Lola Masha is the Country Manager of OLX Nigeria. Just before joining the organisation, she spent four years with Google Nigeria where the amazon led the business development team. There she was responsible for working with a wide variety of partners such as the defunct Bank PHB, and McKinsey, telcos and device OEM across Europe, Middle East and Africa.
In this interview with Vera Wisdom-Bassey, Lola talks about being a leader, surviving as a woman in her field and her advice to other women, across the globe.
OLX is five, tell us your success story?
It is an incredible story to see how we have transformed the business and the brand from a very young, unknown name in Nigeria to where we are now, where we are the number one certified in Nigeria, and I will say that we are pretty well known brand name across the country as well. It is very exciting for us to be part of this journey.
How are you able to keep up OLX these past five years with the competition on-going in the online marketing industry?
Yes, I think it’s just knowing that you cannot do it alone. It’s a fantastic thing having a private business grow, to the point it is now, every single person on the OLX team has just worked 150 per cent to give their best to push the business forward. I think it’s just a testament to the fact that just having a fantastic team is absolutely the best for success.
So, what do we expect in the next 10 years from OLX?
More growth definitely, more innovation, more hard work to maintain our position as the number one classified not just online marketing in Nigeria but across the globe.
How did you cope with the economic recession in the country?
It is tough time and thankfully we are slowly getting out of recession, with the last report from the CBN, that growth has picked up in Nigeria and we are slowly moving out of the recession into a growing period in Nigeria, so that’s great news for everyone and we are so glad, we’ve weathered the storm and we are surely coming from the deep essentially to start to grow again.
We have always been innovative, we have to come up with new ideas to adapt at the local market creatively from our marketing campaign, marketing messaging, marketing plans to think about what makes the most sense for users. So, during the recession, thinking about what users are looking at to sell and to quickly get cash was important to us and what our research shows was that when times are tough people are looking for items they will quickly change in their homes, especially cars which is their high value of assets into cash. Helping them was our number one priority. I think in that scenario, it became a win- win situation where users are able to quickly convert item in their homes to cash and we were there to support them during that transition.
How do you measure success in business?
That is a very good question, and I think it depends on who the stakeholder is. Any business with different stakeholders, they are the shareholders of the business, and they are crucial to success. If you are to ask the employee also, I think their metric success are also quite different, strictly for employee, career development is career growth is career progression, knowing that they are actually moving forward in their career, be it in their organization or elsewhere. If you were to ask their leadership of that organization, they also have different objectives, it could be growth metric, to have the business growing from metric point of view, with transaction point of view, from a key performance metric point of view, and if you were to ask the community in which that company operates or business s giving different types of metric, it will be giving back to the community, supporting the environment that you work in, and that your impact is felt positively not negatively, as you do business. So, again that question very much depends on stakeholders that are involved.
Do you ever regret leaving Google for OLX?
Not at all. It’s been a fantastic journey with OLX. I think what attracted me to the brand was the opportunity to take the brand from ground zero to where we are today. And it’s only in that challenge and looking back and seeing that we have successfully done that within our own capacity where we have taken OLX from a very young, unknown entity, frankly to where we are today that brings no regret whatsoever.
Who is Lola Masha?
There are several ways to answer that question, but I would say I am passionate, I am a driven individual, with the desire to make a difference wherever I am. And that difference could be within my organization where I work, could be within my family at home, with my husband, children, could be within my community at large, church or any other organization where I give my time, passion to make a difference, create an impact, and to make sure that I am making a difference essentially to people I come across every day.
You still look young and radiant. What is the tonic that keeps you going in life as a mother of two, a manager, and with the stress you pass through every day?
I think it’s just enjoying what you do, a lot of people keep doing things with the wrong motivation, so, if you are staying in a job simply for the money, simply for the brand, because you want to work for so, and so, simply for whatever reason, but you’re not enjoying that activity and the impact it has on you, mentally, physically, physiologically, spiritually is negative, that’s not right. Make sure that whatever activity you indulge in or spend your time on, make sure you enjoy it and that you still add value. I think we cannot get away from that, just being true to yourself, is knowing that this is what makes sense to you, doing it for the very right motivation.
How do you relax after a very hard day’s job?
I actually proactively try to connect with friends and family, I think that is important, I try to have a very healthy social life, not necessarily parties, not anything like that, but finding time to visit my old friends, and aunts that I haven’t had time to see for a long time, catch up with aunts I haven’t seen for months, and visit someone that had a new baby, it is in those connections or interactions that you truly form deep relationship, form deep connections. So, it’s very important to me to get out, from Monday to Friday work and truly connect in my social network in a deep and lasting way.
So, how could you describe the African woman?
(Laugh), strong driven, passionate, hard-working, multi-tasking, relentless, constantly giving, it is awesome, amazing, this is how to describe the African woman, frankly.
Are you of the opinion that women have taken over in the competition with the men?
I don’t think we have taken over from the men, simply trying to make our mark, make sure we are heard, but we are very far from taking over. We are just more empowered, there is a lot more room to grow, if you are to look at all countries globally, of women president, or head of state, and in Africa, maybe we have women president from Liberia, maybe she is still there or not. One out of 52 countries in the world, is extremely low, but if you are to look at Europe which seems to be more progressive, you have Germany, UK, and Scotland now. If you look at Asia, it might be one woman, maybe in the Philippines, possibly she is dead now, just a few countries that actually have a female head of state. Same thing goes for CEOs as well. CEOs of big companies, even here in Nigeria, let’s look at the bank, Stanbic might be the only one that has a female CEO. So, we don’t dare take over by any set of imagination. There is a lot of rooms for women to get equitable positions, it’s just having those early examples that shows that it is possible and serve as inspiration for other girls coming in.
Have you ever been harassed /intimidated by men?
I think I am a very opinionated person, so even if it were to happen, I don’t think I will see it as such, however I do know it is a problem, whereby women sometimes feel intimidated in the presence of their male counterparts. And I think it is an issue that needs some attention, that must not be taken lightly. But hear out women and when they come out to speak about their experiences in whatever capacity it is rather than make a generalization of it as what women experience throughout the world. And we should absolutely support women that come out and find ways to encourage them.
What is style to you?
I think style is your exhibition, or your translation of what is important to you, and your authentic self, your manifestation, the stamp of your internal person. There isn’t a wrong or good or bad style, being quiet and reserve can be deceptive. Being gregarious, social and engaging, as long as it is a true manifestation of what is your preference is okay. So if you are exhibiting a different style you consider acceptable, it likely won’t work out a lot of the time. I think your style is the manifestation of your own internal preference.
What is your philosophy of life?
Put in your best in whatever you do, don’t be hard on things you do, life is too short. Do to others what you want done unto you.
How do you relax?
I sleep, because I have a six –month old at hand right now. Since I don’t sleep at night, what I do is to sleep, spending time with family, with friends, I don’t watch television very much, but I listen to radio shows on my phone. It’s actually a good way for me to relax. Spending time with my husband, children, family and friends.
You have a six- month old that keeps you awake at night and you are always in the office, how do you cope?
I think it speaks of the challenges that women face in the work place, that our male counterparts don’t have to face, and it also speaks of the fact that we have to be more considerate, as colleagues we have to be cognizant of difference of priority , and making sure that we provide a truly balanced work environment in our work places. That being able to close early or take your kids for immunization or really thinking about important factor that will make life a little bit easier. Here at OLX we actually allow our working mum feel free, so that they can get home earlier and spend time with their family, until the kids are at their reasonable age or they are in day care.