Ayodeji Ogunkorode: We don’t just sell land, we also support our clients to build

Ayodeji Ogunkorode – GMD – Olydite Group International

Ayodeji Ogunkorode is a seasoned and result-oriented real estate professional and investment manager. He is the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Olydite Group International, a conglomerate with interests in diverse areas.

In a chat with The Top10 Magazine, Ogunkorode shared the vision of Olydite and what it is doing differently to ensure it dominates the Nigerian business environment in few years to come.    

Can we meet you please?

Thank you very much. I am Ambassador Ayodeji Henry Ogunkorode, GMD/CEO of Olydite Group International, an organization that is warehousing over 20 subsidiaries ranging from different businesses which involve real estate investment, agriculture and agro-based investment, travel and tourism, property development and construction, event management and others. And this is an organization that started as an entity called Olydite Commercial Services and Logistics that is duly registered under CAC, in 2019. But this year, 2021, it became a conglomerate warehousing many subsidiaries.

Can you give us an insight into the formation of the company?

Actually, this organization started with passion. It was established with the objective to support the government of Nigeria in reducing the housing deficit. And the experience we’ve been able to garner over five years has been quite useful. Housing deficit is not something that doesn’t need full attention; it needs concentration because it is strategic. And if you think you want to reduce housing deficit, what strategy are you putting on board that may be different from what people have been doing over time? How do we think we can do far better than what others have been doing? As youthful as we are in OGL, we decided to bring every of our strategy together in achieving a common goal. What is that goal?

In addressing deficit housing deficit in Nigeria, we realized that what we saw in other countries and societies is not what we are practicing here. We are trying to make a difference, and one of the different things we will be doing, in the area of housing, is that we combine our system with our construction. This means that apart from the fact that we sell land to people, we are supporting people to build houses. People shouldn’t stop at selling landed property alone. If you sell landed property to people that means you are not helping the society, because they cannot be sleeping on the land. The only thing that will reduce the housing deficit is for you to ensure that someone has a house, a home to himself where he can live with the family. When a family has a parcel of land and they tell people, ‘I have land for two, three, four or five years’, it doesn’t add value. The land is appreciating, but it doesn’t add value to what we are preaching.

What we decided to do is to support everyone buying landed property from us, even in the aspect of agriculture. We understand what is happening in our society that people will say, ‘I don’t want to do farming; it is the illiterate people that are doing farming’. Now, what we are preaching is in form of sensitization, to ensure that we are bringing the literate ones into the fold. This means that someone who is a civil servant that is earning N100, 000 or N200, 000 annually can buy a land of N90, 000 from us, for an example, and plant Ugwu, which can give you daily income.

Our style of business is different from others, because we are trying to go deep into the society to know the problem within and to solve it internally. We came into business not because we want to make money. Everybody doing business in Nigeria needs to make money, but he or she should be considerate about the society. If you are not bringing in a solution to your society, there will be a complication of the problem, and the problem will affect the business you are establishing.  That is why we lay emphasis on finding solution to the housing problem in Nigeria.

Prior to the formation of Olydite you were a key player where you are coming from. To what extent are you leveraging on that experience to grow the new company?

One thing I understand about life is, there is no person that grows in life that does grow as an island. You need to grow with people. Part of those things I learnt over time where I was coming from, for five years, is that when you learn from a boss you are a true picture of the learning process.  It means I didn’t stay behind; I learnt very well. And there are some things that you know when you are a key player, which is different from when you are a back-bencher. When you are benched, you are outside. I’m one of the front-liners of the business, which means there is nothing hidden about it.

It’s not that I just woke up one day or I just spent some days there and I resigned to say I want to go and start my own; no it’s not so. I understand the nitty-gritty of the business; I understand the beginning and the growth of the organization. I understand the expansion of the business; I understand what it all entails.

  • In Nigeria, nobody supports anybody to grow a business. You need to strategically position yourself in a way whereby you get fund in starting a business. I understand the growth process of where I was coming from. I understand where they are and I foresee the future of the business. This has given me an edge over somebody that is just starting a business.
  • The company I left from has become a multi-billion naira company. In one and half years, I know what my company will become, which means the experience I’ve gotten in that organization gives me a serious leverage on what I am doing and what will happen to OGL in the next one year and six months. Because of our ability to do the right thing, in terms of real estate, people buy from you and you allocate for them and support them in building. They will refer more businesses and refer more people to you, which is a serious leveraging. I understand what it entails for people to buy land and they see the land for usage. But inability to do things the right way will make people to stay back from your business or your company. Now, I’ve learnt this thing over time and its working for people that are investing in your real estate project. Your ability to give them returns at due time and will give more growth to your business.

