The Entrepreneur

Ayo Alao –Bridging The Gap

INTERVIEW –Ayo Alao, the Chief Executive Officer of Jet Heights Services, is one of the young Nigerian minds in Diaspora whose passion is to use the knowledge of information technology to bridge the lacuna existing between indigenous business operators in Nigeria and their foreign counterparts.

Operating from the city of Greater Manchester, United Kingdom, the Robert Gordon University trained Software Technologist, in this interview with FinIntell shares his vision and how technology helps proffer solution to business challenges.

Tell us about yourself and your business

I am Ayodele Alexander Alao, simply known as Ayo Alao. I believe the Alexander among my names reflects that of the ancient Alexander the Great who was a conqueror. I believe God has not called us into this world without giving us the ability to leave a mark. That is why I try to live a lifestyle of a conqueror and I’ve also taken that into my business. Whatever territory I go into, I do my best to learn all the ethics of that territory and I ensure I conquer that land. No matter how difficult a business is also, I make sure I compete and let people know that there is someone in that game too that is here to stay.

There are two key things I am most passionate about –Brand and Life. I am a life coach, teacher, author and leadership expert with over 15 years of experience. I inspire, impact and influence. I am a catalyst that is passionate about improving individual and corporate organisations’ performance, productivity and profitability both locally and internationally.

About my business…

I founded Jet Heights Services Limited in 2010 to develop jobsites and other Information Technology (IT) solutions for Nigerians and other Africans. We are an Africa focused web solutions and marketing communications agency based in the UK and Nigeria. I help businesses define their brands, while using tested tools and proven marketing strategies to drive visibility and sales. I Help high net-worth individuals create more wealth.

Could you give us an insight on how the whole business journey started for you?

I actually started business fulltime in 2010. But prior to that, I’d done a lot of businesses as a student. During my undergraduate days at the Ogun State University (Now Olabisi Onabanjo University), I established a game centre, a video club, and novel club with about six employed staff altogether. I was managing the business together with a close female friend who is now my wife. Right from my school days, I just had that instinct to become an entrepreneur. That was why after my graduation and the compulsory service year, I didn’t really bother to look for job because I had enough money to be self-sufficient. All I was only looking for was a new business to invest in.

I looked at the opportunities around me then but none could really suit my academic background which was in English Language and Literature in Communication. So I knew I needed to take my studies further. And because of my interest in the business side of information technology, I had to look for an IT course abroad to enhance my skill. I am someone that generally loves concepts relating to e-commerce, but I know I couldn’t just jump into that field due to my academic background. I then opted for a Masters degree at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen on software technology. Like I said earlier, with no background in IT apart from personal training, crossing from English Language to IT wouldn’t have been possible if not for the Alex in me. (General laughter)

Practicalising the learnt skills

After my masters programme, I met a Briton friend who was into an online human resources (HR) service; recruiting for oil and gas industry. He had built close to a million curricula vitae (CVs) from all over the world. So I partnered with him and I started adding new skills to his jobsite by redesigning and developing it. We recruited for some oil and gas companies in Dubai, the UK and some African countries. During that period, I learnt a lot about HR, I did some self-training about Search Engine Optimisation, and I also learnt how to use WordPress to develop websites. After awhile, my partner moved to Australia. The only thing to do then was to start something on my own.

So in 2009/2010, I launched a site called, primarily as an online platform where people could get updates about Information Communication Technology (ICT). While that era was going on, I met a Nigerian friend who had a jobsite about Nigeria. He gave me some tips about what he does and I learnt from that experience. I also travelled to Nigeria to carry out some personal research. I discovered that the rate at which people were looking for jobs was a problem. As at that time in 2010, the numbers of jobsites in Nigeria were not much, the web designs were not great and user friendly, and the sites were not appropriately updated. So, from all the experiences gathered so far, when I returned to the UK, I merged my ideas and all I’d learnt from the two friends to refocus Jetheights’ vision into a jobsite that publishes vacancies on daily basis.

