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Konga’s Sale – A Classic Case of “Death is Better than Mockery”

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Konga offline

The title of this article is a loose translation of the Yoruba saying – “Iku ya j’esin”; for me, this is one of the overriding themes of the Konga sale. I first wrote about Konga on 29 September 2017 -“5 issues Konga needs to deal with as it scales”.

My preferred title for that article was, “Konga needs to scale back in order to scale up” but my publishers thought differently. I had looked at the Konga business and figured out that once the company ran out of cash, it would summarily run out of business. So, my initial post was to serve as a warning against a potential shutdown of the business.

I suggested that Konga should:

  1. Stop trying to be Nigeria’s largest online mall.
  2. Focus on quality control – sack merchants with poor quality products.
  3. Not incur a customer acquisition cost (“CAC”) on the same customer over again.
  4. Scrap Pay-on-Delivery (“POD”).
  5. Forget nationwide delivery; focus on profitable city clusters.
  6. Pay attention to disintermediation.

The backlash I got following this post was surprising. The “developer community” felt that I was attacking their hero. Rather than taking a dispassionate look at the obvious flaws in the business model and trying to fix it, they were getting excited at the quality of their “Tech”. You need to figure out what tech is to your business. Tech to Konga was an enabler rather than the business, but Konga felt otherwise.

A tribute to Our Ecosystem Builder – Sim Shagaya

Though I disagree largely with the way Sim ran Konga, one thing is obvious: he brought tech to the mainstream. Now, students want to be developers and young people look to him for inspiration.

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Sim was passionate about what technology could achieve and he invested heavily in it. He has a cult-like following among developers and other technology entrepreneurs. He made a dent in this ecosystem and we will all be forever grateful to him.

However, I have also observed that not so many people can write against Sim; that is a difficult place to be, especially as nobody can tell you the truth. I am not as vested as a lot of people, so I can write something contrary to the popular view.

Sim has been involved in 3 companies (DealDey, GoMyWay and Konga), and ALL of them crashed out of business. There must be something wrong that nobody is saying. Maybe the first (DealDey) was a teething problem, maybe GoMyWay had a funding problem, what excuse will I give for the third?

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Sim Shagaya, former Chairman, Konga

Now to the Konga Deal

Let’s be clear— Zinox could not have paid $10m for Konga. Sources within the venture capital community, private equity community and Securities and Exchange Commission suggested otherwise. Konga appears to have been given to Zinox.

Sources suggested that Zinox paid $1 (One Dollar) for Konga because it is illegal to get it for free. In fact, it was said that Konga was initially offered to Jumia for the same $1. Jumia, however, declined the transaction because the cost of integration of the 2 platforms could not be justified.

Konga’s demise was because major investors Naspers and AB Kinnevik decided not to fund the business again, and the cash being generated from the business could support its operations. It was also gathered that the investors had totally written off the investment and asked management to shut down the business.

As part of the deal, Zinox was said to have agreed to assume responsibility for the debt in Konga’s books and as a result get the company. If I led the deal, I would have asked for a haircut (discount) on the debt (I am not sure if that is part of the deal).

This is not a strange structure; it has been done before. Dangote did something similar with the reacquisition of Dangote Flour from Tiger Brands. DealDey was also acquired by Ringier under similar circumstances.

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So What’s Next?

Following the acquisition by Zinox, I expect integration between Yudala and Konga. I will also recommend that Zinox runs an offline/online model rather than focusing solely on the online market. I believe that Nigeria is still largely an offline market; businesses should meet their customers where they are, while gradually moving them to where they should be.

Lessons to all

Tech is not your business – This youthful exuberance must stop! Running a business is tough. Running a business in Nigeria is tougher. Sim is one of the most mature technology entrepreneurs, yet he got carried away with “Tech”. My suggestion: build a solid tech but build a solid business also. If you are however in a situation to choose, please make a commercial decision over tech.

Developers will leave – This is a continuation of the first point. Hire good developers, but don’t be forced to go out of your way to get them. This is because they will force you to overpay them.

