By Saheed Saheed
Online sports betting is now an integral part of the daily lives of most youths in Nigeria; from football to basketball, dog race and host of others. Like it or not, the betting industry is a big deal and so is the pioneer of the industry in Nigeria, the founder of NairaBet, Oloye Akin Alabi.
Equally known for his free business seminars, where he educates young entrepreneurs on how to make it big by starting small, as he did for NairaBet, Akin Alabi did not have a very inspiring start in life. He was a boy of no particular ambition in secondary school; while his mates were dreaming of becoming doctors, lawyers, engineers, pilots and the likes, the young Akin simply wanted to be a ‘billionaire.’
Gaining admission into the University was a very tough nut to crack for him, so he had to settle for the polytechnic after trying five times to no avail. The disappointment did not weigh him down, but spurred him to take his entrepreneurship classes more serious which eventually worked out well. He focused on reading inspiring entrepreneurship books and audio tapes; spent money in attending training sessions and life changing seminars.
After his youth service in 2002, he stumbled on internet and information marketing business, realizing its not so tasking and require little capital to start; hence, he decided to dabble into it after failing in the agricultural sector. His first project was the Canadian immigration package, which he put on the internet for sale in January 2003 and was an instant hit. He did not even have a website at this time; he basically relied on e-mail and auto-responders.
The success of the business ignited the fire in him, he paid a major magazine N3,500 for advert space, moved his campaign online, increased his price, yet sales did not reduce. Akin in an interview with a tech-based firm said the experience taught him a major lesson in pricing: that if you package your product, price will not matter to the customer, as they are paying for class and not only the product.
He later moved to publishing online articles on information marketing and people were reaching out to him to teach them more. The enquiries pushed him to organizing seminars as a source of his livelihood. It was not all bright and shine for him though, he started some business after the success of his online marketing business, some succeeded and some failed, including a sport publishing business, but that did not deter him from trying other things.
The Birth of NairaBet
His first exposure to betting was during a visit to a Coral betting shop in the UK. He placed a bet of 20 pounds and instantly made 35 pounds. Impressed, he kept placing bets and in the process learning more about it.
Being an entrepreneur, he sourced for betting firms that accept e-currencies like e-gold because at that time card-payment were somewhat difficult for Nigerians. He created an information product on how to place bets online from Nigeria and priced it at N4,500; called a friend in Nigeria to help him place a half page ad on Complete Sport newspaper and that was an instant hit. The first campaign made 100 sales worth N450,000. Inspired, he decided to take the new business online and it skyrocketed.
Due to the persistent calls by people who wanted to bet, some were even willing to bet as much as 1000 pounds, Akin decided to build his own online betting platform. He developed a basic site that crashed every weekend, but worked out.
In less than 24 hours, 200 people had already registered and that was the beginning of the betting industry that is now worth billions of naira. Akin Alabi is currently worth over $10 million with huge proceeds from NairaBet.
Akin was not deterred from achieving his goals due to earlier setbacks, he invested in his passion, was focused on his objective, started small but now employs thousands of people nationwide, pays out millions weekly and started a goldmine where millions are tapping from directly or in directly. This, tellingly, shows that whatever one pursues with dedication and optimism would yield some day; after all, quitters do not win and winners do not quit.