The Prince of Konga and Nigeria’s e-commerce

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Nnamdi Ekeh

In this perspective, we analyse the state of e-commerce in Nigeria, nay Africa, and the bullish imprints of Prince Nnamdi Ekeh, who as a teenager and undergraduate turned the screw to upset the apple cart in the marketplace with a composite online-offline model.

At 19, Mark Zuckerberg rallied his team to build Facebook. Again at 19, Blake Ross launched Firefox, the user-friendly search engine. There are many more Americans who blazed the trail in diverse industries as teenagers. And you just wonder, what’s with teens and entrepreneurship? So much if you add to the list of teenage business mavericks the name Prince Nnamdi Ekeh. He’s the young mind currently driving Konga, a composite e-commerce company flying the African flag in the global e-commerce space.

Prince Ekeh was 19 and a student at University of Lancaster, United Kingdom, when he birthed the idea of Yudala, a brutally ambitious e-commerce outpost. Majoring in Economics/Politics with a minor in Entrepreneurship, young Ekeh was not going to leave the idea merely as a paper concept. He was in a hurry to birth it to life. And while back home to serve his fatherland under the auspices of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Yudala had become a place of activity employing over 250 staff. He actioned his talk. And ever since, he has navigated the company to the crest of e-commerce players in Africa.

Scion of Africa’s digital ambassador and restless promoter of digital economy, Leo Stan Ekeh, it was no surprise that Prince could create a digitally-driven business model at 19. Prince’s father is the Chairman of the Zinox Group, a conglomerate comprising Zinox Technologies, Technology Distributions Ltd, Task Systems, Zinox Telecom among others. As a Director with Zinox, it was not difficult to lean on his father for financial leverage to fund the Yudala project. He had his wish. Besides, no responsible father would turn down a request from someone with Prince’s sense of entrepreneurship and humility. In him, you encounter a young man hungry for success, determined to create his own world and build his own castle.

That was how Yudala was born. Being a very smart, business savvy kid, Prince opted to domicile his Yudala under the Zinox Group, as he said “to profit from the wise guidance of my father” whom he sees as his inspiration. Yudala had a forerunner in Buyright Africa.com, an e-commerce company founded by his father in 2012 but which, as it now stands, came ahead of its time. It was short-lived. But young Prince had the dream to birth a similar enterprise “when the right time comes”. That right time came when he founded Yudala, the first composite e-commerce company in Africa.

“I have always thought of expanding the horizon of e-commerce in Africa and when the opportunity came to acquire Konga, one of the top players on the continent, it was not difficult to convince my father to allow me acquire Konga under the Zinox Group,” he recalls. And it happened. Jumia and Konga launched ahead of Yudala but young Prince was determined to make the most of the e-commerce space where his passion berths.

Every smart entrepreneur trusts his intuition. When the rumour mill revved with the news that Naspers and Kinnevik, the promoters of Konga were desiring to divest their stakes, Prince pounced on the opportunity. The initial overture from Konga was a partnership but Prince Ekeh declined the offer. Then the deal swung from partnership to acquisition. It was exactly what he had anticipated. Driven by youthful zeal and iconic ambition, he once nursed the dream of acquiring both Jumia and Konga. It was more of a toss of the coin.

Konga was highly competed for by some other big companies, including Jumia which was leading on figure but Naspers as a professional investment company and Kinnevik were not just interested on who brings the biggest amount of money but they were intent on handing over Konga to a group with a pedigree of integrity, local industry knowledge and performance.

The history of the Ekehs in technology is very clear. Perhaps what excited Konga owners the most is what Prince had done with Yudala at the age of 23, his entrepreneurial skill and humility in driving the Yudala business hands-on was amazing to them.
And the Prince of Konga has not disappointed. Since he acquired Konga, they have grown the company by 800 percent and ambitiously targeting the next financial year to grow it by over 1,000 percent. To achieve this, they have built unprecedented technology and logistics infrastructure across the nation and warehouses to facilitate growth and meet, even surpass,
projection. With over 35 strategic retail stores located nationwide to compliment her online division and an approved business plan to launch another 30 stores before the end of year 2020, it is very clear Konga is becoming the most robust platform to reach more conveniently the served, under served and unserved in the e-Commerce space.

