“Truth is, there is not a right or predetermined age for success; only people who finally decide to succeed. Age is in your mind!”
We got the chance to sit down with Mr Kabir Shagaya, CEO of Zippy Logistics at his Lagos office a few days ago and we are more than happy to share our inspiration with our readers.
Our first encounter with this young and enterprising CEO was last month, when he came on the “Be All You Can Be” Show on Beat FM, where Whoot Africa’s Olushola Pacheco sat in as co-host on the weekly inspirational show. There and then, we decided that a 20 minute on air interview wouldn’t do justice to him sharing thoughts and experience of the business world in the past year since he started Zippy Logistics.
Our visit to the Zippy Logistics office had us at least 45mins early for our sit down. While waiting at the lobby we got the chance to observe the staff at Zippy Logistics work. It was a sight of professionalism. This 27 year old entrepreneur and advocate is an hands on employer who even attends to issues that his drivers have, as he later mentioned to us during this interview.
Below are excerpts of his discussion with us.
Outside of the press write up’s about your family; can you tell Whoot Africa a little bit about Kabir Shagaya, the individual, advocate and the entrepreneur?
My name is Kabir Shagaya, I am the founder and Director of Zippy Logistics. Zippy Logistics is an e-commerce business which literally serves as the backbone for e-commerce platforms like Konga and Jumia. We handle their deliveries; we deliver to their customers and help communicate issues of the brand the consumers have back to them. Our client portfolio includes Dealdey, Ragolis Water, The Clinton Foundation, and we also work with the Federal Government of Nigeria. Zippy Logistics also has a medical distribution licence to deliver vaccines to hospitals and medical centres.
I am also a director at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which is a partnership organisation with The Clinton Foundation. I am also Special Adviser to the Governor of Lagos State on climate issues and carbon emission.
The Clinton Foundation journey
I did my masters in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship in Manchester, upon graduating I got head hunted by the British Government to come and work with them in Nigeria. I worked on a DFID funded project for a year and got promoted as an Interventions Facilitator to work directly with the Lagos State Government.
The Lagos State Government was impressed with my work and therefore recommended me to The Clinton Foundation, upon which The Clinton Foundation approached me to be liaison for them to the Lagos state Government. However, shortly afterwards I was promoted again from Program Manager,to the Director of the foundation and to head all correspondence with the government of Lagos State and I also became the Special Adviser to Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola on Climate Issues and Emissions.
Can you share with us a little about the history of business and entrepreneurship in your family?
We are driven in my family, my brothers and I always strive for greatness; we are from humble beginnings and we realize that the opportunities provided to us by our mother has given us the privilege to go into the market and literally be all we can be. I know it sounds cliché, but it actually is what we aim for, we aim to be the best in whatever we do. We all have strong personalities and we stand out in every industry that we go into and that’s because of our individual and collective drive. We all push each other and one of the most important things to us is to know that no matter what we do in life, we will all be fine because we have the ability to look out for and after each other.
A lot of people criticize rich kids when it comes to business, they claim everything gets done and is easier, do you ever feel like people don’t give you the chance to show your expertise and prove that you are well capable beyond the trust fund kid stereotype?
Yes! I remember one of my mentors, Late Mr Tayo Aderinokun, former Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc; he literally set me on a path that I am so grateful for today. I got my first job with Adler Consulting which for me was an enlightening opportunity and experience because I realized that other than the ability to make money, people were starting to respect me for something different. People were not respecting me for my name alone, but for my intellect as well.
Now, I have a reputation where I am not just known as a wealthy individual, I am also known as an intellectual person and entrepreneur that people can come to for advice and also respect my views; that is something I feel money can’t buy. The intellectual respect that people have for you based on your career, and what you are capable of takes away that “trust fund” persona, regardless of how much money you have.
If people respect you for your capabilities, problem solving and managerial prowess in a professional capacity, you will surely stand out for yourself.
If you had to describe your experience with running Zippy Logistics today in eight words, what would they be?
Discipline, Understanding, Patient, Resilient, Compassionate, Street-Smart, Entrepreneurial, Diversified
What drives you?
Family: Family is what drives me. My immediate family and my family to be; I know my biggest dream in life and goal is to have a happy family life. A happy family, the work-life balance, a steady job, a respectful industry and respectful career that my children can look up to, and a respectful job my wife can understand.