You are a new company, but you are starting very big, with many subsidiaries at a time. How will you be able to manage this large take-off?

Like I’ve said earlier on, the way I managed Olydite Commercials, that’s the same way I’ll manage Olydite Group with the subsidiaries, which means one thing you need to consider is that when you put the right people in strategic positions, you’ll never have issues with what you are doing.

People that I fix in all these positions are people that have learned seriously and they have gotten experiences. Talking about our real estate business, I’ve been able to bring people that have real estate experience for at least two to three years, and one of them is the managing director of the real estate marketing company. Now, talking about property development, I have someone that has almost 10 years’ experience in property management and development. In terms of construction, I have it. Now, in terms of thrift savings, we have a thrift savings company whereby people can as well save daily or monthly, to own a land or to grow their businesses.

What we are doing strategically is to bring people that have experience in all these areas. Another thing you need to consider is the accounting system. In my own organization we have a chartered accountant as the chief financial officer. That is better than starting from the scratch recruiting someone that’s just an accountant in one eatery or thereabout to come and manage my business. I needed to bring someone, an experienced person that has even worked in the Bank of Industry before, on board to be the chief financial officer. He then recruited an accountant under him to manage all the subsidiaries’ accounting, which makes accounting not to be a challenge to us. That is what I learnt where I came from, which brought about me putting up our structure in place, and it is intact for the growth of the company.

Real estate is capital intensive. How are you coping with financial pressure in terms of funding?

Actually, the real estate we are talking about is something that, no matter how it is, land is everywhere, and one thing that brings about the growth to an organization is when you have the products and you have the off-takers. This means it is a business that is competitive. We have land, as I’m talking to you, and the ability for you to do the due diligence makes you to get the genuine land to sell to people, except you want to run into problem or issues. Government is not ready to release fund for anybody to start business, but strategically, it is easy for you to get fund when there is a problem and you have the solution with you.

In our own organization, what we like to do is for us to go outside there and meet the people. These are the people individuals are running to, to get land from them. They are the families that have landed property (omo oniles). But when people believe them as an organization, you can as well talk to them because you know what it entails. These people at last will release the land to you to sell and in selling, you make your profit and in making your profit, you can as well buy more landed property from them and also you can be doing developmental projects in turning those bushes to a city. This is what we have been doing relating with omo oniles. And in doing that, if you say you want to do real estate business, whether you like it or not, if you even put N10 billion that money can sink because you did not do the right thing. You must do your due diligence and you must be able to buy from the right source. Buying from the right source involves relationship. Everything in real estate is not about money. You may bring the money and still buy from the wrong person, while you might buy from the right person at an affordable rate, and a flexible payment plan may be put in place. It’s the flexibility that brings about our sustainability.

As a new company, what are the challenges you are confronted with?

As a new company, the initial challenges are issues of government involvement, because when you want to make your organization well known you must do publicity. As I’m talking to you, there is an increase in the cost of road awareness in Lagos State, where you’ll be paying N200, 000 per day. And you cannot sit down in this kind of office saying you are doing awareness. You would be deceiving yourself. People need to see you one-on-one, and that is giving us a tough time.

Another one is documentation. As a company, we don’t want to sell land that will give us problem in future. On the Island, a lot of people are selling committed land. As an organization that wants to go far, we don’t want to be involved in this. The government should be able to support in releasing some landed property to a growing up company like ours, for us to be able to access, instead of a situation in which any land you find is under acquisition. Majority of all this families are selling because they need money, and when you check the document it’s under government acquisition. These are the things that have become a challenge. As I’m talking to you, we have different locations on the Island which we cannot just go and buy because of the fact that we are considering a lot of things. The government can as well support us in lifting ban on some of these locations for people to access. It is a form of development, and also in terms of publicity. No matter how it is, you need fund, and the fund is not everywhere, not even mortgage.

There is someone we discussed with that want to build a mini estate that will cost us N500 million. Bu where is the fund? We can’t access fund. These are the challenges. That’s why we decided to grow bit by bit and putting some things in order. And one thing about it is, if there is always a problem, there’s always a solution. What we are strategically doing at OGL is to put solution to every problem that we meet in the industry.

You have mentioned some of these things earlier on, but considering the fact that real estate is a saturated industry, what are the new things you are bringing on-board in this competitive market?

What we have decided to do is construction, not only landed property alone. We want to start building, supporting customers. As I speak to you, we just received a contract this morning from our investor to build for her. She came from abroad and she believes in us. She said from the time of our establishment, we have been consistent in what we do and she has invested with us. We’ve given her documents and other things needed have been done and she’s bestowing that trust on us.

