Allure Style IQ: Bolaji Akinyemi
Bolaji Akinyemi is the Founder and CEO of Timekeepers, the top wristwatch brand managers and representatives of international brands like the Police, French Connection, Sekonda Cerrutti amongst others in Nigeria
For Bolaji who is a mechanical engineer by profession, Timekeepers came to being to fill the void between the brand manufacturers and consumers in Nigeria. with a retail outlet located in the Ikeja Shopping Mall that stock these brands that come with a warranty on purchase.
The outfit which opened in 2008, almost ten years on and with branches across other states of the federation, it has gained confidence of its clients, as they continue to provide top quality brands with the needed guarantee.
What stands Timekeepers out from other watch outlets?
As brand managers we are representatives of the brands here so whatever warrantee’s that the brand gives its own county we give here. Different brands have different warrantee criteria’s, some have a 1year warrantee, some have a 3 year warrantee but on the average, watches have 2year warrantee and the warrantee is an international warrantee, that means that if you buy from us here and you go and do your masters here in the UK for instance, and you have a problem, as long as you have your receipt or your warrantee card, you can walk into the shop in the UK and get it sorted out. Also, if you buy in Europe and you come in here, and you show us your warrantee card, and we are able to prove that it is authentic, we will sort it out for you.
How did you move from mechanical engineering to being brand Managers for international brands?
I am a trained mechanical engineer, I worked as an engineer for about 4years and then I decided that wasn’t the way for me. I started out first selling corporate and promotional gifts. One of the brands I represented told me that to be able to maintain their representation I needed to have a retail business, so that if someone approaches them to buy the product they can refer the person to go to this place and get it. So I needed to have that retail presence and the need to satisfy that condition, that I opened a retail outlet in Victoria Island in 2001. We first started selling knives and cutleries after a while, we added some watches but I never really took the business seriously because it was just something I did to satisfy the brand. However, people kept on demanding and since we were giving them warrantee the news went viral to people and they came for the peace of mind that they got. We started selling the very high end watches which were quiet expensive, but we began to get lots of people and sometimes we had to turn them back because we had nothing that their budget could afford. They kept asking for something cheaper which would be around 20-25,000 so we decided to add something in that price bracket.
Do you still have watches for the middle class?
Well up till now we still do, like I say we can’t just be servicing the high earned clients, there is a huge market for those who are entering management, middle management/ entry level. Generally we have watches that start from 30-1200 dollars that is were our business is, what we sell used to be an average of about 100-250 dollars. We still have watches for 30,000 with the same warrantee, its not warrantee by mouth but action.
You started the watch business in about 2008, how would you describe the Nigerian market, how has it been so far?
It has been interesting and challenging and one of the challenges we have had to face was, we stared out more as distributors and we started partnering with the likes of Pack n Shop and some other shops. We give them the watches they would sell and take the money back, after a while it was a challenge because we had an issue with one of our main distributors who went to the brand owner and tried to get the brand from us with all kind of devious means and we decided to build our own retail networks. So this Ikeja store was our real first store that we opened for retail which was in 2011. Another challenge we have faced is prior to 2,000 when we first started, a lot of Nigerians have had experiences of buying watches that were not original, so being able to convince people that buying watches from us was original was a challenge. First of all, it was important that we always had our authorized distributors letters and it was also important that all the brand owners we have worked with had websites that had our names, with that,we were able to give people a peace of mind and the fact that we were able to give warrantees.
But for us, what we have been doing over the past few years is building the confidence of our people, people who have been buying 2,000 naira watches have been promoted and prospered to buy a 60-100,000 naira watch. For us when we started our watched were between 20,000 but over the years we had people coming back to ask for more expensive watches because they have become confident in our brand because the business so far has been driven to what customers want, than we want to offer.
You have some brands of perfume as well?
We do not really sell perfumes and that is a totally different business, the reasons we have perfumes here is because it’s a brand extension. We have police watches, sunglasses, jewels and perfume. There are people that are police people and we offer it to them.
Personally do you have a signature perfume ?
The time of having signature perfume has past it was during the 80’s and 90’s. In today’s world, ideally we should not live above our mates but we should have different perfume for different occasions. I don’t have a favourite perfume I have different perfume for different occasions.
What is fashion like for you. What are you comfortable in?
I don’t know why we have to wear suit and tie because our weather is relatively hot. I have not worn a tie for about 10years, because I felt I have had enough, if the occasion demanded me to wear one I would wear one. I would rather just be comfortable with a pair of trouser, a shirt and a jacket that for me is formal.
How do you keep fit?
I have an analytical cycle in my house , I play squash 3 times a week, and I try to ride my bike 2-3 days a week.
How do you take time off to unwind?
I read a book or watch tv, I can be in the house for 3 days just to take time off. But I try not to stay away for too long
By Yemisi Suleiman