick: It will have a short term negative impact on everyone especially on our merchants who will be more discouraged from selling on the platform – but if they do, cost will be passed on to the buyers – making it a lose-lose situation for everyone.
#ES: How did you come about the Konga Yakata?
Nick: Konga Yakata or Black Friday is not new or peculiar to us. It’s something that started a very long time ago in the US; and naturally, we have gone a step ahead to make it relevant to Nigerians by calling it Yakata. During Konga Yakata, consumers get to experience significant discounts.
#ES: Which of your products thrive most?
Nick: We have over 600K products on our platform. It is amazing what people search for and actually buy. We all have needs and most of these needs can be fulfilled on Konga (online or offline). However, mobile and electronics in general are easy for consumers to buy and tend to be top categories.
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#ES: Who are your competitors?
Nick: Every retailer in the country is our competitor.
#ES: Are you still in touch with trends on your first love- Engineering in Industrial Management?
Nick: I am applying my first love everyday at work. Industrial management involves the use of organizational processes in strategic planning, setting goals, managing people and using people and financial assets to achieve those goals with a clear way of measuring them.
#ES: As an ICT expert, how best do you think cyber crime can be curbed in Nigeria?
Nick: Combating Cyber Crime in Nigeria will need to follow similar trends as in the developed nations. It ought to begin with a heavy dose of training and acquisition of knowledge in the practical ways to avoid it. Then comes the technical and physical tools with multiple options in technical solutions as well.
#ES: How do you approach change?
Nick: From a personal point of view, I approach change very positively. I am a firm believer of the saying- ‘the only constant thing in life is Change’. Change gives me an opportunity to reflect on the past, and an opportunity to learn new things from different perspectives.
Therefore, my approach to change is to ensure I participate, get as much information as possible, support the process, negotiate my point of view very quickly and be very clear with myself on what I want out of the change.
If I am the one impacting the change, I try as much as possible to be clear, get the team involved, carry them along on the journey and most importantly, give them time to go through the change in their own way.
#ES: Who are your peers?
Nick: My peers are CEOs of similar companies as Konga (ecommerce companies, Fintech, online travel agencies, retail stores, logistics companies, etc). Honestly, because our problems are peculiar to Nigeria, my most important and trusted peer is my Co-CEO, Nnamdi Ekeh.
#ES: What is the next position you are aiming at?
Nick: My next position in life is not a job title. It is an aspiration to ‘self-actualize’…. be the absolute best I can be within the environment that I am operating and strive to maintain dignity even when people say you are not good enough. I aim to leave behind a legacy of some sort.
#ES: What do you do after your 8-5 job?
Nick: My 8-5 job is more like 24 hours a day and 7 days a week job. There is no time for anything else. No time at all… except for the time spent at the Gym! (When I can).
#ES: How many messages are in your inbox right now?
Nick: The concept of inbox has changed a lot with the advent of social media. I get about 250 emails daily, about the same amount on WhatsApp and other social media channels. It is very true that in the future, email (inbox) as we know it will almost be obsolete – because instant messaging is fast dominating.
#ES: What is your regular daily routine?
Nick: I don’t have a routine. It depends on the day, meetings with the Board and customers. The role as a Co-CEO of a company like Konga Group takes significant amount of time and it helps that family lives in Europe. I always wake up at about 5:30am, go through messages (especially from Chairman) until about 6:30am.
Ensure I am in the car at 7am to catch up with ‘daily news’ review on the radio, arrive in the office at about 8am. Depart the office around 7pm, try unsuccessfully to go to the gym…. then work at home until I head to bed (All excluding external meetings and countless hours with Chairman for breakfast or dinner).
#ES: What book are you reading at the moment?
Nick: 8 steps to High Performance: Focus on what you can change (Ignore the rest) by Marc Effron.
#ES: What is your favourite quote?
Nick: I have many quotes that guide me in life, but the one that I fall back on professionally is: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There (by Marshall Goldsmith). It’s actually a title of a book.
#ES: What are five things people don’t know about you?
Nick: I am terrified of snakes, I was in Scripture Union of Anglican Church as a child, I have written over 100 poems, I love fast cars/power bikes, my secret passion is to own a whiskey bar with a twist.
#ES: What is the hilarious thing you have ever done?
Nick: I love pranks and jokes…. And have too many to name any.
#ES: What are your dislikes?
Nick: I dislike laziness. It upsets me when people try to be cunning – imply A and do B.
#ES: What would you never do?
Nick: Consciously ‘Steal’ from an Employer. It is like stealing from myself… pointless.
#ES: When do you plan to retire?
Nick: I want to continuously do something meaningful until I die. As long as I am still enjoying whatever I am doing at that time. Working until I die is not an issue.
#ES: How do you want to be remembered?
Nick: I want to be remembered as a people’s person who brought the best out of everyone by understanding their individual limitations and encouraging them. I aim to leave behind a legacy of positive reinforcements such that not all problems can be solved by yelling and screaming.
I want to be remembered as a leader who mentored not from the point of view that I have all the answers – but from the point of view of listening.