Founders Spotlight with Founder of Drinks.ng
Lanre Akinlagun is a Nigerian businessman best known as the founder of the E-Commerce site, Drinks.ng. After a successful career in the digital advertising space, he joined the executive team of iROKOtv which brought him back to Africa and eventually commencing in the launch of drinks.ng.
Lawunmi Nwaiwu interviews Lanre on how to have a winning business idea.
Q: How would you describe yourself in three words?
Hungry focused, and resilient
Q: How did you start Drinks.ng?
I previously worked at Iroko TV. A friend (Jason) ran the business. I was one of his groomsmen that handled the Bachelor's party. Went to Bristol, got some drinks, pretty straightforward. Came to Nigeria, did the same thing, only getting the drinks, wasn't as straightforward, which I was shocked about and didn't understand why. So everybody took me to the open market, said that's how you buy the drinks. Shocking. So after the wedding, went back to the UK, spoke to Jason. They set up an investment fund and I was the first investee. That's how I started.
Q: From your experience, how would one know that they have a winning business idea?
There's a little bit of research that goes into it making sure that the numbers work, making sure that the consumers have a need for what you're offering. Making sure that there's a service viability. On the other hand there's also a little bit of gut instinct, in terms of, if I try to do things differently, even if people don't necessarily feel the need for it, will they still want it? And sometimes you just have to believe in the different service you're offering. Sometimes people don't know they need it, but you know they need it and so you're determined to make them realize that they need it. But the fundamentals have to work. So yes, academic research and a little bit of gut instinct.
Q: What would you say to those who are struggling to hit their business milestones?
If you do your homework and the numbers make sense, great! If it doesn't, it isn't because the fundamentals of the business don't work. It's the implementation of how to get those fundamentals, that isn't working. So I wouldn't throw in the towel, long as the fundamentals work. I would instead figure out why it isn't working, what am I doing wrong, what is it about my execution or my marketing or my notes that isn't making this thing work? So it really does, depends on what's happening.
Sometimes you just want to have money and you can't afford to keep on doing iterations, you can't afford to keep experimenting, you can't afford to keep researching and trying different avenues. So you really need to know where you stand and know what's at your disposal before you take risks.
Q: Seeing where your business is right now, how or what methods do you use to promote your business?
Digital influencers, display marketing and social media marketing. These Gen Z people have come with these content influencer marketing, I don't understand - but they understand it. So it's cool, as long as they get it. I sit down on the marketing meetings, I listen and I'm like, all right, you all seem to be in the agreement. No problem [laughs]. I'm more straight digital marketing, which is more numbers etc I get that more. And I get search, I get display, I get social media marketing. The overly creative Gen Z stuff, I let them continue with that, as long as it's working.
Q: The success that drinks NG has made today. Did you think you would get to this point many years ago when you first started?
I just never knew where it would be. The idea was to just try and make a difference and make a name. Now, we're the number one e-commerce store for alcohol with Nigeria. We are online distribution partners with the likes of the Diageo, Pernord Ricard, Moet, Hennessy, Red Gold. We have the best liquor store in Africa. We're about to open in Ghana, Angola, Kenya, and Rwanda.
Q: What would you say is the secret to an e-commerce business success?
That's a tricky one because e-commerce in every state, in every country, on every continent is completely different. The challenges are different, the successes are different, the route to market is different, the consumers are different. So there isn't really a broad base a route to what success with e-commerce is. However, if I have to put some fundamentals on it first of all, you need great partnerships. Without the likes of the Diageo etc without the belief and the support from them, we wouldn't have been able to succeed in the industry. Yes, we made ourselves relevant and we stayed relevant but if the partners don't believe in you, it's very difficult to be able to succeed in anything that you are doing. You need a great team.
Secondly, your team has to believe in you. It's a very hard thing to do in terms of making things work. And it needs a lot of sacrifice. It needs a lot of dedication, it needs a lot of belief. And as a leader, your job is to make sure that people believe in you and you're able to hire the right people who believe in what you are trying to achieve and keep them motivated.
Thirdly, consumer obsession. You have to be obsessed about how to keep the consumers happy because they're the people that will contribute to your growth. Ensuring that the consumers believe that there's value in what you're doing. If they don't see value, it's almost little to nothing you can do to keep them engaged.
Lastly, traffic, A lot of traffic [laughs]. If you have the website traffic and you can keep traffic coming, then you'll find out different ways in which to fix any iterations. But these fundamentals I've mentioned, in my opinion, will buy you time and lifeline to make your business a success.
Thanks Lanre, from everyone at The Moment of Truth Nigeria.
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