Onanuga: Making a mark in the IT world
It was quite easy for Obafemi Onanuga to build his profitable online business. The 29-year-old founder and CEO of Obiwezy.com, a site that deals exclusively with IT wares has always been passionate about technology right from childhood. This was further reinforced by his experiences at the Nigerian Institute of Information Technology (NIIT), where he got to learn the nitty-gritty details of IT operations.
“After passing out of Oyewole Twins International Secondary School, I decided to go to the NIIT to study information technology,” he recalls.
“There, we were taught how to run our own businesses and be entrepreneurs. I have always been fascinated by technology. As a child, I would wonder how computers, phones and basically all gadgets work.”
Interestingly, Obafemi had to pass through the Computer Village in Ikeja everyday on his way to school. This somehow brought out his innovative side, as he tried to figure out how to do the computer business in a more modern and convenient way.
“Passing through the Computer Village everyday reminded me of my love for IT. One day I said to myself, ‘this is a huge opportunity. Why don’t I get this market to the consumers without their having to come down here?”
So, after a thorough study of the market, Obafemi started small by creating flyers and handbills to let people in his surroundings know he could cater to their IT needs.
“I started with memory sticks and phone accessories. This I did for four years and as technology grew in Nigeria, I took my business online,’’ he recollects. “I was able to read and understand all the IT terms and latest gadgets in the market. I then informed my customers about them and sold such gadgets as laptops and printers. I even did Installation for people; that is how we made our profit.”
The Ogun State indigene from Ijebu Ode grew up in Lagos and is the third child from a family of three. He had both his primary and secondary education in the southern part of Nigeria.
“My dream was to be my own boss. I remember while in high school, when my friends would indicate their preference for such professions as medicine, law and so on, I would say to them that my name is Oba (meaning king) and that I would be my own boss in future,” he says.
But it wasn’t such a smooth journey initially, as he had to continue with the sales of memory sticks, phones and accessories for four years, barely making any profits. However, after two and a half years of studying at the NIIT, Obafemi decided to go fully into the sales of gadgets.
“Obiwezy is a company that specialises in the retail and wholesale of the latest electronic and highly advanced technological gadgets and equipment. We are in a technology age, and our main aim is to deliver products and services that appeal to all gadget lovers and technology driven enthusiasts,” he explains.
And although business is running smoothly presently, he still has to contend with several daunting challenges.
“Because of the passion for online business, people no longer want to stress themselves with the walks in stores, except you are spending huge amount on outdoor adverts,” he says.
But it wasn’t just the online market he had to deal with, Obafemi also had to battle with staff employment.
“We have employed staff, who after one year would just disappear. They are not ready or willing to grow with the company. This applies particularly to the female staff, who are not as ambitious as their male counterparts. Currently, I only employ IT students and a few people that are willingly to be trained in my line of business,” he says.
Regardless of his challenges, however, Obafemi says there is the plus side to his job, which has made everything worthwhile.
“Previously, I used to work from home. I also worked at the Computer Village, although renting a shop there is very expensive. So, what I did was to share an office with three other people. As the business kept growing, I borrowed some money and rented a shop of my own, which I have since paid back. Presently, I am independent financially.
“Now, whenever I walk into my store, I smile, feeling fulfilled. However, my greatest fear is not having Internet service. It is expensive, but I ensure I always pay for it,” he says.
Going down memory lane, Obafemi said the online aspect of his business started in 2009, though the outfit has since expanded to include other areas.
“We are self-funded and till date we haven’t received any extra fund from anyone’’ he replies.
“Chief Obinna Obienu, who is the Managing Director of IT World has been my inspiration. I worked with him for a year and a half. He inspired me to start my own business.”
To make his business unique, as there are other companies doing precisely what he does, Obafemi has introduced some interesting products.
“We do the swap phone, which is the first of its kind. This entails assessing the value of a customer’s old phone through an application we have specially created. There are three grades of phone. If the phone is in a very good condition, it falls into grade A, which means more value. For instance, if an IPhone 5 is in good condition, we can value it for N50, 000. And if the customer decides that he/she wants to upgrade to the latest phone in the market, then he/she might go for an iPhone 6 or such other latest ones.
“The next step is that we give the customer the desired brand new price of an iPhone6, as well as give him/her a UK used price of the iPhone6.
So, the customer is enabled to swap a used phone for another used phone of the same brand or swap a used phone for a new phone, though he/she has to pay the difference. Sometimes customers get as much as 50 percent discount off the actual price. To ensure that we don’t sell stolen phones to our clients, we undertake regular checks,” he explains.
So, which Nigerian companies does he admire and hopes to become? “Konga and Drinks.ng,” he replies.
When he is not neck-deep in work, Obafemi loves surfing the Internet, hanging out with friends and spending quality time with his family.