Stephen Akintayo is the CEO of Gileadbalm Group. He is also the founder of INFINITY FOUNDATION, an NGO that helps orphans and less privileged children. He is a graduate of microbiology, Olabisi Onabanjo University, and a member of Institute of Strategic Management.
His organization is into marketing products and services online.
How were you able to make this dream a reality?
I had a humble background. Born in Maiduguri, I grew up watching Al-magiri children suffer. I was also like them because I grew up very poor. But even in that state of being poor, I still saw these children and pitied them. Growing up over time, I wanted to do something. My family later relocated to the South-west where I obtained my university degree. I started a foundation where I worked with orphans but there was constant need for money because of various projects. I did so many jobs just to fund the vision I had and gradually I evolved. This particular business started when someone told us they wanted us to send bulk SMS for them. I had to go to a cyber cafe, bought from the website and sent it to them. From there, a site was developed for me. At some point, we decided people were showing interest in the business so we had a seller’s site. We grew until we felt we needed a foreign partner. Overtime, we had a UK partner who provided the service for us. I always tell people in business, start small, think big and grow fast.
You are taking marketing into a new phase. Tell us about it?
It’s not a new thing since we did not invent it, but it is new in Nigeria. Digital marketing is at its infant stage, but the problems are showing up. SMEs are struggling as they are still using the old method of sending proposals to companies which very few people check. People fail to realize that with the advent of smart phones an average person has integrated his emails to his phones; once you have an email it shows on your phone. E-mobile did a research and found out an average Nigerian spends four hours on his mobile phones. Less time is spent on the conventional media; people are beginning to do things online. Newspapers are on social media and they receive far more traffic than print. You might still need the offline marketing, but today a lot of things are being done online to kick start the whole process. You need to get these people digitally. We need the media to play a role in helping SMEs know the role of using digital media to market, otherwise you remain stale.
How does the economy affect the growth or fall of a business?
Well, I am not an economist. As a business man, I think Nigeria is a virgin land and any individual ready to work hard will succeed there. If you do not succeed in Nigeria, you cannot succeed else where. Compare an average Nigerian who has succeeded in this country to his contemporary abroad. Even if they are working some where, they are still not in the same class. There is nothing wrong with the economy of Nigeria. People who have succeeded should create time to mentor others. Of the top ten richest economies 50% of the people live in their countries, run their businesses there and also keep their money in their countries. Why would their economies not do well? Even then, Nigeria still has a better economy. We need to open our eyes to certain areas we are not used to. Our methodology when it comes to starting up businesses is totally wrong. If we invest so much in helping young people start business early, the nation will be better. Unemployment will drastically reduce.
Should the government be blamed for the success or failure of a business?
It is a two-way thing. Singapore today is well admired, but it took them getting technocrats who knew the job well to run the country. In Nigeria, the reverse is the case. A person who does not know about a sector is put to head that sector. The problem we have is we do not have technocrats in key positions. People find themselves in leadership positions and do not know what to do. In a situation like that, you should surround yourself with people who know what to do. Leadership is not being the most intelligent but being able to manage people and good human resources. If you compare an individual who runs a company outside Nigeria to one who owns one in Nigeria, you have different play outs. The one in Nigeria would probably put his whole family in the business while the other would put people who know the job to run the business. As individuals, we tend to believe nothing will work out in Nigeria. This is the mindset most people come out with which results in corruption. There are lots of areas people can harness and get the best of opportunities. You need to discover these things and position yourself.
By Stephen Akintayo