28-year old Ibiyemi Olatunde is a graduate of Civil Engineering from the University of Bath, London. He is currently a Product Manager at Paga, a financial technology startup in Nigeria, which he has been working with for about 3 years now. This week, he shares exclusive details about working for Paga and his other aspirations. Do read and share!
Working for Paga: An Insider’s Story by Ibiyemi Olatunde
I moved back to Nigeria from London in 2013 as I wanted to be a part of the mobile money movement here. There was so much buzz (in the media at least) around going cashless and financial inclusion, I was really excited about the impending change and wanted to be a part of it.
After a year working for a competitor, I got an interview with Paga, a company that had been making considerable progress in the area, especially through their Agent Network. I got the opportunity to sit down and talk with Tayo Oviosu (the founder of Paga) and from that point on I never looked back. I joined Paga in September 2014 as a Product Manager.
Paga is a payments company that is truly for anyone and everyone in Nigeria. Our primary services are Money Transfer to anyone in Nigeria with a phone, Deposit into any bank account in Nigeria, Airtime / Data, and Bills Payment. However, our secret sauce is in our Agent network. This is a network of over 11,600 small business owners and they really add the magic to the brand. Spread over 35 states, these often-individual shop owners provide key financial services to customers in areas of the country where bank branches and ATMs have yet to find their way.
Working at Paga has truly been a fantastic experience. The lifeblood of any start-up is its people and Paga has amongst the best I’ve been around, I really have to contribute a lot of my growth to them. Paga really is not your typical Nigerian company; the openness, camaraderie and empathetic understanding from all team members are at a level I have not experienced in many other places and speaks volumes of the leadership team.
My typical day at work varies a lot. It really depends on what I am working on and where in the product cycle it is. My goal is to identify and solve our users’ needs in a profitable and sustainable way. It generally involves a lot of research, designing new products or improvements for existing products, and thinking through every aspect of it so I can define how it should be deployed on Paga.
There have been lots of challenges along the way both internally and externally. As the brand continues to grow in the number of users, products, human capital, so to our internal processes must evolve to address the growing complexity within the company and ensure we continue to run efficiently.
There is no silver bullet or off-the-shelf solution to address this. In the product innovation team, we tackle this by setting time aside to really think through the problem together, share ideas, speak with other teams, and implement process changes we believe will enable us to function better as a team. Though that is not to say I’m always positive.There are times where the workload seems insurmountable, or I’ve worked on something and the market isn’t responding as desired. It’s easy to begin to doubt yourself, but once I notice myself thinking negatively, I constantly remind myself failure is essential to learning. I start to think of what I can take away from that experience and apply to my next challenge. I personally find this helps engage my mind in productive thought and gives me purpose.
I would love to see the brand achieve our mission of “transforming lives by delivering innovative and universal access to financial services”. I believe we are already well on the way but there is still so much to be done. From a target point of view, I would love to see us reach 100 million users and wouldn’t it be amazing to hear people in Nigeria say “Just paga it” when talking about payment, the same way they say “just google it” when talking about search.
There are two important questions I always ask myself. First, do my beliefs align with that of the company? I mean my outlook on the world, the market, the mission of the company, leadership, and so on? On the other hand, do I believe the leadership team can achieve the goal? If at any point the answer to either of these becomes a strong no, then it’s time for me to leave. As we are always reminded in Paga, we spend more time at work than with our loved ones, so you have to make sure you’re in the right environment for you.
Asides working for Paga, I think and read a lot about sustainable living. I think climate change poses a fundamental problem to the world but especially to Africa where governments do not have the means or desire to help those affected. If I was to start anything of my own, it would be in facilitating the growth of self-sustaining communities, looking particularly at decentralizing power, or agriculture.