ZTEA recently received a nomination as Best New Product in the Unsung Heroes Award. The premium brand, ZTEA makes our good ol’ zobo drinks in fruity teabags. ZTEA (zobo tea) is available in pineapple, lemon, strawberry and other flavours. The good news is that ZTEA is 100 per cent natural and can be served hot or cold. Just as it pleases you.
Phranklin Alli, the CEO of ZTEA loves zobo, but finds the process of ‘preparing’ it, time-consuming. ZTEA is his attempt to make zobo readily available when needed. You’d get the desired taste in a shorter time.
In this exclusive interview, Phranklin Alli opened up on how the idea of ZTEA came about; pursuing the idea; the challenges of being in a new market; and the plans for ZTEA in the next five years. I’m sure you’d enjoy.
VUN: Talk about your background and how you got into business?
Phranklin Alli: After school, I got a job as an export marketing executive in a government-private institution that was responsible for promoting Made-in-Nigeria products across the ECOWAS region. We were basically saddled with helping SMEs develop and market their products for the international market. So if you look at ZTEA, you may be inclined to think that it’s a foreign brand.
VUN: What is the idea behind ZTEA?
Phranklin Alli: First, personal interest. I love zobo. But, then preparing it was always an issue because although easy, it could be time consuming – from cleaning to boiling to allowing to cool etc. Part of the personal interest include the need to offer a healthier alternative to fizzy sodas, (for those of us with sweet tooth but still care enough for what we consume). So, I just figured there could be an easy way to enjoy the same goodness anytime and anywhere. Then, value addition. Look at what Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire are doing with cocoa. They make some of the most amazing chocolates.
VUN: After the idea came to you, how did it evolve and at what point did you decide to pursue it?
Phranklin Alli: My earlier career involved a lot of helping small businesses develop ideas from zero to market-ready enterprises. Most times, you would find me promoting their business with extra time and personal resources. I was just passionate about helping them succeed. In fact, I often got into problems with my superiors because they couldn’t understand the passion. *smiles* At some point, I just decided I needed to do something for myself. Over time I knew I needed to do something.
VUN: What challenges are involved in being in a new market as yours?
Phranklin Alli: You know every new product has to struggle with existing players to attract prospective customers to its brand. Even harder, when it’s an entirely new product. For instance, ZTEA (zobo teabags) are not what one would ordinarily imagine in these parts. But, consistency is KEY; push hard enough; ultimately – people will start to look at your direction. In fact, right now, most people who make zobo drinks have suddenly realized it can actually be consumed hot (like tea). They now add that line in their marketing. *laughs* So, we are definitely making impacts.
VUN: Who is your target market and how exactly do you reach the market?
Phranklin Alli: Middle-income bracket. The people who care much about their health and are looking out for healthier alternatives. Basically, social media and word of mouth. Traditional press has also helped as we’ve appeared in some dailies.
VUN: In what specific ways have your previous work experience helped in growing your brand?
Phranklin Alli: Knowledge of industry-government agencies and player; market requirements and customer behaviours.
VUN: How has the mindset about Made in Nigeria brands affected your brand?
Phranklin Alli: Not bad at all. Made in Nigeria doesn’t automatically translate to bad or poor quality. People just want value for their money. ZTEA bears the proudly Nigerian logo. Yet, most people find it hard to believe it’s a Made-in-Nigeria brand. If you do a good job and market it to the right audience, your product will be well appreciated. For instance, look at our fashion industry, I think it’s doing awesomely well. Most celebs and even the Abuja big men are now adorning Nigerian labels with so much pride.
VUN: Now, talk about the challenges of running a business in Nigeria.
Phranklin Alli: This is common knowledge na. Uneasy access to credit. Poor infrastructure – electricity, roads and transportation. Unfriendly government policies (multiple taxations etc). Poor commitment from the government to fully promote the consumption of local products.
VUN: What can be done to make business easier?
Phranklin Alli: Create an enabling environment for business to thrive. Nobody expects the government to give everybody jobs. Just improve on the ease of doing business. Reduce the bureaucracy, improve on the incentives to small business etc. I think this government is trying in that regard.
VUN: What’s your plan for ZTEA for the next five years?
Phranklin Alli: To become a major player in the global tea market.
VUN: Advice to other young entrepreneurs.
Phranklin Alli: Follow your passion. Follow it consistently.