What we decided to do to make us different is for us to strategically do what we are promising. We are establishing a scheme which we call Growing House. Someone can buy half plot of land, because buying half plot of land you might not be able to build a three-bedroom flat on it within a year. But you can build a room and parlor, and from that room and parlor it will grow into three-bedroom flat through extension. But the structure, the plan, has already been there for it to grow.

I haven’t seen any organization that has done it in this industry. The Growing House scheme means this is a four-bedroom flat, and this year you gave birth to one child. A room and parlor is still okay for someone that has a child.  But when you are growing a full house you’ll be able to position these children in another room. This means you can add more rooms to the structure, because the plan is already there. As you are growing your family, you are also growing the house to a three-bedroom flat. This is a strategy we are bringing into the business. When anybody tries it he will know that he can grow a flat from just a room.

You started in Lagos, and you mentioned earlier that you are now in Ekiti. Where else are you?  

Presently, we are in Ibadan, Oyo State. As I’m talking to you now, we are in Minna, Niger State, because we have presence in Minna and we have someone that is capable of running the business there. We are also in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Anywhere we have landed property, we always ensure that our presence must be felt there. This means in one and a half years, we would have covered the entire country. We are not limited to Lagos alone. There are over 4,800 real estate companies in Lagos. Now, what about other states that do not have, like my state, Ekiti State? They don’t have one real estate. That is why there is no regulatory body that is going to that state to regulate rent, to regulate building, and to regulate a lot of things. And it is one of the reasons why I’m going back home to amend this. Through my link I’ve been able to talk to the commissioner for land and commissioner for infrastructure that if we don’t caution this now, this thing will go to an outrageous level whereby we can’t even control it in the industry. Our coming on-board to Ekiti State will bring about the change that they, too, want.

There seems to be a lot of ignorance among the general public about benefits of real estate. What is your message to the potential investor or customer who is not well informed about these benefits?

Some time ago I was with someone at Ogudu, and I was telling the person about what he can benefit from real estate. He told me about a particular location that we just had an intention to invest over N100 million in, which is in Imeko, in Ogun State. We just secured 100 acres in Imeko. Why do we intend doing that? People don’t know that Imeko is a city. It is a city that is indirectly warehousing over 50,000 citizens, not only within Lagos, but throughout Nigeria. It is warehousing 50,000 Celestial Church members. Now, how do we feel we can increase the value in this environment? It is for us to come in as a real estate company whereby the way Redemption Camp developed; the way Canaanland developed; the way Mountain Top (Mountain of Fire) developed their own city, Imeko can be developed as well. People don’t know they can invest in that axis.

The company is barely six months old. If you are to itemize your achievements within this short time, what are those things you have done?

About employment, we’ve been able to employ over 100 graduates. We have 34 managing directors for the member companies and the subsidiaries. Each company has at least 50 business Entores. Now, multiply by 34 you need to know. If saying 50 is much let’s use 20; 20 times 34. We should know what the figure is giving us, which is a great achievement, and we are still recruiting more because the business itself involves people. You can’t do it alone and it’s another form of opportunity for us to engage and employ people. Talking about the administrative staff alone, we have about 50 of them we are paying salary and we thank God for the past three months we have not defaulted. We’ve been paying consistently and we are still employing, because we need people in strategic positions to do the right thing for our customers. Even lawyers and others, they are with us. Another one is we have been able to acquire landed property which include Lagos and Abeokuta. We are still processing the one in Oyo, which is in Ibadan. We’ve been able to secure a regional office in Ekiti State within this period. We have our office at Off Damilon, Opposite Christ School, Ado-Ekiti.

And also, we’ve been able to secure a corporate head office in Egbeda, Lagos. And we’ve been able to sign up ambassadors. We’ve signed two group ambassadors, one in the person of Mr. Babatunde Bernard. We’ve added value to him during the course of sign-up. He was given cash, a jeep and a plot of land, and each of them have been given a landed property, apart from what we are preaching. Let’s start from your immediate environment. Also, we’ve been able to sign up subsidiary ambassadors too, irrespective of their fields. We signed up someone, a presenter from LT; we signed up a AOP. And we signed up an actress for our subsidiary which we think is one of our achievements. We’ve been able to have some certifications over time, talking about the CAC for our subsidiaries, and we are fully registered and certified with our SCUML certificate under EFCC, and also our Lassa. We are in process with the radar that will be coming out before the ending of this month. These are the great things we’ve been able to do and we are still doing more.

You’ve not mentioned the contract that you earlier signed.

