Rising from a poor background, having lost his father at a young age, working hard and dreaming big was not an option. Watching his mother toil for a meagre salary fuelled him to envision a happy, successful future which led him to found Payporte. Eyo Bassey, astute and futuristic; brave and entrepreneurial understands the craft of e-commerce. Single-handedly, he has created a proudly Nigerian e-commerce brand that is setting standards for competitors. Young, suave and intelligent, he become one of the most promising CEOs to emerge from Nigeria. He spoke with Azuka Ogujiuba about his brand, the opening of the Payporte offline store, and what makes him tick. Excerpts:

Briefly tell us about yourself 

My name is Eyo Bassey, I’m the Chief Executive Officer of Payporte, Nigeria’s preferred online store. I’m a software developer, a tech entrepreneur, and I’m currently running some internet businesses, and Payporte is one of them. I’m happily married with three kids.

How was growing up for you like?

Childhood was very rough; I lost my dad when I was 11 and my mum tried her best for my siblings and me. I couldn’t do a lot of things that my mates were doing because I was on the streets hawking one thing or the other. I once hawked in a bank called Bank of the North, now Unity Bank.

Did these challenges make you to work harder and be successful?

Yes, they did. I became very enterprising at a very young age. My mum also inspired me because as a civil servant, her salary couldn’t do much. She was earning N240 at the time my father died and half of that went to my school fees. This made me very determined and I made sure I worked hard to support my mother.

Is it true that the capital with which you started Payporte came from your mum?

Yes, my mum used her house, the only thing she had as collateral to help me secure a N15 million loan from the bank to kick-start my business. Apart from God, my mum is my pillar and she still stands by me and encourages me to date.

What were your fears at the time you started Payporte?

Every business involves risk; but with Payporte, I actually underestimated the risks involved in setting up an online and e-commerce business in this part of the world. As time went by, we were determined and we had the numbers cut out for us, in terms of the future of e-commerce in Nigeria – that always kept us going regardless of the bumps along the way.

What encouraged you to not give up?

I was convinced about e-commerce and I was convinced about doing it in Nigeria. I was also very passionate about it and of course, I was also convinced by God. So with regard to what kept us going, we knew e-commerce was just getting started in Nigeria. We had a prospect of over 100 million people every week on the Internet in Nigeria and those were our potential customers. We also have an average of 35 million people every day on the Internet. Even if we were to attend to 10 per cent of that which is about 3.5 million people, we wouldn’t even have the capacity to attend to this market. So, we knew that if we were able to get our acts right, to overcome the bumps along the way, we were sure that it was very good business venture to get into. The numbers have always and still look very good to us and that’s why we are still in the business.

What makes your brand different from other e-commerce brands in the country?

Basically what makes us different is the fact that we studied the market, and we are truly a Nigerian brand. So, we clearly understand what the market is looking for Payporte is known for its low prices; our goods are very affordable. Payporte is known for its 1k Store’ every Monday; so people can buy things for as low as N1,000. We’ve been running this for almost a year. Every Wednesday, Payporte also runs the Happy Feet’ our promo for shoes. These are the stores where we get to sell goods at unbelievable prices. So pricing is one of our differentiating factors. Another factor is prompt delivery; other market players came up with the Market Place Model. Market Place Model being that people come and lease products on their site and they sell it; however, people don’t honour service level agreement, thus Payporte decided to do it differently.

Payporte doesn’t just allow people to lease products on its site; it owns at least five pieces of each goods and keeps them in a warehouse. This is to ensure that the delivery of such products do not exceed 24 hours. Another differentiating factor is the Payporte team; they are very passionate and dedicated to their work. The average age of the typical staff in Payporte is 25 and they all put in their best to ensure that everything goes on well.

What’s the quality of the goods in the 1k store’?

The 1k Store’ won’t have stayed for one year if there was no patronage. Payporte is also known for quality. As a matter of fact, Payporte, as of January this year began to produce its own apparel. Eighty per cent of the apparels seen on Payporte are owned by Payporte. With this we are able to deal with the issue of standard. We have two operational offices in the US; in Philadelphia and LA, in the UK; Manchester, and in Guangzhou, China. All these are done so we are able to maintain quality and standard. And of course, all our goods are filtered through our quality control department that ensures that we maintain high quality.

Are you starting an offline store?

One thing we do in Payporte is that we always reinforce what has worked for us and we diminish what hasn’t. Two years ago, Payporte tried its first offline sales in Lagos, and in three days we sold what we haven’t sold in nine months we thought this was because it was in Lekki so six months after, we took it down to the mainland, Ikeja to be precise and we made more than double of the sales we made in Lekki. We again thought it was because we held it in Lagos and decided to take it to Ibadan and that was the crisis. We had to create a schedule on how people would come in and go out because the whole place was flooded with people. So that was a major eye-opener for us. We were sure that people want Payporte’s products and want to interact with it in a different way and we listened to that. So we went ahead and came up with a road map to open five offline stores in Nigeria. Already we have two in Lagos, one in Abuja, one in Port Harcourt and one in Uyo. The Lagos offline store will be opened in a fortnight. We’ve put state-of-the-art facilities there that will enable people have an interesting and pleasant shopping experience. We are currently stocking the shop and it would be opened to the public. So basically, the offline store came from the feedbacks we got during our offline sales.

What will you stock in your offline stores?

