Damilola Ogunleye, Chief Executive Officer of Lasiko Limited, a promotional products company, in this interview with Mary Ekah talks about the opportunities in merchandising through promotional items and also his company’s aspirations, which include giving life to people’s conceptual ideas through his initiative called Survenia.com
What does the name Lasiko denotes?
Lasiko Limited, a promotional products company. We specialise in helping brands create offers that consumers cannot resist. These are promotional offers that are meant to intensify awareness and sales. Interestingly, the name, Lasiko, did not come out of any ingenuity, just that when we were trying to get registered, we had sent like four batches of names and each time we did we were told we cannot use any of those names. And so I just thought that they should just answer us on time and I said it in my dialect, Yoruba, ‘kan da wa lohun lasiko’, which literally means, ‘let them answer us on time’ and so we presented the name ‘Lasiko, which simply means ‘On Time’ and that was how the name Lasiko came about and luckily it was accepted the moment we sent it. And what has been happening is that we have mopped into living up to delivering on the brand promise of delivering on time. We know that time is one of the most important things that brands consider when they are dealing with people. So ours is ideally a platform that gives life to people’s ideas.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Sometimes one needs to be careful so that you don’t end up blowing your trumpet. But I guess that it would be modest to say that we have participated in some of the biggest productions for consumers and brands across different sectors of the economy; these are very successful productions with some of the biggest brands in Nigeria. For me, I think it is a moving target; we have not gotten there. We have a target to, at least in the next five years, have been able to work with the top industries in Nigeria and the world over.
Who exactly are your target clients?
Our clients are brands trying to reach consumers, so in trying to reach consumers, the things they use to promote their trades, whether it is a T-shirt for their sales persons or unique pens as gifts for customers and all that, are all we create. In fact, anybody that runs a business that is big or small and wants to identify with the consumers, is our target. Even if is it is an NGO that is trying to create awareness on a particular occasion, we can create unique promotional items to support the awareness efforts.
What opportunities abound in such a trade like yours?
People perceive this business to have a low barrier to entry. They feel that every Tom, Dick and Harry who has a connection or knows someone can do it. So more often you find that there are a lot more people in the trade who are just hustling to keep their presence. However, the industry has remained a very under tapped sector of the economy. The potential in the industry has not been fully tapped. For example, our entertainment sector is a multi billion-naira sector that one can take advantage of in terms of merchandising the artistes, movie and celebrities. But we find out that artistes are launching albums without any merchandise going with it. You can’t find catchy creative expressions in some of the most important songs out there and even actors who are very influential are not able to leverage on their merchandising opportunities. So what I will say for anybody getting into this space is that you need to understand your strength. Even though it is a low barrier to entry, it can be a very profitable industry, all you need is a product that can stand you out from the crowd and allow you to win.
Now, what are the innovations you have brought into the industry to stand ahead of competitors?
The market place responds to product presentation. So from late last year, we have been doing more of opportunity mining and because we are basically focused on businesses and brands, we thought of a way to reach out to more individuals and consumers. As a result we launched a platform called “Survenia.com”, a platform that allows people to identify and celebrate passions and interests. We believe that every individual’s life is filled with moments of celebrations – like weddings, childbirth, child’s graduations, housewarming, funeral etc., and we believe that those are opportunities for merchandising. So we created Survenia.com as a platform for individuals to find products that are perfect for such celebrations. We also created it as a platform to empower a lot of people out there who are very creative with words, which is much more important part for us. So we earn and they also earn. This is so because we have always wanted to be a platform that gives life to people’s ideas in the sense that when you think of something we bring it to life either in design or in terms of merchandise.
What challenges do you face in running both Lasiko and Survenia.com?
I don’t think there has been challenge running both because they are somehow similar. One is basically focused on corporate bodies, while other focuses on consumers and individuals. The difference is that for corporate, you can get bulk order while survenia.com deals with individuals needs, which could range from just one item to as many as possible. So the challenge will be dealing with different customers because every customer is unique. However we continuously invest in consumer education about our processes to overcome such challenge.
What would be your advice for those who want to start a business like this?
I wouldn’t say there is a hard and fast rule. I came from a background of advertising, so I had the privilege of understanding a bit of it. So what I tell people is don’t go into anything you do not have knowledge of. The next thing is relationships. Human beings are first emotional even before they become logical. So you need to invest in building relationships and then develop the habit of being cordial with every one you meet. Then start doing the right thing from day one and take advantage of the opportunities around you. Another thing is building a relationship with your bank and no matter how small you are make sure your cash is not coming to your hands, let your business be flowing so that your bank see how viable you are. Then have some form of legal backing because you don’t want to go into trouble, we want to be able to review every contract and be sure that whatever we do won’t get us into any trouble with our eyes wide opened. Yes, you can start up as a shop, if you have a clear vision of where you are going. If you have a clear vision of where you are going to and continually seek counsel and navigate to where you are going, you would surely get there
In summary, four things, like I was taught in business school, will determine, to a large extent, how well whatever you are going to do, as a starter, will succeed. And these are: friends, family, foes and fools. It means that whatever you are going to do, your friends will buy from you even if they do not like what you do because you would have emotionally blackmailed them, it is a trick of trade but when they then get value for whatever they have done, then, they would become your ambassadors. For family, even if I cannot sing but I do an album, my family will buy from me. And then there are also fools and foes. People who just take gamble and invest in what you are doing just to prove you wrong or to prove that you cannot do it well. They are foes because they do not have any connection with what you are doing but they have invested in it and they are also fools because they have taken a big gamble in investing in what you are doing. So in whatever you are doing, you need to determine these four set of people in your life. That in itself gives you some soft landing for whatever you are going to do. And then knowing the domain expertise is very important to succeed in this particular business. You may not know the exact prices of the materials you are using for a job but you need to have an estimated idea of them and then you need to know how to get things done or at least know people that can get things done for you.