He has positioned Konga as the only e-commerce company that delivers 85% in their internal logistics through KongaExpress. Acquiring Konga wasn’t a status symbol. It was a smart business decision. He and his team have turned round the KongaPay into an efficient lifestyle payment platform to drive the business, an idea the former owners had actually dropped. They have not only increased the wallet size of KongaPay but since the acquisition, they have launched one of the most successful travel agencies, KongaTravels, which is fully certified by IATA and deals directly with all the airlines. They are already targeting 15% market share of the travel economy by 2022. Prince Ekeh also targets the health sector with greater passion and desires to launch very soon what may sizzle the country’s health sector.

Industry forecast says Konga will be difficult to beat because of their nationwide rollout (offline and online). It’s the e-commerce concept that has come to define the operations of the two biggest players in the global e-commerce spectrum: Amazon and Alibaba.

The Prince of Konga is a young man of overflowing adrenaline. He is pushing Konga beyond the frontiers of Nigeria. Konga Ghana is already on the card. Unfazed by the bad press and failure that dogged the listing of a major competitor at the New York Stock Exchange, Prince is already fine-tuning the papers to list Konga in the London Stock Exchange as part of the strategies to internationalise the nimble-footed company and leverage its profitability.

Young Ekeh’s sense of business is not strange to his associates. They are quick to point to the exploits of his father, Leo Stan Ekeh, the phenomenal serial digital entrepreneur who put Nigeria on the global ICT map. His mother, a mathematician and a Chartered Accountant of high repute is a silent digital entrepreneur who runs the largest ICT products distribution company in sub-Saharan Africa. His elder sister, Mrs. Andrea Ijogu, is also a digital entrepreneur (Managing Director of TD Mobile) rated as the largest distributor of mobile phones in West Africa. A true chip off the old block, Prince is living the dream of a lineage with a rich history of entrepreneurship. His great grandfather, Mazi Ihentuge Ekeh, was one of the biggest merchants in Onitsha in his time. His paternal grandmother, a British-trained entrepreneur, designed the first galvanized dustbin ever to be used in Nigeria in those days during the Operation Clean and Green scheme. She supplied galvanized buckets and waste bins nationwide besides her chain of restaurants trading under the name Ato and Co limited.

The Prince of Konga is therefore on a familiar turf. While his story resonates with those of other teenagers who blazed the entrepreneurial trail in the Western world, Prince deserves a higher credit for even daring to tread the same path where his father, a ruthlessly gifted digital entrepreneur, failed. Like a man on revenge mission, he has overcome the landmines that consumed his father’s Buyright Africa.

His optimism to deliver the most consumer-friendly and profitable e-commerce company out of Africa is hinged on what he calls ‘strategic vision’. “Our strategy is clear and distinct from anything else on offer in the market today. Our fusion of online and offline is not only futuristic, but one that has been copied by other global e-commerce giants. On the back of this, we have seen a consistent growth trajectory that will see Konga emerge as the first profitable Nigerian e-commerce company.

“Furthermore, we are renowned as arguably the most credible source of genuine products in the e-commerce sub-sector today. Every item on the Konga platform, online or offline, is sourced directly from the manufacturers and this has clearly distinguished the Konga brand in the marketplace.”

Prince is not an accident of history. He came prepared. Aside his degree in Economics/Politics, he has honed his entrepreneurial skill at Lagos Business School, Leysin American School, Switzerland and severally at Harvard.
Aside being nominated for the prestigious Future Awards for Business Excellence as well as Top 100 Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD), in response to the proclamation by United Nation’s General Assembly resolution 68/237, he is also a recipient of multiple awards including Icon of Human Transformation by the National Association of Nigerian Students.