I ensured was redeveloped and rebranded to bridge the gaps I discovered in others before relaunching it as the most updated jobsite in Nigeria. And truly, the site lived up to its brand. Several HR personnel got in contact with us. They send me job vacancies and we publish them. Initially, I was running it by myself before my wife came on board. From there, we launched jobsites for Kenyans, Ghanaians and South Africans job seekers.

Subsequently, I also redesigned the site to enable employers to publish their own jobs directed on the site. Apart from one or two other web publishers that had such features on their sites then, I think we were the only one with features where employers can publish their jobs and applicants can also upload their resumes on the site. We were very proud of that achievement.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t all bed of roses because I once launched a forum site that was not too successful because of some challenges. Electronic spamming was one of the major challenges encountered.

How can one generate money from operating a jobsite?

Basically, you can generate money through Google AdSense by monetising the traffic on your site. Also, companies could regularly target your site to place adverts because of the traffic generated.

What is the attraction for you seeing the need to invest in Nigeria?

A lot of people think it is a dumb decision to invest in Nigeria. Well, in spite of all the challenges in Nigeria, there are more opportunities there in terms of getting companies to advertise on our platforms and building more business relationships with different organisations.

Like I said earlier, anything I lay my hands upon, I try to make it successful, no matter what. I had also carried out a test run. For example, apart from our Akure office in Nigeria, in 2012 we opened another office in Ibadan and a mini office in Abuja. With the performances of those territories, we discovered that Ibadan can be our headquarters in Africa.

…On challenges entrepreneurs encounter doing business in Nigeria

Yes it is true that inadequate power supply and poor Internet service are the two biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs in Nigeria. I also believe that if those two problems are not solved, the success that Nigeria envisages in few years time may never be realised. We have also discovered that some of the products we bought in Nigeria were substandard. So, getting trust worthy people and product are the other challenges entrepreneurs face in Nigeria. In the small corner of my office in Manchester, with a token fee, I can sit there and download unlimited information from the Internet, while enjoying uninterrupted power supply. I know those opportunities might never happen in Nigeria.

However, over the years as an entrepreneur, I have learnt how to surmount these challenges. The way we’ve been able to deal with some of these challenges in our offices in Nigeria was to have multiple Internet service providers and alternative power supplies, such as solar power system and generating sets, even though they are a bit expensive to run and maintain.

What business ideas can be fostered between the United Kingdom and Nigeria?

We can bridge the lacuna that exists between indigenous business operators and their foreign counterparts through partnerships. For example, with the constant poor Internet service in Nigeria, I don’t see any reason why some of the big network service providers in Nigeria cannot partner with their counterparts in the UK and other developed countries.

How these kinds of partnerships can work are some of the ideas I am working on. And quite a lot of brands we are working with in the UK trust our brand for progressive business relationships.

We are already working with one of Europe’s leading video advertisers to partner some firms in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. We are leading the discussion and carrying out some research so that the efforts would lead to fruition. There is a lot of partnership to be made with big and small scale businesses in Nigeria. I believe that if the Internet in Nigeria can be better for example, a lot of unemployed graduate will have good jobs because job searching will be a lot easier.

We are also training aspiring young entrepreneurs, particularly on e-business. Yes, I am an African, but I also believe in using any useful knowledge, including those from the western world to advance my root.

We have also launched e-commerce websites because that is the future of Nigeria. There are other ideas that we researched recently which have never been used in Nigeria. Another idea is the future of media in Nigeria which, among other things, should focus on strategically promoting good governance in the country.

I can only encourage Diaspora Nigerians to have faith in their origin despite the numerous challenges facing the country. Those who believed in the country are somewhat benefiting from it.

With so many ideas to strategise on and implement, how do you relax?

As an entrepreneur, there are seasons to relax in spite of the urgency of the tasks ahead. In my own case, I interact with people, especially in church. And whenever I am stressed, I listen to good music. I think I listened to music a lot, probably because I also have passion for music.

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