Once you are unable to raise money, they will all leave you to join the new startup that just raised. Case in point, Konga and Andela. If you doubt me, check the LinkedIn profiles of the senior technical consultants at Andela; a lot of them are from Konga.

Operate within your means – I have written before that this is Nigeria, not California. VC funds are not readily available; hence, you can’t continue to depend on investors’ funds for too long.

In Nigeria, you have to figure out how to operate successfully without needing to raise additional cash. Focus on sustainability, then growth (unless you believe that you will always get the cash from investors anytime you need it).

Move on – Sim has moved on to other things, rather than dwell on Konga’s misadventure. We should learn to do the same.

The “Nigeria question” – Maybe Nigeria is not that big a market. Maybe internet penetration is not that deep. Maybe online payment is still not widespread. Maybe e-commerce in Nigeria came ahead of its time. Maybe, just maybe.

Entrepreneurship is a serious thing, let’s keep it serious.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    February 10, 2018 at 11:14 pm

    Well Said Fisayo… Tech businesses need to learn to make business and commercial decisions.. that you are a developer doesn’t qualify you as a business decision taker/maker… well said…I really also think the economy is not ready for ecommerce yet… other platforms may follow suit if not properly managed.

  2. Laolu

    February 11, 2018 at 8:09 am

    i’m a techy but its true, business is business, don’t get carried away with tech. tech is just an enabler. my problem is that i dislike these “i told you so” writers. you don’t know it all. you don’t have the full picture. so stop speaking like a sage.

    • Oludami

      February 12, 2018 at 11:44 pm

      Thanks Laolu. I’m wondering if the writer has a business s/he founded and running, especially after reading his post of businesses that wouldn’t survive a particular year. Just wondering.

      But I agree with him to some extent. Personally I’m learning to ignore “fancy” and focus on profit. But I doubt any company can grow big and not invest in technology. It’s impossible.

  3. Anonymous

    February 12, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    I praise the young man’s adventurous spirit.
    It is better to try and fail than never to have tried at all. I am sure he has learnt from this daring adventure of his and he would be better off for it later on. Those who are successful today must have had their fair share of failed projects. I see him as a success in the making. I am glad, upcoming techpreneurs can also leverage on his experience in order not to fail again.

    Steve Jobs advised Mark Zukerberg to hire the best hands and brains he can find for his team. They may cost a fortune but they will bring back better results. It paid off for Mark today. I will also advise same but find ways to keep your business sustainable in its gestation period.

    People should not be afraid to try. Every baby rises and falls before they master the walking and running skills. If you are afraid to take risk, you can’t go too far in life. Failure is a part of success. I hail the young man’s courage and look forward to his outstanding sucess in the near future.

  4. Baldwin

    February 13, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Good post. Just not sure the writer has enough information to throw certain statements like “Out of business”. Konga and DealDey may have been bought over but they are both still in Business.

  5. Edwin Obasogie

    February 13, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Very well said, but a little caution on the “I told you so” attitude ’cause every business has its pitfalls and peculiarities.
    Techy guys in Nigeria should learn to allow business experts manage the business side, while they focus on their passion. Ever wonder why Bill Gates didn’t manage the Microsoft business himself from day one? Anyway, managing business is serious business!

  6. IT

    February 15, 2018 at 8:44 pm

    This is post confirms a disturbing trend in Nigeria as a whole not just the business community, when we duplicate cultural bits from Europe or America, it fails in Nigeria if we are lucky, if not it leaves our own society worse off, when we duplicate we only copy the superfecial, we forget that “facebook” was simply a manifestation of deep currents in the American society, that’s only one way to look at it I know but still.

    The tech craze must stop, the author rightly pointed out that Tech is only an enabler. The business idea must be sustainable.

  7. John Thomas

    February 17, 2018 at 6:47 am

    The $75 million raised for Konga would have been better deployed building and staffing 200 stores across Nigeria selling just electronics (their biggest category). Slot Technologies is doing just that.

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Blurb

Strong performance from Stanbic IBTC, despite weak retail banking position

Will Stanbic IBTC be able to generate profit from its personal banking division by full year? 

