TIN Magazine

This Is Naija Magazine; Telling The Nigerian Story, Showing And Promoting The Nigerian Besuty

WakaNow, Nigeria’s Online Travel Company Obinna Ekezie Talks How It All Began


Wakanow
is a Nigerian web-based travel logistics company which was founded in
2008 by Obinna Ekezie. The company as a pioneer of some sorts in that
industry has become Africa’s premier online travel booking service.

Since
inception, the site has recorded over 700,000 travel bookings and
counting and the traction it gained during its first two years in
business made it possible for the innovative travel company to be
awarded an exclusive licence during the 2010 World Cup as an event
reseller.


During
the past year, Wakanow launched an African travel booking platform –
Destinations Africa (DA), a one-stop travel booking platform for all
categories of African travels.
Wakanow
To
drive the initiative, Wakanow also partnered with Ebony Life TV; an
entertainment and lifestyle network to produce a glamorous travel show –
of the same name, designed to highlight the continent’s top
destinations for African travellers.
In an interview, the former NBA player,  Obinna Ekezie, shares the story of how he converted his idea into a business success.
Since Wakanow came on board in 2008, how have you significantly changed the way travel reservations are made in Nigeria/Africa?
Prior
to opening our doors for business in 2008, the industry was made up of
booking agents who shrouded the booking and ticketing process in
complete mystery. There was no such thing as a travelling customer
having the opportunity to independently compare airline or hotel
pricing, so what he/she was told is what they had to believe. Back then,
travel agents had a stronghold on air travel and it appeared that
bookings were made deliberately difficult to push the customer towards
paying more. Back in the US while I was a professional basketball
player, I had a personal experience with making bookings from Nigeria
and I asked myself, ‘why can’t we have the same experience here in
Nigeria as we get in America and other developed markets?
Back
then, travel agents had a stronghold on air travel and it appeared that
bookings were made deliberately difficult to push the customer towards
paying more. Back in the US while I was a professional basketball
player, I had a personal experience with making bookings from Nigeria
and I asked myself, ‘why can’t we have the same experience here in
Nigeria as we get in America and other developed markets?
And as I
did not see any reason why that could not be, we decided to set up
Wakanow to change the face of travel and give people convenience,
transparency, and best-priced deals. We have leveraged on technology and
the entire digital ecosystem to change the way people book travel and
reservation in Nigeria – offering customers a broad selection of highly
affordable travel deals. We will continue to do more of this to put the
power in the hands of the customers. Today, we are taking that same
technology further into Africa and have recently launched an African
travel booking platform called Destinations Africa (DA). Our vision is
to own African packaged travel by aggregating the best of African
holiday destinations under one roof. The continent has a lot to offer
and we want to be at the forefront spearheading the effort to showcase
its potential.
We will continue to do more of this to put the
power in the hands of the customers. Today, we are taking that same
technology further into Africa and have recently launched an African
travel booking platform called Destinations Africa (DA). Our vision is
to own African packaged travel by aggregating the best of African
holiday destinations under one roof. The continent has a lot to offer
and we want to be at the forefront spearheading the effort to showcase
its potential.
Our vision is to own African packaged travel by
aggregating the best of African holiday destinations under one roof. The
continent has a lot to offer and we want to be at the forefront
spearheading the effort to showcase its potential.
What was the driver for creating Wakanow– what gap did it fill?
Innovation
is always at the back of our minds in everything we do. Wakanow was a
response to an industry in dire need of improved customer service,
better deals and more options and value for travelers. We wanted to get
rid of the inefficiencies in the Nigerian travel management space and
create a sustainable culture of transparency in the industry.
We
also wanted to take the industry far beyond the brick-and-mortar model
by creating travel solutions that are localized, but that still meet the
globally accepted standards of service delivery and professionalism.
And because of our keen appreciation of the peculiar cultural paradigms
and preferences of the Nigerian traveler, we were able to quickly
integrate innovative models that match these consumption patterns. We
felt it was the right time to get Nigerians, and of course, Africans to
make the most of the seamless, easy and affordable travel booking at the
click of a button.

Read ALSO:  How to Expel Cockroaches From Your Home

WakanowWakanow CEO, Obinna EkezieWhat
strategy did you adopt to drastically improve the online ticketing
process involved in travelling to and from the continent?

I
would say that technology was the backbone of our strategy. That is the
use of technology to offer superior service in the areas of ease,
convenience, and transparency. We went with the best of the best in
building the technology we wanted. We were very clear in our minds that
online ticketing was the future for the industry in Nigeria. We also
recognized that there were Nigerians who wanted the direct personal
interaction for their bookings.
This informed why we went with
both an online and offline model and today, even though Wakanow is
primarily online, we are also in over 30 travel centres around Nigeria
and counting, including all the major airports. Very shortly after
opening our doors in Nigeria, we opened in Ghana, the UK, and Dubai. We,
not only book travel for our customers, we also assist with
facilitating their trips with ground transportation activities,
telephony, and travel wallets.
As opposed to the traditional approach of travel agencies, why did you opt for the online travel model?
One
of the major factors that fueled our optimism for the model we adopted
was the rise of digital technology. We looked at the statistics and were
convinced that technology would shape the future of travel. We were
very clear about that, and despite the cynicism of many Nigerians to
anything online at the time, we could see that there was a rising number
of people who were voraciously consuming content online and would latch
on as early adopters to our innovative offering.  We were not wrong and
today, posterity has proven us right in that regard.
Two
years after you came on board, you were awarded the exclusive licence
during the 2010 World Cup as one of the events authorized ticket
resellers. How did you close that deal within the short time of your
launch?

Our precedence came through for us in obtaining
that license. It was early days for us when we applied for and got it,
but the fact that we could thrive in such an uncertain terrain at the
beginning gave the World Cup organizers the confidence that we could
handle it. It proved to be one of the most challenging things we ever
did but we pulled it off and in the process got very good visibility
from being a significant Nigerian participant in the event. We are very
proud of that achievement.
It proved to be one of the most
challenging things we ever did but we pulled it off and in the process
got very good visibility from being a significant Nigerian participant
in the event. We are very proud of that achievement.
I’m
of the opinion that Wakanow’s development has been surprisingly rapid.
How was this accomplished? Can you tell us a little about what the early
stages were like?

At inception, the business was not a
smooth ride; it was like a plane battling with a cluster of whirlwinds
at takeoff point. We had it tough from various players in the industry
while trying to get a foothold in the market. At the time, even though
there were some early adopters, most people were and are still scared of
making payment online because of the nation’s unflattering history with
internet fraud.
But the conviction of our vision far outweighed
any hitches we faced. With tenacity, we continued and the books started
looking attractive. We have surpassed our initial projections in terms
of growth; going global just within a few years of our existence is a
feat that delights us as much as it humbles us.


What difference does Wakanow want to make?
For
us, beside our vision to become Africa’s biggest online travel company,
we also want to make Africa one of the most exciting destinations on
the planet. This is a major factor that influenced our
DestinationsAfrica platform. We want the world to be able to experience
the new Africa of hope and beauty; a new Africa of pride and endless
possibilities.
We are part of that fundamental shift in how
tomorrow’s Africa will be perceived, not the continent of hunger,
diseases, and unrest. We want to champion that conversation about a new
Africa.

Checkout Latest Updates On African Tourism, News, Afrobeats, And More On TINA Magazine