#BounceExclusive: Nigeria's Recession Was Quite Profitable For Me - Babalola
He played basketball for over 20 years. He started his journey in Ilorin, Kwara State, while representing his secondary school.
He wore the colours of Kwara Falcons and Dodan Warriors of Lagos before moving to Scotland where he played for the University of Aberdeen while studying for a Masters Degree.
Opeyemi Babalola is the CEO of Webber Engineering, manufacturers of basketball upright and other sport equipment.
Having registered in 2010, the company began operations in 2015.
Babalola saw a vacuum in basketball product manufacturing in Nigeria, and with his engineering experience, he delved into it.
“We were motivated to start up with these basketball range of products because of the void and opportunity we saw in the market for these products.
"We realized there was no industry for the production of sports equipment in Nigeria, so we decided to create a niche for ourselves in this area.
“I chose to start up with basketball backstops because I have passion for the game. I played basketball for over 20 years and I knew everything about it, so I wanted to leverage my engineering experience to better the product, so for me it was an easy way to start up a company as I would be able to create a niche for myself that way.
“It was a bumpy ride when we started just like every other startup but by and large we’ve been able to achieve considerable success since we started.”
Webber Engineering has delivered Made-In-Nigeria products to high schools, higher institutions and many others across the country and beyond.
They have also done jobs for the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) and the African Basketball League.
“We are partronised by end users, mainly higher institutions, high schools, gymnasium across the country and basketball clubs. We’ve also sold for parks and recreational use.
“We have refurbished the one at the national stadium in Surulere early in 2017 before the commencement of the league season, we have also sold to the African Basketball league in 2016 and the continental basketball league in 2017.”
On every product made by Opeyemi’s Webber Engineering, Nigeria's green and white flag is put on it.
“We hear good comments about our products and we are happy about the acceptance and delivery.
“We fly the Nigerian flag on all our products because it’s an identity that speaks for itself that you can attain the same international standard and quality from local manufacturer. If there is a product from the US and there is an American flag on it, I should be proud to fly the Nigerian flag on my product as well.”
Like many other startups especially in Nigeria, Webber has had its challenges, but Opeyemi says the company is learning and making progress.
“Challenges are peculiar in terms of energy, power, funds, recruiting best hands for the job, training to get the required skill for the job, however, we have gone past those stage, and we have our business plan and strategy to grow the company.
“The mission and vision of this company is to make sure this product goes beyond the shores of Nigeria. We want to start delivering facility across the continent.
Nigeria just overcame recession and is still going through high foreign exchange rate, but for Babalola, the economic situation yielded some positive results.
“We’ve had policies from the federal government which has really helped a lot like the tariffs on imported goods has been in our favour, if you want to buy backstops from abroad you have to think about not just the cost of purchasing those items, you have to think about shipping cost, duties, agency fees, all of that adds up to a high cost of the product.
“The exchange rate as well, sad it is what it is at the moment but for that reason, a lot of people tends to be conservative and want to buy locally and save a lot of dollars to buy same product from abroad.
“Truth be told, recession has made us to look inwards and want to buy the naira and that is helping the local companies to grow.
Babalola however sounded a note of warning.
“But it is important to meet up with quality standard that is internationally accepted. Because if I can get the quality of product I get from China or USA here in Nigeria, I would want to save cost and buy from local producers.”
He advise young boys and girls to pursue their dreams and be consistent.
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