His name is Sijibomi Ogundele, CEO Sujimoto Construction, Real estate guru with offices and structures in choice locatios of the world..France, Dubai etc
Read this inspiring interview with Poised Corp magazine
Considering your humble beginning, how did you learn to be an Entrepreneur?
Growing up on the streets of Agege, the fear of poverty was my greatest motivation. I remembered that out of the about 47 houses on our street, only 2 people owned a power generator. This taught me a great lesson that for wealth to be generated, my environment and the people I surround myself with, need to change. At the earlier age of 9, I started visiting Ikoyi with the inspiration that someday, I would also have an opportunity to live here. Today, that dream has become a reality.
I consider myself fortunate to have won the ovarian lottery by having a mother like mine, a woman who at the age of nine was sent to Cameroon as a sales girl. But today, against all odds, she is one of the biggest distributors for the Nestle Nigeria Limited. She inspired me to become the individual I am today. She taught me the importance of having great vision and to work persistently towards making my dreams a reality.
I read a lot of books. My first introduction to entrepreneurship was when I read ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill. 10 years in any University would never have given me what I learnt in 10 days. This changed my life forever. I understood two things; competitive advantage, and putting customers first. These principles are the foundations of my success.
My first introduction to entrepreneurship was at the age of eight or nine years old. I bought an ‘Okada’ (Commercial Motorcycle), and in less than three years, I had six Okadas. Even though I couldn’t continue with the business because my father stopped it, the experience gave me my first taste of business and entrepreneurship and I have not been able to stop since then.
Tell us about your journey into the Luxury Real Estate Sector?
I have been doing real estate since 1998 when I lived in South of France as a common Agent with no license. Back then, I brokered a lot of deals in Project Management and Financing. But my first major break was in 2011, when I bought an apartment in Paris and decided to remodel it. My friends thought I was crazy and lavish. But after I was done renovating, I sold it in less than two months to a friend from Qatar for double the price. The investment flip in such short time re-ignited my interest in real estate and changed my career path forever.
Before moving back to Nigeria, I visited my aunty who bought a house in Banana Island. After paying so much for the house, I still had to help her change her kitchen, doors, tiles etc. It was very tiring and frustrating considering one would expect a house of that magnitude in terms of price to come with quality accessories and interiors.
So, when I decided to move back to Nigeria in 2014, I had the vision to liberate the Nigerian luxury real-estate market, and bring true value to customers who are not only tired of architectural mediocrity, but also frustrated by value depreciation.
What is your company coming doing differently to redefine the luxury Real Estate industry in Nigeria?
I have a simple philosophy; create sugar, and ants will come.
I came into the luxury real estate industry at a time when Nigerians were beginning to demand quality and value for their money. They have been at the mercy of mediocre developers who have refused to raise the bar in terms of quality but demanded ridiculous prices because they thought the customer didn’t know better.
The market was littered with substandard developments, going for exorbitant prices. All I did was to create sugar — offer a world-class development, superb finishing with international standard, at an affordable pricing and the game changed, because quality will always supersede price.
Do you know that it takes just 13 hours to build a Toyota, but 6 months of non-stop dedication to build a Rolls-Royce? Have you ever wondered why? Unlike the Toyota, which is mass-produced, the Rolls Royce is hand-built to perfection with every stitch telling a unique story. Exotic woods, the best among equals from Europe, are sculpted into automobile showpieces. From personalised hues to lavish interiors and eye-catching motifs, the only limitation to a Rolls-Royce is your imagination.
What’s the difference? Value!We are the Rolls-Royce of luxury real estate in Nigeria.
What would you say is your motivation for doing business in Nigeria despite the current economic meltdown?
Let’s establish a foundation here, value is the main motivation.
Nobody likes anybody they don’t get value from. If you are my brother and you are not adding value to me, I am not ready to do business with you. It is simple. I have sold crap and luxury and I can tell from experience that it is easier to sell luxury than crap. When you sell luxury, you sell peace of mind and you can afford to go to bed at night knowing that your clients will be fine for years to come. However, when you sell crap, you are always on the run, because you cannot tell when that client will come calling for your head.
Even though I grew up in Oke-arin and Agege, I have travelled to over 40 countries and I have had the privilege of staying in the best hotels and have seen the best architectural structures. This exposure has consciously elevated my standards and expectations in life. This is why when I go anywhere and things are not done up to highest standard, I can’t resist voicing my discontent.
