By Ayo Alonge, [email protected]
Tito Philips, who is the founder of Oga Landlord, a fast growing real estate startup in Lagos, holds the view that, although the business has been greeted by a litany of challenges, in recent times; yet, the potential is still very huge.
In this encounter, Philips tells his success story in the business, while baring his mind on investment and profitability.
In the real estate business, there are people that focus on real estate. They buy and sell for investment purposes. The whole idea behind the company is to help people own their own houses and become landlords. Ours is to help people become home owners. Young people tend to extend their dream of becoming landlords to the latter part of their lives when they might not even have the ability to achieve such dreams again because they have postponed for two long. Some are still living in rented apartments at the age of 45. So, our value proposition is to educate people about the fact that the money you are paying as rent can be used to own your house. It is one lifetime dream for people to own their houses but they postpone it for too long. You don’t have to. So, when people hear of the millions involved in Lekki homes, they don’t even know that there are other places that can make them own houses. So, we want to let people know that we can get them plots and properties in developing areas. These developing areas are not as expensive as those ones in their minds. There are affordable plots in Ota, Ibafo and Ikorodu. People then think of N7 million when they want to buy a plot of land; whereas, you can get a plot of land cheaper in other locations.
I have been an entrepreneur from my teenage years. My dream has always been to make a difference. I started a company called MAD Phillips Company. The MAD there is an acronym for “making a difference”. Our focus is on people, business and life. We came up with solutions that affect people, business and life. We have also worked with entrepreneurs to help them grow businesses. We have worked with brands like Innoson Motors. We established them online. Using myself as a case study, I went through the process of Oga Landlord. When I got married in 2013, I set a target for myself that I want to be able to own my own property in five years and in another five year, I want to be able to park in. It was a conscious goal so that made me go for my budget. I deliberately went for a property that would make me achieve my dreams which I did within the first three years of the marriage. That was how the whole idea started. I used the same amount I was paying as rent to acquire a land. That was the birth of Oga Landlord. I went into agreement with the family that owns the land in Ota. So, I told myself that if I can achieve this, others can. We made sure that the land was not under any government acquisition or court case and that was how we got into the business before we starting acquiring others. Most young people are out there paying rent just because they want to live in town. Before you know it, you are married and then you now have kids in school too. I was the first customer of the business.
We started a striking value proposition called Land 48, an initiative which allows you to achieve your goal of owning a house within 48 weeks. Others are used to the issue of paying in instalments but we have a timeframe. This is what makes it easy for a lot of people to relate with us. We target both salary earners and business owners. Every other person knows that they can become a land owner but the question of the timeline is always missing in the equation.
Our business has evolved. Right now, we are going into real development. We used to be known for sale of land but today, we have rebranded. We now build and sell outright to prospective buyers. That is where we are now.
The number one challenge is credibility. There is so much scam out there. People don’t know who to trust because you can pay to some and not have allocation. A lot of real estate developers are not doing what they should be doing. We made it a point of duty that we will never point to any location without first going there to carry studies on the place to be sure of the land. We go there with our team and signposts. We go there and document the area to be sure that the land is genuine. First is to capture the bus stops leading there. We snap the roads, we snap the neighbourhood and then the landmarks, that is the major structures and facilities around there. That has given customers credibility. We don’t sell until a customer has gone for an inspection with us. You want to be sure that the land or building you saw is the land you were taken to. We have also made every member of the team accessible. If you go to our website, we have our names, phone numbers and social media handles there. You know that we are not ghosts and you can do a background check on each member of the team. We also looked for strategic partners to come on board as our advisers. We have notable lawyers and surveyors on our board and they can tell you about the brand.
Most people just go into sales. That’s not it for us. Our educational model is what we focus on now because we know that most people are not so educated on real estate matters. We want to be able to build estates and make them available at cheap prices. We have also invented the build-for-customers model. After buying, you can now begin to engage us on building your house in instalments.
The first thing I will say to young entrepreneurs that want to go into the business is that don’t let established rules discourage you. There are certain established rules that say that it is only estates that sell. That’s not true. Look at us today. We don’t have an estate, yet we are giving them a run for their money. The most important thing is to confirm the genuineness of the land. You can start without having an estate. You must also be a credible person. I am a credible person and all of my businesses can be verified online if you search my name. You need that as an entrepreneur. How strong is your credibility, as a man, to pull through the business? People would always need it.
Again, the market is not saturated like people think. There is enough to go around for everybody. The prospect at the moment is slim because purchasing power is low but the potential is huge. The economy will turn around soon. If we have people living here not buying, people abroad are always calling in to buy.