Allure Cover: Hanu Agbodje – CEO of Patricia Technologies Limited
By Jemi Ekunkunbor
Hanu Fejiro Agbodje, cuts the look and built of an artiste; but he is actually, the founder and CEO of Patricia Technologies Limited, one of the fastest e-commerce and crypto trading platforms in Nigeria.
Armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Port Harcourt, the native of Delta State is focused on making the e-commerce space more user-centric by removing the barriers that limit e-commerce in Nigeria.
The serial entrepreneur in this encounter talks about his dreams for Patricia Technologies Limited, and his desire to add value and give peace of mind to Nigerians in the business space.
Of all the things you could have done like becoming a police officer or an entertainer, how did you stumble on this?
While in University, at some point in the first half, I took a break from school not because I was failing, but because I felt Mathematics and statistics was not exciting for me. But I went back later to finish the course. So, I have my degree now. Anyway, at that time, I figured out that I enjoyed doing other things like reading; particularly, business books. I enjoyed going to classes that Business Administration students went to. I just go there; sit by the window until when they chase me out.
I had a journal were I wrote down my ideas. All my ideas were built around my problems. So in my journal, I wrote down my ideas and Patricia was number 34 on the list. Each of the ideas was fully developed with how to address them. With what I know now, the other ideas will develop. There’s something I read somewhere that even the biggest army in the world cannot stop an idea whose time has come. So, Patricia’s time came before others. Before Patricia, I had started about 9-10 other businesses. I literally used my house rent to buy bike and squatted with my cousin for a whole year. I opened an Indomie spot and employed an aboki. He almost killed somebody and I was arrested. I opened a popcorn stand that became the biggest popcorn chain in Port Harcourt. Then I went to Umuahia and bought a car for N120, 000. I don’t know what I was thinking. That car didn’t bring me to Port Harcourt. It was crazy.
So Patricia just happened to happen.
You have an unusual name for a technology business. Why did you name your business Patricia?
When I got the idea for the business sometime in 2014, I wanted something not cliché. So, I decided to name it after my mother, Patience. But I remembered growing up, that my mother and granddad used to always fight over the name Patricia which was what he used to call her.
Why was that?
I don’t know. I think it’s just to annoy her. But, I picked the name because it’s what he calls her which means so much. So I was caught up between the two of them. The name reminds me of the two of them.
How were you able to build a relatively unknown business into the height it is in two years?
For me, it’s all about value. People support what is good for them, they support what they need. Before I started Patricia, one time, my uncle gave me a gift card. I had nowhere to exchange the gift card. And when I looked, there were similar businesses in the U.S and U.K, maybe not so big but they had the opportunity to do that. So, I figured, why not do something different?
How did you start?
Although I’d run some other businesses before, they were nothing like this one. When I started, there was no blue print or manual on how to run the business. It was just God, prayers and showing up to work daily even if it was not convenient. I usually don’t go for Christmas Holidays, New Year, and other celebrations because it was just me. I had to work alone for like four to five months before I got more people to join me.
At this point in time, a lot of people don’t have confidence in anything that is online because of fraud and lack of security. So how secure is this platform?
It is very secure. Basically, what we do is exchange what you have for cash whether it is Bit coin, gift card or any other asset. We have a relationship with our customers. They trust and expect us to deliver. It was really difficult starting up because, we were pretty much unknown and people haven’t really seen a company, or brand do what we do. You can’t blame them. You know how things work here.
The next guy on the street is not reliable. He can disappear one day, and who knows what happens to your money?
So we had to come from the angle of building trust; and we found that people were more open to the idea after we found like one to three person who can say “I’ve used Patricia, they were fast, they paid me quick and delivered on time”. Then, the news began to spread like wild fire.
So is this recognized by the CBN?
This is quite tricky in the sense that CBN does not endorse any crypto business. It is basically at your own risk. That is how the central government sees the business. They have no hand in Nigerians conducting crypto business; they are not involved in it. You use the service at your own risk. That is where the security of our platform comes to play. We have over the months, endorsed a lot of celebrities who in turn serve as middle men for us. So that’s how we grew.
