The CEO of Gbam Lotto, Tawa Bolarin, spoke with Emma Okonji about her initiatives to catapult the lottery and gaming business into the big league using the right technology. Excerpts:
Gbam Lotto recently made its debut in the Nigerian lottery and gaming market with lots of promises to empower Nigerians through its scratch and win cards. What are the motivating factors to establish Gbam Lotto in Nigeria?
Across the world, lottery and gaming business is large and lucrative, but in Nigeria the market is relatively young with narrow vision centered around sport betting, but we decided to expand the scope of lottery and gaming in Nigeria with the Gbam Lotto scratch and win cards that is unique to the Nigerian market and capable of empowering millions of Nigerians that will want to give it a trial. So we are the first lottery and gaming company that has publicly introduced the scratch and win products as part of lottery business in Nigeria. The scratch and win product is innovative and driven by simplified technology applications, designed to empower people. We have made it even better by paying winners instantly, without piling up their wins and the beauty of it all is that people can play the game on their mobile phones while on the go or from the comfort of their homes and offices and get instant payment as soon as they win.
Your brand name ‘Gbam Lotto’ appears very punchy and attractive. What is the concept behind the name?
We actually went through a rigorous and extensive path to find the right brand name for our lottery and gaming business that will depict the personality of the organisation we want to create. While brainstorming on the name, one of us suddenly came up with the name ‘Gbam’, which illustrates something instant without delays and we found it quite interesting because it is in line with our vision to serve Nigerians fast and pay winners promptly, using modern but simplified technology to achieve it.
What are you doing to rebuild the trust of the failed lottery and gaming system in Nigeria?
We are a new brand and we are here to stay and to achieve this, we had to build trust into our service provisioning to the larger market. Trust in business is key to winning the minds of people. For us at Gbam Lotto, our philosophy is straight forward. We want to provide various channels including online and offline, that will enable people make their choices, and we want people to use any of the channels to win and receive their money instantly. Even for winnings that are above N100,000, the winner does not need to pass through anybody before getting the winning cash. All that the winner needs do is to send his or her details, including the bank details via the mobile phone and the money is paid instantly after verification. So with Gbam Lotto, cash-out is very easy. This is what we promised Nigerians and this is exactly what we are doing. Again, we promised Nigerians that we were going to open instant bank accounts for winners who do not have bank accounts, in order to make cash-out easy and in line with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s cashless initiative, which seeks to reduce physical cash handling and encourage electronic payment system in today’s digital era. So we understand the issue about trust and we will continue to build that trust in Nigerians.
In building trust, what are your strategies for sustainability of the structure you are putting in place to raise the confidence of Nigerians?
Some of the things we did as part of our strategies to build trust is to look at the areas where other lotto businesses failed and try to find a solution to address such failures so that they do not keep reoccurring. We also looked at the things that make great ideas become successful ideas and we built on such ideas. We will continue to execute flawless ideas and ensure that customers are happy and empowered though the Gbam Lotto. So what we have done is to change the value and fulfillment journey for our scratch and win cards. We have since realised that people make or mar organisations, so we have carefully selected the right people that will add value to our business and at the same time, sustain the trust we are building into the lottery and gaming business in Nigeria. Our staff came from diverse industries with decades of work experiences. Again, we have demystified lottery and gaming in Nigeria and we have equally raised the trust bar such that any calibre of persons, including the highly and lowly placed people in the society, can conveniently play the Gbam Lotto. We have made the game easy and exciting such that people can even play it in traffic and eliminate fatigue. So there is a convenience aspect in the kind of service we are offering Nigerians.
How is the distribution channel and model of Gbam Lotto like?
Our distribution model comes with lots of channels that give Nigerians the opportunity to make their choices when they want to play the lottery game with Gbam Lotto. We made it in such a way that everybody can play the game even with as low as N100, thus providing access to all Nigerians. Still on our distribution model, we have made it possible for several Nigerians to have access to our products and services and to play with ease from the comfort of their homes, offices, and even while on the go, or when in traffic. We have also open the business to partners with little capital. So anybody or group of people can come together to become Gbam Lotto partner to take our business across cities.