I have always emphasised that luxury is not expensive and quality knows no race. Most Nigerian Developers lack the currency of patience. Their quest for immediate gratification supersedes the need for value creation. However, I am optimistic that we are gradually shifting from this degrading mind-set and embracing true value creation.
How did you come about the name SUJIMOTO?
Sujimoto, it is more than a company’s name. It is a philosophy; a system of belief that radically opposes mediocrity and impossibility by delivering beyond and above expectations. All my corporate life, I have always said 1 + 1 should equal 11, not 2. I termed this phrase ‘Motomatics’ which is quite different from mathematics, because it shares same meaning with Sujimoto.
Let me dispel the myth behind the name Sujimoto. Fate took me from Oke-Arin to Yokohama, where I met Dr. Sujimoto Koga, a philosopher who transformed my life and thinking. He became my mentor and the vital lessons learnt from this life-changing mentorship gave birth to my company. After Dr Sujimoto’s death, out of adoration and respect, I named all my companies Sujimoto, as a constant reminder of the need for diligence, and making the impossible possible.
Tell us about Lorenzo By Sujimoto and other Projects?
Lorenzo would be the tallest residential building in Lagos and the first fully automated building in Africa. We are hoping to start the project this year and hopefully would become one of the best projects in sub-Saharan Africa. In the meantime, we are developing a small project in the Banana Island area of Lagos. It is a very exclusive project, where we shall redefine the true meaning of Town Housing. By the time we finish the project, no Town House in West Africa would be able to compete with it.
We are also looking into the hospitality industry — hotels to be precise. We want to develop a local hotel with a western feel, where you might not need to visit ‘Four Season’ before you can experience true luxury, at a very affordable price.
What is your assessment of the real estate sector in Nigeria and how do you think the sector can improve to compete on a global level?
In the last quarter of 2015, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) predicted that the Real Estate sector’s value would rise from $9.16billion to $13.65 billion in 2016. It reported that the sector is growing at a rate of 8.7%, making it the 6th largest in the economy.
We cannot hide from the fact that we are going through one of the most difficult periods in the history of this country. But then, I believe we can learn a lot from the transformation of Dubai, from a Land of Sands and Camels to a City of Marble and Towers. When the Real Estate and Investment Boom of Dubai started in the late 90s, savvy investors jumped in on the opportunities and saw an intrinsic value in a fast growing city. Today, this desert village has grown exponentially into a metropolis equipped with some of the most exotic man-made structures the world has to offer. Investors looked beyond oil and focused on Real Estate, because they realised that Real Estate is the new oil. We need to develop the real estate sector and move from the ‘quick fix — quick gain’ syndrome, which will continue to leave us in the backwaters of world-class real estate development.
Today’s economy belongs to only two types of people; people who understand that customer is King and people who have the great capacity to deliver great value at an affordable price, without compromising on quality.
What’s your advice to young Entrepreneurs hoping to do business in Nigeria?
Doing business in Nigeria takes guts and lots of courage. But one of the biggest problems in our generation is that people are quick to forget. History has, however, reminded us that the people who secured the independent destiny of this country were in their late 20s and late 30s, visionaries like Awo, Azikwe, Tafawa Balewa etc.
Sadly, our generation has stopped dreaming. Our quest for immediate gratification prevents us from value creation. We have become very impatient and quick to lay blame; blame society, blame government and blame friends. If MKO Abiola were to wait for government, he wouldn’t have sold coal to support his education, which later made him one of the richest men in the history of our nation. People must grab the bull by the horns. Be a man of your word, and let it be your bond. Think long-term, put the customer first, and whatever do, do it well, or do not do it at all. Do not allow anyone, tell you what you can or can’t do. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.
The Lorenzo can be likened to The Dorchester Hotel, even though it is an apartment property. We have studied the competition in all other projects, and we have identified more than 11 different facilities and features that the Lorenzo has, which others do not. It is the only project today in Nigeria that is promising investors 100% Returns on Investment. Nothing like this has been done anywhere else in Africa. Right now, we are finalising the financial aspect, which we are hoping to conclude before the end of next month. Hopefully, we’ll move to site by the end of April.