How viable is this business?
It’s the future. It’s only a matter of time because in business, we have what we call early adaptors and late adaptors. We have some people who will keep on using very old phones no matter what happens. The only time they will stop using it and move to touch screen phones, is when they stop producing those kinds of phones. Those are the ones that will never adapt. So the old and new crypto currency is still in the adaption stage, only a very few are beginning to adapt to it. Bit coin is going to do what the email did to regular mail.
If I were coming as a new comer, what do I require to start?
First, let me explain what I do. At Patricia, we exchange assets, we buy and we sell whether it is Bit coin, It rum, dash, etc. We have the whole fleet of digital money down to perfect money and down to paper funds. We have freelancers all over the world who use us to receive money. So we basically exchange digital to physical and vice versa. If you have cash, and you think you can partake you come to us, and we give you cash value that will appeal to you.
So what challenges basically do you face?
There are a lot of challenges. In running a business, you become your own government. You literally have to do everything; you supply your own power. You have to account for unforeseen circumstances that happen more often than not. Because we operate 24/7, you have to have power all the time and that eats into your operating cost or overhead. You also need internet and that is quite expensive in Nigeria. Aside from that, you need manpower and finding the right people who are really skilled in Crypto currency is not easy. We train our own people and with training come expenses because we bring in experts to do the training.
Then, there is the issue of trust. You have to spend so much energy trying to convert one customer. Knowing the nature of E-commerce, we are not there yet. The whole online thing is seen as shady. People do not accept what they don’t understand. I think the e-commerce space is still quite a hard nut to crack.
How did you overcome them?
We hired different people for training for some months before we let people into the system. We ensured a level of excellence and quality before you start speaking to customers. Our slogan is “built for you“. We want every customer that comes to Patricia to feel the entire system was built for him or her.
Basically we have a system for the backups for every process we have just in case anyone fails, payment for example, there sometimes the entire bank system is down so customer gets to know that it is not our fault but banking system.
I see you like sports. What football club do you support?
First of all, I know Arsenal makes life difficult for us; it is something that I will not say I regret. I am in it already. The reason why I like sport is because it is emotional. People don’t see what I see in sports. Sports help character building. You might be the best athlete but, if you are not dedicated, you will end up going astray.
In the light of what just happened to Anthony Joshua, what would you say?
Well, I expected difference, I expected him to go and make us proud, but what is so important is how he comes back.
What fascinates you in travel?
Travelling opens a whole new world; different cultures, experience, people, idea and you get to experience what you are not used to. You get to meet different people and to me, travelling equals opportunities. New market, new grounds to conquer and new place to take Patricia to. So whenever I travel, I look out for what works there. What do they want? What do they look out for? What works here might not work in Ghana even though we are neighbours. So, it’s all about how I put value in the places I go to.
What have you enjoyed about travelling?
I think it’s the people and I learn a lot from them.
Where is your favourite destination?
I wouldn’t say I have a favourite destination because; I haven’t travelled to enough countries to actually say this is my favourite
What do you like to wear that represents who you want to show to the world?
First of all, I do not dress to give people an impression. Whatever you think of my dressing is your impression. I dress to be comfortable in my skin because that’s when I can do the best work.
What do you like to wear?
Sometimes, I wear suit because it makes me feel comfortable. I also like to mix and match and give out the baby boy vibes. It all depends on the way I feel. But I really like Ifeanyi Owenu, he is a great fashion designer and makes almost all my clothes including the ones I’m wearing here.
What are your future plans for Patricia Technologies Limited?
The idea for Patricia Technologies Limited is to build a world. It’s not just a regular business. We are a value- driven company. Patricia will be a company that will be known for different things. For example, we are working on a new project that is going to give value to every Nigerian. So imagine we could deliver a product to you and make you spend as little as N400 for one gigabyte of data or turn airtime to cash. These are really alternative idea but this is what every Nigerian needs. These are ideas that bring value and in a couple of months we will be bringing it to the society. We are here to make a statement and give peace of mind to Nigerians.