Family for me is a never ending goal; from the day you get married to the day you give birth to your children, to the day your children get married and start their own lives. Family drives me! And will always be a never ending goal at happiness and everything else that comes with the package, and I realize I have to keep working at it for the rest of my life.
You are a mentor on the Mara Mentorship program to inspire young up and coming entrepreneurs, how has the experience being so far, and what would you say to people who think you are too young or lack enough years in the business world to mentor young people?
Well! I’d say Mara Mentor has been an enlightening experience for me. I actually got to meet a few mentees at the just concluded Mara Mentor event a couple of weeks ago, and I got to meet quite a few young entrepreneurs who have fantastic ideas and one thing I realized was, sometimes I think to myself that these things that come to me naturally and easy in figuring out how to do things other people find quite difficult. I realized the biggest gift I can actually give to people in the business field is not necessarily financial support but to explain to them the way things work. These are things people charge millions for in consulting fees, but I always make sure to take the time out to stop and help anyone I can with information and advice on how to start up, set things up and progression et al.
I attended a wedding a couple of weeks ago, and a lady walked up to me and said “haha it’s like we are going to be fighting from now on, considering we are now competitors in the e-commerce business together” and then I said to her – We are not competitors, in fact if anything; I would do whatever I can to help you grow because the market is big enough and also letting you learn from my mistakes, so you don’t end up doing the same. People need to support each other more, and the Mara Mentor gives me the opportunity to support a wider number of people and backgrounds and help push them in the right direction.
Zippy Logistics has evolved since its inception a year ago, and has become a major backbone to the E-commerce industry, what are your thoughts about the Nigerian E-commerce sector and what suggestions do you have to further improve the sector and make it more lucrative for the small players without Venture Capital backings to earn a living in this sector?
E-commerce is a disruptive innovation. Disruptive innovations are innovations that come into the market to disrupt the modus operandi; the mobile phone was a disruptive innovation to the telephone, because once people had mobile phones there was no need for the landlines anymore. Another disruptive innovation was the networks; when MTN came into Nigeria, NITEL decided to pack up, and these are examples of what people need to understand is that it wasn’t done overnight, it was done over a period of time. MTN has been in Nigeria for almost 15-20years now and over this period of time; that is when you start to have the wearing down. Consumers have to adopt the concept; e-commerce is getting adopted very fast in Nigeria, you have people that go to work from 9am-5pm who can’t afford the luxury of time to do their own shopping, e-commerce makes it easy for them to be able to turn on their computers, mobile gadgets et al to shop and get products delivered to their door steps which is a fantastic concept.
The same way consumers adopt to e-commerce is the same way suppliers need to adopt, the banks and the businesses likewise need to adopt as well to find a module that is profitable and works for everyone; that module is not readily available but a work in progress. At a company like Zippy Logistics, we are making sure to build a national infrastructure that ensures that the small businesses can benefit from our support services. In a couple of years things will be right and in place in the e-commerce sector that will make things easier for more SMEs to come in
You shared about tapping into the Agricultural sector on your recent radio interview; can you share with us what should be expected from you soon with regards to this under-served industry?
The supply chain – In Nigeria, we have different policies to help reduce poverty, with a majority of farmers being self employed, we strongly feel the best way to help keep them above the poverty line and thriving is to create a distribution network where they get value for their goods. Now, this is not an easy task because even in the United Kingdom; it wasn’t until a couple of years ago before the major supermarket chains like Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s decided to have direct contacts and contracts with the farmers. We are currently doing our research on these modules to see how we can implement this in Nigeria as well.
We are looking at how farmers can have direct contact with the large market chains to make sure they can actually get the best price, we will be an intermediary to help them communicate; we have no plans to get involved or influencing their decisions as we plan to remain a line of communication and connection which is what we need in order to help bring down the cost of feeding in Nigeria, which will in return allows for the butterfly effect on inflation, poverty, unemployment and so many other factors this country can benefit from.
There are people and businesses who are using Zippy Logistics as their case study and waiting to get into the business too, how do you intend to stay on top with competitors who are already in the market such as DHL, UPS, TNT and a host of other new entrants?
We compete through customization; all our clients have a dedicated team, we have built our business in such a format that we do not have shared teams, meaning that all our clients get our full and undivided attention from each team dedicated to them. I also realize that the market is big enough for everyone and we do not follow the norm, DHL and the like of other Logistics handling companies have their own unique strengths, weaknesses and competitive advantages, but for us customizing the niche that disrupts the norm keeps us competitive.