The first offline store in Lagos will be stocked with fashion items and no gadgets for now. We will include gadgets and electronics in another two months. It’s located at Lagoon Mall opposite The Palms.

What actually inspired you to sponsor Big Brother Naija?

What inspired us is our burning passion to effectively reach out to our customers. One thing that kills e-commerce companies in Nigeria is inappropriate marketing techniques. When we came into the space, we heard that people spent almost N2 million everyday on marketing and it was scary. What inspired us was that we were looking for our customers where they are located. And we found out that they are located in sports and entertainment. We decided that Big Brother Naija would give us the bang and help us close up the gap massively on other market players. One thing a lot of people don’t know is that we have sponsored Big Brother before, even though we were not the title sponsor. As soon as we knew that was where our customers will be sitting, we joined them. We’ve been working closely with DSTV and Multichoice for two years to bring Big Brother to Nigerians. We were also involved with the content that was beamed to Nigerians. Also, we asked for Big Brother Nigeria. We didn’t want Big Brother Africa. We wanted it targeted at Nigerians. Payporte is a proudly Nigerian business and so we are looking for ways to impact young Nigerians. Fourteen housemates were in the house and we are grateful that we were able to impact their lives even as they brought killer entertainment to Nigerians. We are proud in Payporte for being associated in bringing this size of entertainment to this side of the world.

There was a backlash on Payporte for taking the contestants to faraway South Africa. Why wasn’t the house created in Nigeria?

When we were told that the show will be staged in South Africa, we initially felt the way most Nigerians felt. So we took a tour to South Africa and on getting there, we found out that there was a history with Big Brother Naija there. Ten years ago when Big Brother was hosted in Nigeria, there’s was a power outage for four hours and as Payporte, we were not going to be associated with that. The English Premier League we watch which is one of the biggest contents is played in England and we watch it here. The world is now a global village, what is most important is that content is beamed to viewers and quality content for that matter. Nigerians deserve the best and Payporte went out for the best.

One thing that Nigerians did not understand is the entire production was by Nigerians. Every equipment and gadget in the house was from Nigeria. The brooms used to sweep were from Nigeria and Payporte was involved in providing most of these things. The show was taken to South Africa for logistical reasons but that does not take away from the fact that it was a Nigerian show sponsored fully by a Nigerian company. By the way, this is the first time it would be sponsored by a Nigerian company.

Does Payporte plan to sponsor the next Big Brother Naija or build a Big Brother house in Nigeria?

We can build a house if we are able to get all the logistics right. The problem is not the house; we have finer houses in Nigeria. From the house where Big Brother was beamed, there’s an eight terabytes of fibre cable that carries data almost real-time from where the show is happening to Mnet office. We don’t have anyone that has invested in content infrastructure in Nigeria. People that have invested in content in Nigeria have studios at the most, then they bring an OB van and try to beam. But where we are, we have an eight-terabyte capacity with a fail over on microwave that beams this signal to over 51 countries. This is a wake-up call for content providers who are looking at investing in content infrastructure. Payporte is an e-commerce store, we can’t go ahead to invest in content infrastructure. On sponsoring the next Big Brother, of course, Payporte will bring Big Brother to Nigerians. We are going to bring it back better and bigger in association with our other partners, Multichoice and DSTV.

Do you have challenges running an e-commerce store in Nigeria?

Yes; there’s a monster in e-commerce called pay on delivery.’ Someone orders for something and clicks cash on delivery. The person had invested in the entire value chain: procuring the product, packaging the product and putting the product on the way to the address where it would be delivered. Only to get there and there’s no one to pick it up, or you call the person and he says he doesn’t want the product again. Who runs a business that way? Initially cash on delivery’ was important because internet penetration was a problem, POS terminal weren’t working. There was an issue of trust and so on. If Payporte can bring the biggest show in Africa to Nigerians then Nigerians should trust us to be able to deliver their dresses, phones, gas cookers and more. Overtime we’ve earned that trust and we are grateful to Nigerians for trusting Payporte. With this we’ve been able to suspend and end cash on delivery. Another problem is that there are no e-commerce experts in Nigeria with regards to online retail business. People come with ideas from Germany on how to run e-commerce in Nigeria and they failed. They failed because the environment we find ourselves is unique. So finding the right hands and people to drive the business is a big problem. Human capital is a major problem.

What is your most expensive fashion accessory?

Basically, I have loads of shoes and the last time I checked, it’s almost 300 hundred pairs. No kidding, I have a room filled up with shoes; but my most expensive fashion accessory would most definitely be a wristwatch. I don’t know why they are so tiny but yet very expensive.

What advice do you have for upcoming entrepreneurs?

Firstly, as an upcoming entrepreneur, if your dreams are not bigger than you, if your dreams do not scare you, you have not started. The truth of the matter is you must be determined against all odds. The second year into starting Payporte, the country was hit with recession. What can be more challenging than that? So, Nigerian youths must be very determined and be sure they are doing what they are called to do because when the challenges come, what will keep you going is when you have a clear-cut vision. Once you are able to establish that, you are fine. Lastly, young people must be wary of friends. I’ve made sure that I’ve chosen my friends carefully and that has helped me. I drive my brand new car one day and someone tells me that I’m bigger than the car, that I should be driving the 2017 version. So youths should choose their friends carefully.

  Source: This Day