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Stanbic IBTC made a profit after tax of N45.2billion, growing its profit by 24.7% when compared with this period last year.

The feat is remarkable; given that majority of financial institutions responded as expected to the economic downturn triggered by inflationary pressures, oil price instability, and lack of notable business activities, necessitated by the corona-virus pandemic that has characterised the 2020 business calendar year.

These other organizations reflected positions worse off than their escapades in 2019. In cases where improvements in bottom-line were seen, it was only marginal. 

READ: STANBIC IBTC posts Profit After Tax of N45.2 billion in H1 2020

Stanbic IBTC was not exempted from these economic trials, their immensely diversified business portfolio boosted their numbers on multiple fronts. Robust presence in Asset Management paid off, as commissions and fees represented a massive 62% of general fees and commission income. It’s Corporate and Investment division continues to produce astoundingly, contributing the highest and growing profit after tax of 49.2%. 

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This focused and efficiently monitored diversification, is turning Stanbic IBTC into world-beaters, reflecting in the expansion of its gross earnings by 7.8%, from N117.4billion in HY’2019 to N126.6billion so far this year.

This position could have appeared even better; had STANBIC been able to demonstrate in its personal and business banking segment, the same excellence, noticeable in its other business segments (Wealth, Corporate and  Investment).  

READ: Jaiz Bank: First shared-profit bank in Nigeria approaches 10 years

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It’s Personal banking (generally regarded as Retail banking), encompasses the provision of banking and financial services to individual customers and SME’s (Small and Medium scale enterprises), mortgage lending, leases, card products, transactional and lending activities such as telephone banking, ATM’s, etc. The segment suffered this year, closing with a loss of N3.2billion, despite being responsible for over 58.4% of general staff costs. This poor position was sponsored by a reduction in income levels, especially non-interest income from fees and commission.

Unsurprisingly, given CBN’s policy at the start of the year to implement a much-reduced transfer fee rate, an increase in Non-performing loans is another causal factor for its loss this half-year. STANBIC cannot afford to bask in the euphoria of the massive successes of its Wealth and Corporate segment, at the expense of Retail banking.

READ: Zenith Bank blows past Access Bank as customer deposits cross N4 trillion

Retail banking is fundamental to any bank looking to be a force, or preserve its going-concern status in this critically competitive economic environment. It has been the subject of immense research in the last decade, with many banks devising strategies to acquire a large chunk of the market share in this business segment. The banking landscape is evolving amidst growing competition, such that a bank that generally does well in its retail banking segmentis perceived as strong by the public. This has an underrated capacity to effortlessly attract more customers. Banks need to revisit the drawing board and re-embrace their sacred purpose of serving the basic and pure needs of their individual customers. 

Michael Lafferty, Chairman of the Lafferty Group, whilst describing Retail banking said, Retail banking is the foundation on which global banks are built,” It is a vast retail and consumer banking market, pointing out that the world’s biggest banks built their financial empire from the mass market. 

READ: Foreign investment inflow into banking sector falls by 95% in Q2 2020

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Stanbic IBTC must be conscious in its quest to provide universal banking and find a balance in product and service offerings across its business segment. 

A summary of the performance parameters in its financial statementshows growth in gross earnings, from N117.4billion to N126.6billionand improvement in earnings per share from 342kobo to 419kobo. 

Attention now shifts to the impact of the bank’s new super app, supposedly a one-stop-shop for its diverse offerings, including banking, investing, pensions, trading, and insurance, and how it affects the bottom line in subsequent quarters.  

Explore the Nairametrics Research Website for Economic and Financial Data

Lastly, will Stanbic IBTC be able to generate profit from its personal banking division by full year We await their H2’2020 results. 

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Is Zenith Bank thriving on the strength of sound financial indices?

Zenith Bank posts N103.8bn profit in half-year financial result.

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Zenith Bank reaffirms market dominance and leadership with Q3 2019 results, Zenith Bank Plc, Access Bank Plc and United Bank for Africa Plc, Zenith Bank reports 7.9% profit increase for full-year 2019

Sound financial indices have made Zenith Bank one of the largest banks in the Nigerian banking Industry. It was recognized as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria 2019, in the Global Banker magazine Top 500 Banking brands; and Best Commercial Bank in Nigeria 2019, by the World Finance.

