John Orajiaka is a Nigerian-born serial entrepreneur, and the founder of Adnol Multimedia a $14 million (annual revenues) Pan-African value-added telecommunication service provider which is active in more than ten African countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Liberia, Cameroon, Rwanda and Swaziland.
Adnol Multimedia provides everything from basic messaging and voice applications to digital lifestyle solutions using short codes for subscription services such as caller ring-back tunes, mobile advertising, mobile health, coupon services and mobile games to more than 7 million customers. Apart from his VAS content business, Orajiaka under the Adnol Group owns a successful property development company in Lagos and a Private Equity company that invests in small and medium scale enterprises in Nigeria. Also, Orajiaka is currently expanding his business interests into North America.
Orajiaka was born in Onitsha, but grew up in Warri, in Southern Nigeria. As a child, his father hated seeing him being idle, so he would always take him and his siblings to his craft shop and teach them the art and craft of woodworking and soapstone carving. This made Orajiaka and his siblings become really good at crafting and then they started making wood carvings and curios which they sold at their father’s shop and made profits from. Only about 14 years old at the time, he was making thousands of dollars every month from selling the wooden crafts and curios he personally produced.
After his first University degree, he had some time before enrolling for the mandatory Youth service programme which he spent in Lagos with his brother in-law while helping his younger brother in his small Toys trading company. At a point, Orajiaka wanted to dive into the trade of exportation but he was dissuaded by his uncle, who wanted him to put his engineering degree to use, which he did.
In 2002, while working for Cellcom, John Orajiaka saw an advert from Alcatel France. They were in Nigeria to build the network infrastructure for Globacom, the mobile network that had just been founded by billionaire Mike Adenuga, and they were hiring. He applied and eventually got the job with Alcatel where he worked for some time and later joined Ericsson in Nigeria.
In early 2010, MTN was one of the official sponsors of the FIFA World Cup which was hosted by South Africa later that year and MTN Nigeria had recently acquired a Mobile content platform from Ericsson for management, aggregation and distribution of football and other multimedia contents to their millions of mobile subscribers in Nigeria and they were engaging and enlisting new VAS content providers that will provide multimedia content around the world cup. So, he registered a company called Adnol Multimedia and applied to become one of MTN’s VAS Content Providers.
He cleverly employed someone who had recently been laid off from another VAS company and they started off the business with subscription content on football, Ring back tunes (RBT), and host of other services which were heavily promoted, and went around signing various popular Nigerian artistes to distribute their music digitally through their RBT business. The company signed up a number of popular Nigerian artistes, such as Flavour N’abania and a host of others. Before long, they were averaging more than $150,000 a month in profits from their deployed services. In record time, they were easily the fastest growing VAS Company in Africa.
Provision of music content has been the company’s forte. They had the good fortune of entering the Nigerian market early enough, and had the first mover advantage in other African countries.
The Internet, specifically the advent of 3G and broadband over Wi-Fi connectivity has affected their business, especially in Nigeria. So, in Nigeria, for example, there are declining revenue streams from music downloads, inspirational content, humor, news and the rest.
When RBT took off in Nigeria it was dying in the U.S and U.K. They were basically playing catch-up. It’s the same thing being experienced with other African businesses. Some of the content services that are dying in Nigeria are gaining traction in other African countries where they do business. They went into Liberia at a time when the country was grappling with the Ebola crisis, and partnered with the Government and a mobile operator to create an awareness campaign via mobile. They also developed a localized solution called “Gist-a-Doctor”. A platform that connect medical doctors with patients in need of medical support through mobile phones using SMS, IVR and Web channel and this became a very successful service.
Oriajaka also recently founded a property company called IORA Properties, a company that primarily invests in commercial and residential real estate in the Lekki area of Lagos. We acquire large tracts of land and build commercial and residential property. He also owns Investrock Partners Limited (IPL), a private equity company that invests in and takes minority stakes in small and medium enterprises in Nigeria and with future plans to diversify to other African countries of interest.
He advices young entrepreneurs that they can achieve any set goal with the right mindset. “Read, learn and search out mentors who can also guide you. Do take calculated risk and don’t be eager for overnight success. There is no such thing. It takes time to build, and a lot of commitment. One has to work for whatever he or she wishes to achieve.” John Orajiaka said.