Call her ‘The Nation Solution’, and you are referring to Mrs. Purit Abhulimhen, founder of Spangeler Market and Vent SQ. The solution provider has chosen that nickname for herself because of the enterprunural solution she is proffering to Nigeria’s economic problems. Abhulimhen, a graduate of Linguistics and Communication Studies from the University of Port Harcourt is also a serial entrepreneur and pioneer of the first ever online trade fair. Since the idea was birthed late 2019, she has held two editions of the trade fair through which many brands have made so much gains. The third edition commences tomorrow. In this interview with DAYO EMMANUEL, she narrated how the idea came to her and how the online trade fair has helped businesses in Nigeria. Abhulimhen also noted that Nigerians are consumers who lack business understanding of producing what they consume. Excerpts:
When did you conceive the idea of online trade fair and what inspired it?
The idea was birthed on the 8th of September 2019 and was officially held on the 28th to 30th of October with over 300 vendors. Spangeler market as a home of over 148,000 SMEs always wants an extra opportunity to sell and gain more visibility. So I started planning states trade fair, and because I am in Abuja, I decided to start from there. I started doing research on what it would take. But at the end of the day I concluded that we can do better without spending money unnecessarily just to drive attention and get buyers to come. That was in March 2019, I knew I wanted something different but I didn’t know how and what to do. I started praying and boooooooooommmmmm the birth of Spangeler Online International Trade Fair came.
Can you share the success story of the first edition?
Well I didn’t even know how to go about the idea, but I knew I will find a way around it. I started researching to see if there was something like that in the past where I could get more ideas, but guess what, there was no record of any successful one held. And then I realised I was the first in the world to launch it, wow! The project became more interesting and intriguing. I went all out to make sure it came to pass. It was a success with massive sales testimonies. Some made sales that they have not made in six months within three days of the trade fair. The majority gathered enough contacts to follow up, some sold over half a million Naira. And then I knew we could do anything we sent our minds to do.
About seven years ago Nigeria had about 17 million registered SMEs, how do you think this huge population can be helped by the government?
SMEs have helped the rate of unemployment in Nigeria and majority of tax payers are entrepreneurs, they employ themselves and also employ others. The government can help with grant to enhance their businesses and also to help us invest on professional skills acquisitions because they are not cheap.
With over 17 million SMEs you sure have a big prospect with your online trade fair. How do you think you can benefit from this huge figure? How do you get them interested?
Well first if we have five million SMEs in one place, then Alibaba has nothing on us. The major challenge most SMEs have is visibility and not even cash because with the social media you can start a business with zero capital through what we call “DROP SHIPPING”. My major benefit is getting people especially women financially liberated. We started a project called “Vision 2020 University outreach” this is a start on getting people involved and aware of the market. We are starting from the universities because most students are responsible for their education, in fact as I speak, some don’t even know where to get their next school fees from. Now from the testimonies gathered from the market, a woman said she made over N500,000 drop shipping rice in December. That is a huge sum. All they need is their phone and a supplier. And before you know it, we will be producing millionaire students who won’t graduate and be a burden to the government and society but employers of labour. This will not disturb their academics in any way as 99% of youths are always with their mobile phones surfing the internet so that time can be dedicated into making money with having money. And then we would host SMEs states seminars and webinars to create more awareness and educate them on how to make good use of the social media space.
You had two already, planning the third, what are you going to do differently and what should the participants expect?
Practice makes perfect they say. Sure this third edition won’t be the same as the vendors have improved on their social marketing skills, and buyers should expect amazing price slash and gifts form sellers. Participants should expect great sales because the market has increased in numbers compared to when we had the first and second edition.
We assume your challenges must be few since it is online. Can this assumption be true?
Yes the assumptions are true. Like I said, instated of planning a physical trade fair like I did before, I opted for the online version. The difference is clear for both organizers and participants. The cost control is on the high side, I mean very high as I don’t worry about how to get people to the location and since it is online; vendors have stands in the comfort of their locations anywhere in the world. They don’t also get to worry on printing flyers or logistics. All they need is data and a camera phone. Everyone is happy.
Since it is a novel idea and the uniqueness is out of this world, initially how did clients see the idea?
When I introduced it to them it sounded alien. But I had to remind them on how to go about it and also teach buyers how to visit vendors’ stand from the comfort of their homes. The most interesting part is that vendors are from different states of Nigeria and countries of the world.
The Nigerian economy is the biggest in Africa but it hasn’t translated to wealth of the common man, what do you think is missing?
Nigerians are consumers but they still lack the business understanding on how to produce what they consume and the few ones producing still don’t understand the importance of visibility. If only we can trust our brands, trust me China has got nothing on us. We have talents here but we don’t trust our own. It has to be foreign. Now other countries who have realised Nigeria as their oil well are coming to build factories here, what could be achieved by us and sent to the world.
Your idea is technology based, most SMEs have not really embraced this technology, do you plan to train SMEs still on the analogue mode?
Training SMEs is my born duty and I am glad I am changing the narratives. More people are aware and taking advantage of their online presence including food sellers. Now you can shop for meat, tomatoes and other food stuff on your bed, it will get delivered by a dispatch rider to your door step. The training continues as we have on our yearly activity calendar space for the seminar and webinar training.