Pioneer ICT investor in Nigeria and chairman of Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh has raised an issue of budding business importance, saying “Startup entrepreneurs and business owners must retain a level of belief in Nigeria in order to scale their business.”
Making presentation at the recent International Marketplace and Leadership Conference organized by the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG); tagged: The Kingdom Summit 2019, he affirmed that growing a business in Nigeria’s peculiar business environment requires the essential ingredient of a firm faith in the country.
According to him, “You must not be discouraged by the challenges you face in business today. Also, you must not allow people discourage you with their negative projections. You must have faith in Nigeria in order to grow your business and scale. As a matter of fact, before I started out in business during undergraduate days in India and after my post-graduate in Cork City, I was clear that I was going to return to Nigeria.
“Sometimes, I laugh when people say things were better in the past than they are today. When I returned to Nigeria to start up my first company, Task Systems Ltd., the society was completely analogue. The print and publishing industry, which I transitioned to digital publishing, was still relying on the old system of casting metal type at the time. This was why I was determined to create an IT identity for Nigeria. We eventually achieved this through Zinox.
“It is on record that the Zinox Group pioneered electronic petrol dispensing pumps, Desktop Publishing and Computer Graphics, INEC Data Capture System, first internationally certified Computer brand -Zinox, pioneered E-Commerce in Africa, amongst other firsts. If we do not have faith, you will not have the mental capacity to research, incubate and achieve products that may add greater impetus to the economy.
“Today, you have the advantage of age on your side, quality education, common sense, more exposure unlike during our time, where common sense was supreme and few were educated. So, there is nothing stopping you,” he counselled.
However, Ekeh, a serial digital entrepreneur who has built several successful companies over a professional career spanning over three decades, cautioned participants on the need to incubate and go through structured process, incubate and build a culture of sustenance. More to the point, Ekeh frowned at the falsification of data in order to hood-wink potential investors.
“I see a lot of start-ups brandishing false figures and falsifying data in order to deceive investors to part with their money. There are a few high-profile instances of such here in Nigeria. Such a practice is highly dangerous and if you indulge in it, you will surely pay for it. A lot of business owners see it as a smart way of raising funds but your integrity is at stake.
“If you lose your integrity, you have not just lost all, but you have also destroyed others in same economy and you will pay dearly for it. In 21st century, there is a strong connection between wealth and spirituality. The way you made your money comes with eternal pain or pleasure.
“I see a lot of rich people that excites young people are in Hell on earth but you may not know. Wealth is now a right for both the children of the poor and the rich, but more kids from poor homes have better intelligence, energy and spirituality to challenge the status quo.
“Some of you just start out in business and decide to buy flashy cars or fly First Class as a status symbol. What you fail to remember is that the difference between an Economy Class ticket and a First Class ticket, your business may not be able to achieve it as profit in one year,” Ekeh declared.
“You must incubate and go through the process before you scale. When I started out, I used to sleep in my office. Before my staff resumed, I was already up so they did not know I used to sleep there. I also ate once a day at Sheraton hotel, normally the afternoon buffet. This is part of the price I paid to succeed.”
Continuing, Ekeh affirmed that the current generation of entrepreneurs has all it takes to achieve within five years what the older generation strived to build in 30 years.
“What we spent over 30 years struggling to achieve, your generation will outstrip within five years. Konga is a very good example of this. My son, who runs the business, and his colleagues are currently burning money. However, once the business turns profitable, in two years they will recoup all they have invested into it. E-commerce is the riskiest business globally in the first quarter of this century.
“Konga has undergone massive turnaround since we acquired the business, with massive technology and other infrastructural deployment nationwide in partnership with Microsoft and other major stakeholders. It is another Nigerian corporate miracle waiting to happen. Without faith in Nigeria, this may be impossible to achieve.”
He concluded by asking everyone in the full packed hall to do a self-assessment and be determined to alter their destinies. Ekeh noted that this essential exercise will create a positive multiplier effect in Nigeria.
The Kingdom Summit 2019, which attracted dignitaries from the public and private sector, had in attendance the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo who was represented by the former Minister of Trade and Investment, OkeyEnelamah. Also in attendance was a host of speakers including Brett Johnson, Founder, The Institute for Innovation, Integration & Impact Inc.; AleroAyida-Otobo, CEO, Incubators Africa Ltd; Alex Densmore, CEO, Battco Energy Storage Systems; Brian Mukudzahvu, Founder, Axis Solutions Africa; Pamela Ajayi, Founder, Synlab; Otto Orrondam, Founder, Slum2School Africa; Kayode Pitan, MD, Bank of Industry; Prof. Chris Bode, Medical Director, LUTH and many others.
Host was Ben Akabueze, Provincial Pastor, RCCG The King’s Court who doubles as the Director General, Budget Office of the Federation.