Zenith Bank has successfully bolstered this narrative even further with the release of its Half Year 2020 Financial Report, where it closed with a profit of N103.8 billion.

Growing profit position in these perilous times, speaks remarkably of the suppleness and elasticity of any establishment. A lull in economic activity caused by inflationary pressures, precariousness of the market, and the coronavirus pandemic has forced most Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to cave in, and reveal achievements worse off than their 2019 results y/y – but not Zenith Bank Plc. The institution has showcased beyond reasonable doubt, that the apparent limitations are incapable of distorting its active growth pattern.

Zenith Bank closed H1 2020, 16.8% better off than it did in 2019 y/y, in terms of profit after tax. Although this massive leap, hugely resulting from tax paid as profit before tax, noted just a 2.2% growth. Further analysis of its HY’2020 results, demonstrates more efficiency, a focused cost of fund optimization, and an aggressiveness in generating income across its business heads and segments. This strategy had begun since 2018, and was shared by the bank when it disclosed planned implementation of an improved core banking system, hoping it would ultimately enhance efficiency while reducing costs.

Zenith Bank has thrived on the strength of its sound business model, corporate governance, conservative risk management, and strategic corporate social investment. The bank has been very forceful in the market, improving massively across all of its income generating segments, despite the plausible and obvious hindrances. This is a testament to its superiority, and sponsors its claim for supremacy.

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The bank made N22billion from foreign exchange revaluation gains and despite evidence to the contrary, it endeavored in operating expenditure (OPEX). OPEX may have grown by 7.7%, but disclosures and note to the accounts shows that in virtually every expense head, costs dropped. The 7.7% was triggered majorly by Information Technology related costs, fuel and maintenance, and an increase in the compulsory banking cost fund, set up for the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) by the CBN.

Now, like every hero susceptible to their hubris, Zenith has its own problems, which questions its position at the top. Yes, the bank may have an amazing and constantly improving interest expense to interest income ratio, but it does not possess the finest result in this regard as of yet. HY 2019 interest expense took as much as 33.6% of its income, while HY 2020 dropped to 27.4%. This is good, but still considerably high, if we carry out a peer-to-peer analysis with Guarantee Trust Bank Plc (masters of low-interest expenses), whose ratio stands at 16% for HY 2020.

However, Zenith has sustained the momentum of positioning itself as the crème de la crème in the Nigerian Banking Industry for quite some time. The bank’s pattern of growth and performance, strongly indicates its capabilities to manage its interest expense in subsequent quarters. It will be interesting to see how this pans out by year end.

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In summary, despite economic difficulties this year, with most bank’s bottom-line at a worse position than the corresponding period last year, Zenith posted improved profit yet again. Could this be enough to portray supremacy?

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UBA Plc H1’2020 results, a true reflection of its rightsizing decision? 

UBA’s H1 2020 result is yet another demonstration of the resilience of its business model.

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UBA

The upward review in benefits of some employees and directors this year, coupled with the rising operational costs, constitutes the hot topics from the 2020 semi-annual results released by UBA Plc. 

Widely regarded as the banking sector’s largest employer of labour in Nigeria, the bank in December 2019, embarked on a ‘rightsizing’ exercise, which partly resulted in new hires, as well as promotions, improved remunerations, and benefits for existing employees.

READ: Zenith Bank’s Profit After Tax in H1,2020 rises by 16.8% to N103.8 billion

The Group Head, Media and External Relations, UBA Plc, Nasir Ramon commenting on this said, over 5000 staff of UBA Plc, started the new year with a lot of cheer, as the bank promoted to new grades, coupled with salary upgrades. Beneficiaries of this exercise will receive up to 170% increase in their salaries and benefits, whilst a good number have been moved to higher grade levels.” 

Directors saw their emoluments amplify by 177.7% (Fees and Sitting allowances) as demonstrated in the financial statements of the bank. Rising to N50million in June 2020, from N18million in 2019 y/y. 

