INTERVIEW: From 1 Bicycle to 2 Motorcycles: Motivational Story of UI Undergraduate Entrepreneur!


People go into entrepreneurship for different reasons- some go to fulfill their burning passion for self-employment; some to solve various limitless problems of man, while some do so to create a comfortable niche for themselves, particularly in this era of saturated employability. As part of our routine to promote young African entrepreneurs and present what they do and offer differently to the world, Umar Ajetunmobi had a conversation with Oluwafemi Lafua, the brain behind Kwiki Karts at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He took us through how Kwiki came to life, how he manages his academics with business, his business plans and other matters revolving round his e-commerce and logistics brand.

At the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Kwiki has become a household name; even some people hardly know your real name is Femi. How did you arrive at Kwiki?

Well, it all started in 2017 when the idea came. We needed to come up with a name that resonates with the quality of the service we are about to render. So many names came to our mind but we really weren’t satisfied. So on that faithful day, I went to the hostel to chat with my friends. Then, during the course of our conversation, I brought the name issue and I told them the proposed names. They were not cool with it neither was I. Right there, one of them just said we could just name it Quickly! It struck immediately. That was it! We settled for Quickly and tweaked the name to suit us which gave birth to Kwiki.

There are a lot of individuals who are into courier service. What does Kwiki do differently from others?

To start with, we deliver freshly cooked meals from restaurants, hot to customers. DHL and FedEx don’t! Nevertheless, Kwiki Karts is a brand founded on the need to eliminate distance from reasons- things cannot be purchased or acquired. However, we do not just blindly provide logistics services; we register a feeling of fondness with the nearness we afford our buying customers, and the sense of urgency with which we pick up and drop off items within minutes or few hours of request. We exclusively add the element of surprise to our doorstep pickup and delivery services. For instance, when a package receiver is a birthday celebrant and the sender wants to remain anonymous, and so on. Unlike renown brands with luxurious charges, we afford utmost utility at the best prices. Meanwhile, we are a brand distinguished by its name, Kwiki Karts!

You kept saying “we; ” is Kwicky a partnership business?

Yes. I have two partners who have invested financially and they head ownership of the business. But I remain the highest shareholder.

Are they students like you?

No oo, working class.

Then, who are your clients at the moment?

Majorly business owners, professionals and students in UI. However, a chunk of our customers are outside the University community.

As an undergraduate of one of the ‘delicate’ courses at UI, Communication and Language Arts, how do you marry this business with your academics?

It’s indeed a marriage! It has not been easy especially with the rigorous academic demands of my course of study. But prioritizing has really helped me a lot. Doing first things first! The most important with less consequence is what I do at a particular point in time. For example, if I have a class, I simply let customers know and luckily they understand. While some do, some do not. They simply call again some other {time}. However, at times, I stab classes for business especially when the class is not ‘important’. But I try as much as possible to do my assignments and tests. As part of my commitment to my academic excellence, I simply shut down business a week to exams and resume after exams. In 2018, I employed someone on a full time basis, so it is needless to shut down business in order to meet up with my academic demands. Nonetheless, it has never been easy, but God has played a huge role in helping me balance both in academics and business as I am excellently doing well in both. As a matter of fact, I am currently on a 2:1 (Strong one sef! Lol) and business has grown from one bicycle to two motorcycles and website/app within the space of 15months. All thanks to God!

People have this belief that courier service is synonymous with being someone’s errand boy. Do you see it that way?

Well, people may see it like that. But the truth is irrespective of what you do to create value on exchange for money, you’re an errand boy/girl. If you sew clothes, I have bought into your time and you have to make those clothes unless you refund my money. Whatever your customers say they want is what you give them. Even when you offer a professional job like law, your clients have the right to tell you what to do and even give you ultimatum. So personally, as long as you are offering value that people are paying for, I am not an errand boy. I am simply an entrepreneur solving the problems of shopping and logistics including last minute delivery for businesses.

I remember that about two years ago you started Kwiki with a bicycle, but you now use a motorcycle. Is courier service that profitable?

Every business is profitable as long as there is value creation and offering. Once you continue to offer value as an entrepreneur, your business would generate cash flow which on the long run leads to profit. For now, we are not profitable yet. For the motorcycles we bought, a chunk of the money came from investment from a few persons that believe in our vision.

You’re a student of communications studies; how do you intend applying marketing communication, interpersonal communication skills and public relations in your service delivery?

Being a student of the University of Ibadan and department of Communication and Language Arts is what I am forever grateful for. I can say vividly that where we are now, the knowledge of communication, marketing and PR have played a huge role. The knowledge for these subjects has helped us to market the brand in the most effective way. We have also been able to build lasting relationships with our customers/partners even with employees. PR has helped us to manage issues and crisis that arise during the course of our operations. In fact, communication studies have been pivotal to our growth as a brand and would always be!

After graduation, do you see any hope in this business? Or will you still join those graduates in the labour market?

Laughs. I would not have started if I don’t see any hope in it. For the records, I started Kwiki as my contribution to the growth and development of our nation. We have enough problems already and I started to be part of those to solve some of these problems not to join others to complain. One young people should know is that we should always believe in whatever we do. There is no point doing what you don’t believe in, it would amount to a waste of time. In addition, it is often said that, “whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.” So, I have every sense of belief and hope in the business and I don’t see myself in the labour market; rather, we are taking some persons off the labour market through provision of employment which we’ve already started.

A week ago, I came across your advert requesting an applicant interested in working with your brand. Why do you still need a helping hand when some people are still saying you are just starting?

We need more hands because we are simply growing! Currently, we are the fastest growing e-commerce and logistics brand in Ibadan. We need more hands to meet up with the demand and which would turn enhance our value creation and offering.

What is your philosophy in life?

Impossible is nothing! Whatever our dreams and aspirations are, they are all valid! As long as we are ready to pursue them, they would all come to reality. The bottom line is: Do not quit!

Where do you see yourself and Kwiki by 2024?

That wound be 5 years from now. Our services would have been expanded to major cities in Nigeria. By then, we would have been the largest virtual mall and logistics brand by Africans and for Africa/Africans. That is the goal. And in years later, we would have become the Amazon of Africa.

Finally, there are many young ones like you on campuses and off campuses; some are hustlers like you while some are ‘lazy Nigerians.’ Any pieces of advice for these two sets of humans?

First of all, I am not an hustler. I am an entrepreneur building a business that would be sustainable, generational and stand the test of times. I am an Africapitalist that have decided to join Tony Elumelu in his clarion call for Africapitalism which preaches the huge role of private sector in the economic development of Africa. We are doing that with Kwiki Karts, a business that would contribute to our immense economic growth and development. So, my advice to my fellow young people is to grab a vision for their life. It would help them get a bearing for their life as a life without the right bearing is a burden. Lastly, we can achieve anything as long as we there is a desire and a corresponding action and commitment!