What kind of licence was issued for the operation of Gbam Lotto in Nigeria. Is it national, state or regional licence and what is the scope of coverage?
We have a national licence that allows us to operate in all states of the federation, but we also understand that despite the national licence, we still need to have the state licence or better still, get approval from the any state we which to operate in. That we have a national licence, does not give us the authority to operate in any state without getting approval from the state. So in addition to our national licence, we also have the Lagos State licence to operate lotto business in Lagos State. It is not convenient for us to invest in two licences to operate one kind of business, but we do not want to flex muscles with any state government, but I know that someday, the issue will be addressed amicably. So we have plans to roll out in other states beyond Lagos State.
What value will lotto and gaming business bring to the Nigerian economy?
Like any other business, the lotto and gaming business attracts tax to government and there is enough revenue in taxation, which is one of the ways that government could make money from lotto and gaming business. Aside license fee, we pay monitoring fee for every money we generate from the lottery and gaming business. There is also a national lottery fund fee, which is not yet defined by government, but I know government is trying to make regulation out of it. So there is a lot of money generation from lottery and gaming business that can add real value to the Nigerian economy. Again, the business is about empowering people and when people are empowered financially, they will have money to spend and that will increase liquidity in the economy and add value to the economy. There is also the aspect of direct and indirect employment that lottery and gaming can generate within the Nigerian economy.
Technology is driving businesses across several sectors of economies. What level of technology is Gbam Lotto deploying to serve its customers better?
The primary service fulfillment in Gbam Lotto is about self service that is driven by technology. We are leveraging technology to demystify the type of service we offer our customers. Customers can use their mobile phones to play the Gbam Lotto and mobile phone is about using a combination of software and hardware technologies to effect communication and transaction. Most of our registrations are done online and they are driven by technology.
Gbam Lotto launched a website to provide easy access to Gbam. What value will the website bring to end users?
The value and benefits that our website will bring to customers are numerous. For people to register, they need to log on to our website and do the online registration with their personal details. The process is for the purpose of verification and it is very fast. People with cards and those without cards can play the Gbam Lotto and win like any other person. We are aware that not every Nigerian has bank account and not every Nigerian with a bank account has a card. So to encourage all inclusive transaction, we need to open offline and online payment gateway and give the customer the opportunity to make his or her choice. We are working with the Nigeria Inter Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) that controls that Nigeria payment system as well as several merchants, and Payment Solution Service Providers (PSSPs) to deliver on our promise to serve our customers better.
Does Gbam Lotto has any collaboration with government agency to monitor draws and redemption of prices won?
Yes, we have collaboration with the regulatory authorities like the National Lottery Commission and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC). They are connected to our system and they generate their report on the daily transactions on Gbam Lotto for the scratch and win game, but for the draw, they have to personally monitor it to ensure transparency. Gbam is here to stay in the long term business to enhance customer experience.
What is the highest amount of money that any customer can win and what is the least amount to be won?
The lowest amount that a winner could win is the same amount the winner used in playing and a customer can use as low as N100 to play the game. The highest amount set aside for any customer to win is 10 thousand times the amount used in playing, and there is no limit as to the amount a customer wishes to play with. So if a customer plays with N100, the customer can win N1 million, and N1000 can win N10 million.
Are there statistics to show how much money the lottery industry generates yearly?
In Nigeria, there is no public information on the amount of money that lottery business generates monthly, however lottery is fast developing and some groups are beginning to raise data from lottery transactions. I hope that some day, Nigeria will be able to generate data for lottery and gaming business, to measure its financial capability.
Will you like to share some of your rollout plans to enable Nigerians have more insight into what Gbam Lotto stands for?
Our plans are open to everyone, we are currently online and we are doing a lot of stuff online with various social media channels and we are using some technology influencers to further drive our business in Nigeria. We are currently in Lagos, but with plans to roll out in other cities of the country. We are creating awareness through advertising, even though some platforms will not accept lottery and gaming advertisement but we are not deterred by that because we have our goals and focus. We are currently on 10 channels on the radio and we are looking at going to cinemas to create more awareness. We are making plans to advertise on television as well. We are aggressively creating awareness and we are launching a dance song soon, to create more awareness. We are in the digital age and we are driving our business digitally through technology innovation.