Interview with Wakanow.com CEO

2011 July 15
by Khalil Aleker

I had an online interview with Obinna Ekezie, founder and CEO of Wakanow.com for StartupAfrica.com.  Wakanow is the premier online travel booking service in Africa, offering a safe and secure way to book travel arrangements – including flights, cheap hotels and airport pickups!  Research, plan and purchase your dream vacation with Wakanow.

Tell us your start-up story? Why Wakanow.com?

There was a gap in market. I found out there was no real-time, hassle-free online travel company in Africa where I could get the best travel deal or cheap flights. A few years ago I returned to Nigeria to visit and I had difficulty booking my flight. Next time I got stuck at the airport going from Lagos to Moscow because I needed a transit visa through Frankfurt which I did not have and I could not buy airline tickets at the airport. Although I met my wife the next day while buying a new Turkish Airline ticket, I did not find this funny. This is when I realized that there was no online travel company in Nigeria so I said we must do this.

What is your definition of success, and has your company achieved it?

I believe there are few opportunities in life that come ones way. This is a big one and I recognized it from the start. When I was injured in 2005, I started thinking about life after basketball. I was introduced to online travel through a former friend but our venture was not successful and I pretty much lost quite a lot of money but I never gave up. We do not have the competition like the U.S or other developed markets. We are actually pioneers in this extremely challenging market. With the success we are having in Nigeria, we have the opportunity to expand to other African markets quickly. People close to me know that motivation has never been an issue for me for anything that I am passionate about. I want to be successful and I want to make a difference. We are radically changing the way travel is planned and booked in Nigeria and I am happy about that.

Take us through your typical day?

My day always starts well, that’s very important to make good decisions. The challenges will always come forward and dealing with them is part of the business process and success. We are online which means we can’t afford interruptions or go wrong, the smallest mistake could be costly- every second and every minute counts in this business. I am on my feet pretty much every second of the day willing to answer calls, listen to feedback and deliberate on decisions at any point of the day, this is serious business.

How do you balance social & work life?

My family means a lot to me and so does the business.  I love being around my family and my adorable wife, so business and social life have their time and space and I make sure one doesn’t interrupt the other. I gym and rest when I should and when I am at work, it’s strictly business. Wherever you are, the business and family will always be on your mind.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years?

I’d like Wakanow.com to become the biggest online travel agency in Africa in the next 5 years occupying a huge market share in travel worldwide.

What’s the toughest feedback you’ve ever received and how did you learn from it?

That what we were trying to do was not feasible in Nigeria. The business terrain, the lack of enthusiastic investors, cost of power and so many obstacles that could make any other company shy of the opportunities that stare in your face. However, success has come our way this far because of the courage to continue believing in our purpose and goals.

What inspires you to go to work every morning?

I am completely passionate about Wakanow.com. I think about my company and the travel business 24/7. I also want to be renowned as a very successful business man while radically changing the way travel is planned and booked in Nigeria and I am happy about that.

What African Company do you admire the most? (Besides yours)

My father’s company is the most admirable I have seen. My dad is a successful businessman and I learned a lot from him. I admire him because how he built arguably the best Nigerian owned oil service company in the country.

Can you give StartupAfrica.com readers 5 tips of advice with regards to Entrepreneurship?

I have got a whole list but the most outstanding are:

  • Follow your heart
  • Read & research about your field, business and everything, it always comes in handy
  • Get a mentor
  • Work hard
  • Create, Collaborate and Launch Out!

All the best brother, goodluck! :) Make us Africans proud!

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