Every day, fintech startups in Nigeria are seeking more innovative ways to make life easier and comfortable for Nigerians. From providing seamless payment services to encouraging people to adopt a savings lifestyle, these fintech companies are gradually dominating the Nigerian markets.
We had a chat with the new CEO of Nairabox, Adetokunbo Adetona where he talked about his dream of ensuring that Nairabox dominates the market by becoming a companion product for everyone.
Who is Tokunbo Adetona and what role were you playing before your appointment as the CEO?
Both my parents were chartered accountants. My dad was the head of Deloitte till he retired at 50 years. I always wanted to imitate him so I ended up being a chartered accountant. But I always kind of had a flair for technology so that was where my heart was. I also worked in Deloitte, then I worked in the banking sector for a few years, and then moved on to a real estate firm. I delved into entrepreneurship for some time where I provided printing solutions for banks. This new business dried up quickly so I started looking for something new. I looked into fintech and at the time, there was really no law or regulation surrounding it.
I quit my job and flew to the UK in search of a business partner. The kind of partner that would share the vision with me and I couldn’t find one. I met some white guys, they just wanted to bill me monthly. I finally met some Nigerian guys. They had the basics so it was a good shot. They basically had to run the company in the UK while I did the same from Nigeria.
I have known Jay, my former Co-CEO for 5 years and we were partners before he stepped down to become the CEO of Tremendoc. The first time we met, we realized we had the same vision for what we want Nairabox to be. The only competition we had at the time was Mobile Money. We were operating a close circuit payment system where when you add money on the platform, you can’t take it out. We onboarded merchants, had event ticketing, food delivery, and bill payments. Jay introduced me to Damilola Jegede the first CEO, the idea for Nairabox came from Dami. The original version became what Stanbic bank used for their mobile money. He rebuilt it to what came to be Nairabox.
I started as CFO, and our first office was at the back of a mall. A tiny office. We have been able to build a sense of connection and loyalty to the vision that is why we still have most of the workers that started with us. We signed a couple of artists to push the brand. Then we started partnering with banks. Now we currently have 13 banks partnering with us. Dami later left and went abroad. And is working in Silicon Valley.
At what point were you convinced that Nairabox will become a success?
Success is relative. Nairabox has always been a household name. we’ve gotten a lot of hits during Christmas because people are hoping to do Detty December, even when new movies come out people look to Nairabox to secure their seats. We are still a far cry from what I want us to do. I have always had a dream for Nairabox to denominate the market. I want it to be a part of people, like a companion product just like IG. That is when I will acknowledge the success in its entirety.
During the pandemic how did you manage your company?
It’s not the first time we have had challenges. We have had delayed partnerships, late payments that might throw us off balance. We have made ourselves more nimble so that in hard times we are able to stay afloat and not lack even when we are not doing any work. We started food delivery when cinemas and events closed. We keep doing things to adapt to change.
What will you say has been your greatest challenge since appointed the CEO of Nairabox?
Working remotely has been a challenge in terms of connecting with people and brainstorming in person but that notwithstanding virtual has been good in terms of getting things done
The second challenge has been trying to keep a smile on everyone’s face. 2020 had an emotional toll on people. Everything was slowing down; Christmas was always interesting with people calling all the time to book events.
As the new CEO, how do you plan to drive growth?
I started building towards the ideas I have had. We have started working on a few things like the new app that will come up this month. I started implementing a clear system of accountability, and we are accountable to one another.
How do you raise capital for your business?
Our capital has been seed funding from private investors. We haven’t had any crazy amount yet. We have done a lot of bootstrapping through strategic partnerships.
How do you make money on the platform?
We basically earn from our partners. We help our partners access a wide audience. We have partnered with 11 banks. We earn a percentage of what the vendor provides/charges. We have rates for cinema tickets, events, food delivery, etc.
How do you project Nairabox will be in the next five years in terms of revenue?
Nairabox is the only product of Jorge technologies for 5 years. Jorge is planning to expand its services. We have a new model of earnings that will drive growth, some brands are already interested in it. Jorge is planning to build new products; We want to create a line of products and push them to different audiences. We will have something like uber eats, and there will be something for the corporate angles and even individuals. The key components are that we are building companion products to fill the gaps in people’s daily lives
What challenges have you faced in the industry in terms of competition?
The competition is good. We have over 200 million people so there are a lot of people to serve.
I’m grateful for the position I am in and I hope to make some kind of impact. I want that mindset to be assorted with our brand. Over the next 11 months, we will be releasing a number of new offerings. But we are kicking off with our new apps, better user experience, and building loyalty points. You will get access to what you get cheaper.
Where do you project the business in terms of growth and scaling up?
I have shied away from seeking funding, till we hit a certain trajectory of growth before we can do that. I want to push back and expand from the shores of Nigeria. Experiences that will replace events will happen when you travel. Where you can watch a movie or pay for food in another country using the loyalty points you gathered. We are trying to create a connected community across Africa. We are trying to create an African version of a multinational lifestyle companion.