Lanre Akinlagun, managing director of Drinks.ng, a website allows Nigerians, especially residents of Lagos state, to order various beverages online.
Akinlagun spoke to HumanIPO about how the company was started, challenges that everyone planning to start an online business in Nigeria should be prepared to face and the company’s expansion plan for the southern region.
He also revealed new ventures the company is planning to introduce into the Nigerian market.
HumanIPO: When and why did you decide to start selling drinks online?
Akinlagun: So a friend got married and he had explained to me the difficulties of buying drinks in Nigeria for his wedding, this planted a seed and I decided to explore the situation more.
I noticed the growing trend and need for high-end alcoholic drinks, along with the growing number of expatriates and middle classes, wine consumption was also rapidly rising.
So along with this is the question of convenience. Unfortunately like a number of consumer goods in Nigeria, buying drinks on a large to medium scale is a very cumbersome experience and many have reiterated this message to me.
To get the best deal you will have to either deal with a third party who would most likely sell you fake drinks or take your chances with the jostling world of Oke-Arin (main market area).
The business proposition for Drinks.ng is brutally simple; an easy, reliable service where you get the drink supplies you want, of top quality and at a good price, without any fuss or hassle or hustle.
This is especially important for people who are organising parties or weddings and the like – they have so many other things to oversee, they want to remove stress wherever possible.
The company’s vehicles have been seen at Fourpoints hotel in Lagos. This made me wonder whether you deliver to hotels or are just offering room services?
On that occasion we were actually attending an event, but we do get requests for hotel delivery to individuals and also to hotels direct. We are after all in the B2B and B2C business.
Tell us about Drinks.ng’s startup fund.
The fund was enough to help get our feet off the ground and kick start the business at a considerable pace.
This is an expensive industry and we need all the support we can get so with the help from guys like Spark we have had a softer landing than most.
How has the market been so far?
Starting a new business in any market is challenging, even more so within Nigeria. We face various obstacles from logistics, operations and staffing.
The good thing is in knowing there is a market out there for us to reach, people screaming for our service, it’s just legit for us to continue expanding our reach.
What are the peculiar challenges that you are contending with in your operations?
Lagos has over 18 million people, whilst Nigeria has over 170 million with a huge appetite for all forms of drinks. Drinks.ng will have a hard task just getting to them within the current climate.
We face challenges like bad roads, horrendous traffic jams, increasing number of accidents and the occasional petroleum scarcity.
Your site is highly optimised for mobile users. How has this impacted your business?
Mobile optimised sites are not a luxury in Nigeria, they are imperative in order to be visual the market, conversions are not high via mobile which is like most online businesses, but discovery is.
So with that being the case I’d say it contributes mainly to our advertising channels and research for our customers.
Which channel is generating more traffic for you?
Natural Search, search engine optimisation (SEO) is a key focus for us. Advertising is great, but SEO is free, just a little time and effort will get us where we want to be from the SEM aspect.
At the outset, were you confident Drinks.ng would be successful straight away?
Well, I was confident I’d be trying my best and with the level of consumption in Nigeria I already knew the market was there.
As far as success goes, we still have a long way to go and we’ll be making every effort to bring Drinks.ng to every corner of Nigeria.
What is your expansion plan for Drinks.ng?
We want to bring the best prices to the whole of Nigeria and not just Lagos state. Once we succeed doing that, who knows, maybe West Africa
Where is your next point of call after Lagos?
Nigeria is a large place with diverse ethnic cultures and religions, so it would be a mistake to compare every part with the commercial capital.
We are looking to strengthen our grip on Lagos before we can even think of anywhere else. We have ambitious plans of expanding across the southern regions, but as previously mentioned, let’s get our hands on the monster called Lagos city.
What, when and where did you study in college?
I studied marketing and multimedia at London Guildhall University back in 2000 – 2003. I’ve always known I wanted to study marketing and enjoyed marketing products.
If someone comes to you today and say “Lanre, I want to start an online business in Nigeria”, which line of products would you advise a person to sell online?
Firstly, not drinks. Nigeria is a very big market and we are in need of a lot of goods and services to satisfy our ever growing appetite.
I wouldn’t know what specifically to focus on but I know the pool is large and wide, just pay attention to what people need and how it is currently being distributed.
Why are you just popular for high-end alcoholic drinks?
That’s a very huge misconception which people have. We are not solely focused on alcoholic drinks; we sell everything including the famous Fan milk and water. We deal in all forms of drinks and soon we shall include ice into our service to complete the circle.
It’s the most natural pairing for drinks, and is high in demand
I guess tequila shots are bringing in more money than soda?
Well the clubs are full so maybe you are right, but there is an increase in orders for tequila
What could be done to make the Nigerian e-ecosystem more welcoming to new businesses?
To be honest, I believe the industry like any other needs to build itself; the opportunities around us are welcoming enough to encourage anyone to get involved.
With companies like Spark supporting startups like Drinks.ng, Hotels.ng and tolet.com.ng, but to name a few I think a lot the is a lot to look forward to. VC’s have their eyes on this market and the likes of Konga and Jumia are really doing a lot for the awareness of the industry.
What’s the current net worth of Drinks.ng?
We haven’t currently worked that out, but we are seeing strong month on month growth.
Who designed the platform?
We have a very good in house tech team who are extremely supportive and talented.
They are under a lot of pressure, but continuously deliver. I love them.