A good example is the cash on delivery niche, we collect cash from deliveries for our partner/client firms, which most logistics companies do not offer, and we try to add value.
Does the company feel comfortable with accepting large sums on behalf of its client during deliveries?
Yes and No! Yes we are obviously worried because we humbly understand anything can happen and No, because with High Risks comes High Rewards. At the end of the day somebody has to do the job and that is why we understand the importance of treating our employees like family. We take good care of our drivers, in fact our drivers earn as much as bankers with commission benefits and other extrinsic rewards for high performing team players.
With Whoot Africa’s observation at the Zippy Logistics office with Packages being put together and sorted for their various deliveries in a meticulous manner, also considering your hands on approach with the team, which we noticed with you going back and forth to address needs that required your attention?How would you describe your leadership style and where do you see Zippy Logistics in 5years?
My leadership style is quite hands on; I remember a certain day at the office when we had over a thousand packages for delivery and all our drivers were out and there were still about 25 packages left. I got into my car and went about doing the deliveries myself as I strongly believe the Customer is King and every customer counts. I ended up delivering 15 packages with 5 Reschedules and 5 cancellations which wasn’t too bad. When I came back to the office to do my reconciliation for the packages I had delivered, I stood in the queue like everyone else. They realized I live and breathe this company and I do work and fight for them, and the idea is to show the management style that you are one of them and you feel their pain, we share, and we all have the same issues which is the most important thing.
Winning people over requires that you show them you are a part of the family; every team should be a family. In 5 years, I see all my drivers and Logistics facilitators in management, at Zippy logistics we have initiated a weekend training program with the aim of helping them develop and improve their skills. In the same length of time I earlier stated, I also see many of them managing their own branches because we need to make sure people have progression in our company.
If you had to share words of wisdom to a conference room full of energetic and aspiring young people, what advice would you share with them on the secrets of success, based on your experience over the years?
There are two parts to this question- Whenever I walk into a room with a bunch of young people, the first thing I tend to get is; this is Kabir Shagaya, he comes from a wealthy home, probably has a trust fund, he is this and that and he has all he needs. That makes them think, it is easy for him to offer advice because he obviously doesn’t have to work very hard for anything, but one thing is that, with the stigma and stereotype of coming from a good home also comes the pressure to keep up appearances and making sure that you can afford the perception of which people have about you.
What I learnt to do over the years is to ignore that perception; regardless of what people think I should have or who I should be. I make sure I stand for who I am. When I walk into a room full of young entrepreneurs, I find it easier to relate to these people because I understand their problems. When I started Zippy Logistics, I made sure not to use any family resources simply because I wanted to experience what it meant to work on a vision and mission from the grass root and move bottom-up to make sure when I walk into a room to tell an entrepreneur or an aspiring businessperson this is what you should do and mean it, because I have lived it and still living it. You can do anything; I mean anything when you set your mind and heart to it.
Doing business in Nigeria they say is not for the faint hearted, if you had to describe doing business in Nigeria to an investor, what would they be?
Opportunity, Untapped Potential and a Tough terrain built only for the survival of the fittest. Investing in Nigeria is about the survival of the fittest and resilience. You cannot start today and stop tomorrow.
With your knowledge on entrepreneurship today, what are those things you would do differently if you had to start all over again, and what should people who are already in business need to pause to think about?
Try and Think ahead, don’t make decisions that would impact you right now; and don’t always say yes to business propositions because they sound comfortable at the moment, think about the long term impact of it. When we started Zippy Logistics, so many people offered us contracts that weren’t in line with our work and vision, I remember a company offering us some lucrative marketing deals, we had to let them understand our business has nothing to do with marketing; we are a logistics company and not a marketing firm, we also get request from top clientèle who ask for exclusivity, but we cannot do that.
Your business cannot please everyone, so you need to stay firm and true to your business identity.
Lastly, 30 years from now; what would you want the world to remember Kabir Shagaya for and what more should we expect from Zippy Logistics?
30 years from now, I want Zippy Logistics to still be here. I want it to be an institution that people know to be an indigenous home grown company; a statement to which people can still relate to as a brand that people respect, appreciate and be proud of. To hear people say, “this is a successful brand that comes from my country” as well as being a Pan-African Logistics company with branches across several African countries, I want to be able to connect Africa and making it the United States of Africa. By God’s grace we will work towards it.
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