It is an achievement that there is a contract given to us by one of our investors for construction for Olydite Property Construction, to build four terrace buildings in Owode, on the Island. The project will commence by next week. It’s a serious achievement that has not happened to any company that has been in business for years, and this thing is just a test of time that in the next two to three months, all our projects will be flying everywhere, even within our estate locations.

In specific terms, what are the attractive incentives you have for your stakeholders?

Sincerely, we’ve done a great thing since January. Investors have been getting incentives ranging from generators, gas cookers to cars. Talking about the staff, we have a module of paying and motivating them. This year alone, we have given up to 20 tablet phones to the staff as a way of motivating them. We have sent some people on trips within the state just for them to have exposure about what it entails, because these are the things I learnt where I was came from.

Also, we have been able to add value in giving a free plot of land. This year, we have done promo where people have been able to subscribe and during the course of the promo, we gave out free a plot of land to one of the customers that subscribed to one of our locations. We gave out N30, 000 deduction, we gave out up to 50 per cent discount to all customers that came for that one day programme, which is one of the things we’ve done and before the ending of this year too. For the productive ones in our company, we have a plan to take them outside the country for them to be able to learn more from the outside world. These are some of the things we have put in place. This is an organization where we have a growth process whereby you can grow from a marketer to a group managing director.

What do you think of about government policies that affect your business?

Some of the policies that government is putting in place, whether we like it or not, it must be a process of discussion with the stakeholders. This means before a particular policy is implemented, you need to consider those people in the business. Let there be a stakeholder meeting of people that are involved in the business, not like a policy will just come out. There are some regulatory bodies that are being set up without involvement of stakeholders. Another thing I use to say is, before you can make someone a king, no matter how it is, it must be someone from the lineage. You don’t go and bring someone from Ghana to come and be the minister for land in Nigeria. What should be done is to always bring someone from that industry to be able to champion its course. If you are making someone a minister for investment, what experience does the person have in form of investment? This is what is affecting businesses in Nigeria today.

Let there be someone that has experience in that field in the policy making. The policy they are bringing on-board will be favorable to those people in that industry. Our government should be supportive in ensuring that businesses stay in our society, and not a situation in which you start a business and when the government policy is not favorable, whether you like it or not, since you have involved people in the business, immediately you are relinquishing them; you are sending them into the fold of jobless people in the society. It is a big challenge. Policies must be properly channeled through stakeholders, and not a situation in which they will implement just because there is a new government, and therefore a new system must be implemented. It will affect the structural pattern we have in the industry

Looking forward, where do you anticipate Olydite to be in the next five to 10 years?

What I use to tell my people and the top management and board of directors of this organization is for us to grow a business that will become a legacy. A business that you want to leave as a legacy must be an inherited business where you don’t want it to die. And seeing OGL in the next five years, I want to be in an environment whereby we would be able to dominate Nigeria. This is a global business. Every opportunity in other countries of the world can as well be brought down to Nigeria and be executed.

I was in Dubai where I saw where it used to be a desert. In the area of agriculture, I saw a lot of things that they are doing. OGL will not just take over, it is to continually be an organization that complies with government rules and policy. It is an organization that is ready to make a change.  What this means is that the change is not for us to just sell land and leave it. It is a change for us to bring development to every location we are operating. Anywhere we are buying land, ours is to support everyone buying landed property from there to develop and live in it. I got to some locations in Ikorodu where they just fenced the place, sold it off and they leave.

When you just make the money and leave, you are not bringing solution to the environment because it’s still bushy. What we are trying to do is to eradicate such things in our society, so that in the next five years we should be able to count nothing less than 20 solid estates where people would be living.

What will be your parting message to your stakeholders, staff and customers to inspire them to have more confidence in OGL?

Our slogan is, “Togetherness for Greatness”. We have investors doing business with us and no matter how it is, it is a funding investment with us too that we are using for all these developmental projects,. no matter how it is. What I’m sending to them as message is as they are doing business with us, I want them to put the trust in us because without trust there is no way you’ll have full assurance of our business. Another thing is our “talk and do” slogan that we started doing overtime. It’s a strategy and it is working. It motivates and it’s very much practical. If you say something like, if you buy land, you are getting instant allocation, it will take the business far. I just want our investors outside there to have full trust in us and to believe in what is achievable to us and Nigeria. Talking about our staff, the sky is just their starting point because this is an organization where you can grow and build you carrier. And no matter how it is, there is nobody that wants to be great in life that will not see through the business of OGL, because you know the set of people that are there are young and they want to grow further than people they met in the business. Telling them is an understatement, because they can see it that it’s happening live.