By Jason Njoku (a tribute to Sim Shagaya and his team at Konga)
One day, Sim will share the true happenings of what really went down at Konga. I know more than most, but it’s not my story to share. For now, let’s leave it to the Twitter economists and experts to rake over the supposed smouldering corpse which is, to many the dreams, of Konga – Nigeria’s online shopping Mall.
To my mind, he (and Shola after him), did everything they could. Most will never know the pressures they were under. Most would never truly understand the demands and sacrifices they had to make in order to keep Konga alive.
Me? I am grateful. IROKO is stronger, because at a drop of a hat over the years, both Oga Sim and Oga Shola were always on hand to help out and give a young buck (I still like to consider myself a young man) brutal and yet honest advice. Nigeria Inc is shrouded in smoke, mirrors, mud and masculinity. Sim and Shola always opened up. From day zero. Before Konga. Before the tens of millions both of us went on to raise. Sim was looking to build beyond himself. He was always about the wider community. Below is an email Sim sent to me back in March 2012.
The above introduction was the start of Kinnevik’s investing relationship with IROKO and my friendship with Sim.
Thereafter, at least for me, and I am sure many others, Sim and Konga represented the shining light of what community, collaboration and a ‘New New Nigeria’ could be. All my investors used to point to Sim as what a great leader should be. ‘Build a world class executive team Jason’, see what Sim is doing? ‘Partnerships in Nigeria, Jason’, see what Sim is doing. ‘WTH Jason why aren’t you focusing on Nigeria like Sim?’.
Nigeria Inc is poorer now in my opinion. When companies in Nigeria fail, it’s usually because of basic criminality and theft. The captain never goes down with the ship. Let me be clear. Sim+Shola ‘went down’ with their ship. I would say 95% of his material wealth was tied up in Konga. As for criminality + theft? That wasn’t the case at Konga. No doubt they had internal and external fraud problems. It’s Nigeria. I’m sure, as I look around at IROKO, someone is trying to steal from me right now. But there was aggressive market development. There was overspending on everything because that’s what they felt they needed to do to ‘win this market’. There was no sense of impropriety. They gave it their best and the market, this fucking horrendously difficult market Nigeria, this market which turns dreams to ashes daily, just wouldn’t yield. It was never about cash. Jumia has cash. All they are doing is burning more of it. The market is pushing back any effort of rationalisation. It may be untameable. I am 100% sure if I hadn’t ignored Nigeria for first 5 years of IROKOtv’s life, we would probably be dead. In fact, IROKOtv should have died in 2015.
Sim is heartbroken, I am sure. If there was someone who deeply and truly cares about Nigeria, it is Sim. He came back to make a difference. To build a New New Nigeria through commerce. I was always the hard charging, hated founder. Sim was always loved. He embraced all and tried his best to improve every person he touched. I have no doubt he will go on to greater successes.
As for me? I am glad he gave me his thoughts when I stole his time with my small problems. So don’t be like the hordes of criminals who parade themselves as successful in Nigeria. Have dignity and grace. Be a real capitalist. And I will continue to ‘be like Sim’.
I mentioned the Twitter-brigade at the beginning of this post, and I cannot close out this piece without reference to Sim’s post yesterday. For me, this Tweet sums up Sim [and yes I counted] perfectly, in 75 characters —
NB: This article was first published on Jason Njoku‘s Medium.com account.