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Exclusive Interview with Lanre Akinlagun

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.