By Samuel Okocha on August 6, 2012
Headquartered in Nigeria’s commercial capital city of Lagos, events promotion and ticketing company Afritickets aims to become a household name for online ticket purchase in at least ten African countries. Olaotan Towry-Coker (picture), founder and CEO of Afritickets: “We would like to cater to all genres of events: the corporates, conferences, festivals, theatres and arts.”
Olaotan is one of the many Nigerians who have lived abroad but never failed to see the opportunities back home. He schooled in the UK from the age of eight. After he finished with university, he moved back to Nigeria in pursuit of his entrepreneurial aspirations.
“Ever since 2003 I have been here, working very diligently to make a name for myself and to explore what Nigeria has to offer,’’ says the entrepreneur who signed up to VC4Africa due to what he describes as his love for supporting like-minded initiatives.
Since returning to Nigeria, Olaotan attended lots of events and he observed that the process of getting tickets was very difficult. In his words, ‘the whole thing was much disorganized’ with different sales points. After four years of studying the events and ticketing environment, last year Olaotan decided to focus full time on creating a solution to the ticketing problem.
Eventually in December, together with a developer, a back-end team, and with an experience in magazine publishing, he launched Afritickets. Under a year, the startup is developing into a widely known name in Nigeria. Key events are constantly promoted on its website, while users get tickets to their favorite event via the platform which is spiced with entertainment tit bits.
Speaking to VC4Africa in Lagos, he says: “Literally, we started ticketing for events two days after we launched. We have noticed that there’s been so much interest from Nigerians in Nigeria and across the world. People want to know what’s going on in Nigeria, events that are happening, what’s the buzz, who’s performing… We have been able to tap into that successfully and in the next few years we intend to be in over ten countries. We have a brand name which we are going to grow into a household name in Nigeria and hopefully we can be the Ticketmaster of Africa very soon.’’
Huge potential for a ticketing service
On the potential of Olaotan’s ticketing service in Nigeria and across Africa he says: “Nigerians and Africans as a whole are highly sociable people. We love to congregate – in church, at weddings, at family functions and of course concerts. We offer a service that allows people to formalise these sorts of gatherings. When properly harnessed ticketing for the event industry will be a huge market.”
The Nigerian entertainment industry, which is said to worth billions of dollars, continues to grow. And as events and ticketing patterns evolve as part of that growth, Afritickets has positioned itself to become a major player. Most events promoted on the platform come from the entertainment industry. But Olaotan says: “We are looking at corporate events as well. We would like to cater to all genres of events: the corporates, the conferences, the festivals, the theatres and arts.”
How Afritickets works
Promoting an event is free on Afritickets. The platform however charges a commission to manage the sale of your tickets which can be monitored on the site. Olaotan explains how it all works: “If you can setup a Facebook account then you can also set up an account on Afritickets and load your event on the platform. When it comes to ticket sales, people can buy directly from the site. Anybody that comes to the site and sells ticket through us pays commission to Afritickets which is deducted from the revenue which comes in from ticket sales. Three to four days after the event, we credit the account of the promoter.”
Olaotun says that he drew from examples of similar services as US-based Ticketmaster and the relatively new Eventbrite. “I literally have a list of hundreds of other ticketing companies. You have to start from somewhere. So I looked at the major players across the world and not just in the US or Europe,” he adds.
Online payment challenges
The weak but growing culture of online payment in Nigeria means Afritickets must work hard to create increased awareness and trust to ensure interests in its services are matched with actual transactions on its website.
Explaining this challenge, the Afritickets CEO says: “In terms of actual conversions to sales, it’s been a little bit slower than we wanted. We expected this because we did our research on the environment. We knew Nigerians were very weary when it comes to online transactions. Sales have been ok, but we understand what we have to do-build up our brand name and position ourselves as a credible organisation which I feel we have been doing pretty well.”
For budding entrepreneurs, Olaotan says work hard, never compromise on quality and follow your guts. And if you must replicate foreign concepts or ideas in your environment, make sure you find a local need, he says. “If you can attend to peoples need then you are going to have as successful product.’’