Edoka Idoko is the CEO of Ojireh.com, Nigeria’s leading online food store committed to providing customers with the convenience of shopping online, from a wide variety of food items at the most affordable rates.
The online food store launched in November 2016 by Edoka Idoko with a faulty Samsung tab now employs 8 people. Ever since Edoka Idoko has been committed to his vision of building Africa’s most valuable brand. In January 2018, Ojireh.com was incorporated as Ojireh Versatile Trade Solution and by March OjirehPrime was launched. OjirehPrime is a prepaid debit card that is not connected to your bank account; and which could also be owned by someone without a bank account. The debit card is aimed to address the challenges of card fraud in a bid to reduce customers’ fear of online transactions. In this interview, the Benue State University alumni Edoka Idoko opens up about the inspiration behind Ojireh.com; the difference between OjirehPrime and the normal ATM cards and the Nigeria tech industry. You sure would enjoy.
VUN: What inspired Ojireh.com?
Edoka: I started out trading in an agro commodity with focus on rice importation, then I network with the importers and the dealers. In the process, I realized two things. First, that an average bag of rice was more expensive than it’s supposed to because of the influence of the middlemen. I also found out that small business owners were being stripped of their profit as a huge chunk has been taken out by these middlemen which I was a part of. At this point, I was thinking of how best I could build a system that would get rice to the customers at a cheaper rate and at the same time expand the market reach of small businesses and be a part of their success stories. That is how the idea of an e-commerce was birthed.
VUN: How did the name Ojireh.com come about and what does it mean?
Edoka: I believe in Africa so I wanted a name that truly sounds African and considering that I was going into the food space, Ojireh which means food in Idoma (a language in Benue State, Nigeria) seems the best option. I decided to build a brand around it.
VUN: What sets OjirehPrime apart from the normal ATM cards?
Edoka: OjirehPrime is not connected to your bank account. You can fund your card via cash deposit from any branch of any bank. Cardholders will have access to soft loans and shop on credit from Ojireh.com.
VUN: Doesn’t it require giving out some of those numbers that are required during transactions with normal ATM cards?
Edoka: Ojirehprime is deliberately not linked to your bank account neither does it require your BVN. With this, it is impossible for fraudsters to access your bank account from your OjirehPrime card which they can easily do from your normal bank ATM card. We believe this will reduce the stories of card frauds in the country.
VUN: Your vision is to build Africa’s most valuable brand. Which more innovations do we expect from you?
Edoka: *laughs* Innovation is a core of our operations. We’re already in a secret test phase of three products we expect to launch between 2019 to 2020. The first is within the FinTech sector and the second seems to us like a birth of a new industry as we’re merging logistics, social interaction and small businesses.
VUN: You offer loans to users of the OjirehPrime, how do you ensure that the loaned money is recovered.
Edoka: Giving a soft loan is a part of our value proposition which should fully take effect at any moment from now. However, it comes with a self-guaranteed model.
VUN: You started your business with a faulty Samsung tab. How come the unavailability of a laptop didn’t discourage you?
Edoka: At the point when I started, certain policies of the present administration affected the importers I depended on to continue my rice business. I had no capital, but I already knew what I wanted and if I was asked, I’ll say that, “I had no option”. So I had to make use of what was available.
VUN: After running the business for almost two years now, what have you learnt that you wish you had known before you began?
Edoka: STRUCTURE. If you have the right structure in place you will get more done with little or no resources.
VUN: What challenges have you faced since you began and how have you been able to handle those?
Edoka: Every challenge we’ve faced is linked to lack of funds, but this has equally contributed to our growth as we have learnt two key lessons that are now key to our operation. We learnt to innovate our way up and build a structure with a well-defined process flow. So, as people come in and out, they meet a working system. Even when we dropped to a one-man company, I maintained that standard.
“…think like a fortune 500 company then start small and stay lean.”
VUN: Nigerians naturally would rather haggle over the price of groceries before making purchases. How has this mentality affected your business?
Edoka: We have our standards set and we try to keep it that way. At the same time, we try to be flexible in terms of pricing of products on our platforms by creating multiple options to meet our customers budget.
VUN: What is your view of the Nigeria tech industry?
Edoka: I think we’re growing faster than we might think. It might not be too obvious, but I believe big surprises will come out of Nigeria within the next decade.
“But, we have decided to be a part of the CBN’s financial inclusion drive and for the immediate, we’re leveraging on mobile phone penetration and encouraging rural dwellers to use USSD for their basic online transactions.”
VUN: Talking about the unbanked population, what do you think would make people not get bank accounts and how does OjirehPrime aim to help the unbanked population do their online transactions?
Edoka: Firstly, there are over two billion unbanked adults globally and Nigeria accounts for about 3% of that statistics which is equal to about 60% of our entire population. A chunk of this statistics come from the rural areas where tech has not really penetrated and I really can’t explain why our banks have not leveraged on this. But, we have decided to be a part of the CBN’s financial inclusion drive and for the immediate, we’re leveraging on mobile phone penetration and encouraging rural dwellers to use USSD for their basic online transactions.
VUN: What do you think is the reason Nigeria seems to be behind in technology advancements and what could be done to improve the situation?
Edoka: If you look at it carefully, we have the market, the resources and the manpower. But, we lack the right policies to drive technology as fast as it should. We have seen countries like China eager to set up businesses outside of China because their resources are being stretched. So, I expect the government to leverage on this and build systems that will attract tech industries that are willing to open up their Intellectual properties to our tech Engineers in exchange for a ready market. After all, that is one of the trade strengths to which China grew. Let’s replicate the same model.
VUN: Who are your role models?
Edoka: Interestingly, my role models change from time to time. But, one that is constant is Late John D. Rockefeller and Elon Musk is one guy I love too.
VUN: What inspires you?
Edoka: When I imagine how God carefully structured the world and how he set the basics in place even before Adam was created (air, sun, land, water, plants etc). God designed a structure that can take care of the needs of billions of humans without them running out of resources yet he created only Adam and Eve, then he built the smallest version of his idea and called it the garden of Eden. This means a lot to me.
VUN: What would you have been doing if you weren’t growing your brand?
Edoka: I believe I was born for this.
VUN: What advice would you give younger entrepreneurs?
Edoka: Structure to scale globally, think like a fortune 500 company then start small and stay lean.