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READ: Access Bank posts Profit Before Tax of N74.31 billion in H1 2020

Now, Deposit Money Banks (DMB’s) might be adjudged to be honorable in all of their objectives, but the truth is they are neither self-sacrificing nor are they expected to be. DMB’s are established for profit, and would incessantly prioritize business good sense over social empathy, for the sake of their owners The import of this is, UBA Plc expects its colossal investments in employees and directors to overwhelmingly reflect in its bottom-line. 

Half-year 2020 results is clearly not in sync with this philosophy, as it reflects a weakened position compared to the corresponding period last year, despite the investments in human capitalProfit before tax dropped by 18.7%, from N70.3billion recorded in HY’2019 to N57.1billion in the current period. Profit after tax waned as well by 21.7% to N44.4billion from N56.7billion in HY’2019. 

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READ: Are tech talents Africa’s ‘new export’?

Interestingly enough, the top-line fared pretty well. Interest income and fee income showed improvements, albeit marginally by 0.3% and 6.7% respectively. This makes it illogical to attribute the entirety of the decline in profit to the recent austerity measures put in place by the CBN, reducing funds transfer fees and card maintenance charges 

The Coronavirus pandemic played a big role too, by widely stunting the economy in the second quarter of 2020, and negatively impacting profit. But even these do not provide substantial and sufficient convictions as to why the Tier-one bank did not hit the profit-bar it set for itself, from its truly emphatic 2019 financial year. Does this mean that UBA Plc got the decision wrong at the start of the year? 

READ: FUGAZ; Nigerian banks considered too big to fail

Six months seem too short a period to immediately class management’s decision to jack up the benefits and emoluments of its internal customers as a failed one. Although, no one anticipated the travails of COVID-19 and its resulting consequences, investments in human capital is widely proven to yield tremendous growth in the long haul. Besides the fact that it has given UBA Plc a solid reputation in the market place, it also makes the company very attractive to the very best of industry talents. Furthermore, employee engagements of this nature, foster brand loyalty which ultimately trickles down to how passionately these personnel undertake their tasks and deliverables. The true bearing of this investment is expected to reflect in due course, in subsequent quarters.  

Commenting on the result, UBA’s Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr Kennedy Uzoka said, “Our H1 2020 results is yet another demonstration of the resilience of our business model in an extremely uncertain and tough operating environment. We recorded commendable growth in our underlying business in terms of customer acquisition, transaction volumes, and balance sheet whilst inflation, depressed yield environment and exchange rate volatility impacted our net earnings as anticipated.” 

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READ: GTBank, Access Bank, 11 others pay workers N271.64 billion in H1 2020

Rising cost

In today’s increasingly aggressive marketplace, where consistently generating revenue, is paramount to preserving the longevity and going-concern status of any establishments, costs must also be accorded as much attention and significance. Tightening and managing costs with the aim to improve and generate profit is genius strategy especially in today’s banking industry. The banking industry is under threat from ruthless competitions. Multifarious streams that had hitherto been available for generating income for DMB’s are being severely hindered by the ‘austere’ policies (from the perspective of commercial banks) from the apex bank, making effective cost management a survival mechanism. 

Explore the Nairametrics Research Website for Economic and Financial Data

Employee benefits rose by 20% from N37.2billion in HY’2019 to N44.6billion in HY’2020, while Directors’ emoluments (Fees and Sitting Allowance) as earlier stated, surged by 177% from N18million in 2019 to N50million in 2020 y/y. The total operating expenses increased 22.6% in 2020UBA Plc, unavoidably expended N22.4billion on Banking Sector Resolution cost trust fund, in compliance with the CBN’s requirement to contribute to the cause of the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON). Security and other payments for core services experienced increase as well compared to the preceding year. 

Avoidable expenses like Penalties and Premises Maintenance Charge, should be extensively reviewed and extinguished wherever possible, to improve bottom line. UBA plc has forked out N565million in penalties so far in 2020representing 6177.7% increase from just N9million in 2019 y/y. This is a prime example of the operational brick walls, UBA Plc must properly address to improve its fortunes in subsequent quarters. 

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