Could you give us a brief Introduction of Sijibomi Ogundele and the Sujimoto?
I am Sijibomi Ogundele, Yoruba by birth, Nigerian by origin and African by blood. I speak 5 Languages and my only passion is entrepreneurship. My first introduction to business was at a tender age, in Africa’s largest market – ‘Oke-Arin’. Out of curiosity, I would follow my mother to the market, where I learnt every aspect of enterprising.
I am the MD/CEO of Sujimoto. We usually say Sujimoto is to architecture what Picasso was to art. We are a dynamic and innovative Luxury Real Estate organisation. Our main mission is to revolutionise the Luxury Real Estate sector. Call us the Rolls Royce of the Real Estate Industry and you won’t be wrong. People say we are too ambitious, but I say to them, tremendous achievements are backed by bold and fearless Visionaries. Have you ever wondered what life would have been like, if the Wright brothers had listened to dissenting voices who told them they couldn’t make man fly? Today, a 48hrs Journey by road would only take one hour by air. Humanity would never have achieved greatness without the likes of the Wright brothers, Steve Jobs, Dangote, Sheihk Al Maktoun, Einstein etc.
Our philosophy is very simple, if we are going to do something, we want to do it 10 times better. I came into the Luxury Real Estate Industry at a time when Nigerians were beginning to demand value for their money. My vision is simple; to redefine luxury living by exceeding all expectations. We have gained recognition for being one of the most dynamic luxury construction companies in Nigeria as recorded by Forbes Africa, Channels Television, CNBC Africa, the Lagos State Chamber of Commerce, to name a few.
What was your initial strategy for getting returns on your investments? Has the cloudy economic climate, somehow forced you to restrategise?
I learnt from the Japanese that, a man would forgive you of almost all your sins. But, he might never forgive you when you loose his money. This is why I put the investors first in everything I do. I constantly ask myself two questions: how can I maximise his profit? How can I guarantee that I don’t loose his capital? For example, the LorenzoBySujimoto project was founded on the principle of value maximisation. The question for us is very simple. How can we give a buyer USD 2 Million property at the price of 1Million?
In doing this, our investors have realised that we were cheaper than competition and 6 times better in terms of features and facilities. Despite the economic downturn, which is affecting most businesses and investments, these are the best times to invest in Real Estate because it offers a unique advantage. For instance, our project – the LorenzoBySujimoto offers discerning investors a whopping 112% returns on investments.
Concerning the economic recession, I was once told that a recession is an opportunity that no entrepreneur must ever miss. Unfortunately, the recession is no longer merely a mindset, it is now a reality. Investors must now position themselves such that their gold makes the rule. The value they get must merit their available buying powers. The power of restrategising must never be overlooked. But more importantly, you must never waver concerning your vision or mission. During these times, it’s convenient for people to lower their standards, treat their Customers wrong and stop going the extra mile. However, these are the best approaches for failure.
I remember one very nice restaurant that I used to frequent in Victoria Island. I liked the place because they usually offered large portions of meat. Once I noticed that their meats became fewer and their portions became smaller, I stopped going there. For us, at Sujimoto, we would rather say ‘No’ than put our hands into projects that do not meet our standards.
If a property or a project does not meet our standard of excellence, Sujimoto would not touch it. We are presently 100% focused on our project. More than ever, this explains why our LorenzoBySujimoto project would transform the landscape of Lagos and become the architectural jewel of Nigeria. Contractors have realised that immediate gratification is a good recipe for long-term failure, and more importantly, Nigerians have started demanding tit for tat.
Tell us about your new project LorenzoBySujimoto.
Our latest project, The LorenzoBySujimoto is one–of-a-kind among projects in Africa. Being the tallest residential building in Nigeria and Africa’s first fully automated residential apartments, it is certain to be an architectural landmark. It is a user-centric that redefines luxury experience. For the first time, we have been able to bring 3 fundamental principles of real estate into one space; LOCATION ARCHITECTURE LIFESTYLE. The LorenzoBySujimoto also offers 112% Returns on Investment to our first investors. When you look at the design, facilities and features, we didn’t only look at what competitors are doing. We went around the world in search of quality & inspiration. We visited the exclusivity of Manhattan Penthouses, the architectural ingenuity of Dubai and the exotic lifestyle of Singapore. Our intention is to build an iconic structure that can stand and compete anywhere in the world. A building that redefines boundaries and offers the most dynamic living experience. Some of the features include; virtual golf bar/executive lounge, world-class Spa, a 5-star restaurant, fully automated building. Just like the Rolls Royce or the Hermes Birkin Bag, the LorenzoBySujimoto development took intensive research that brought a convergence of mastermind architects from different parts of the world.
We see that you have a special relationship with you mother, tell us more please.
Growing up, my mother would drink only Garri and give her kids Rice and Fish. That was the capacity of my mother’s generosity. I don’t know about other mothers, but for me, it was easy because I won an ovarian lottery. My relationship with my mother goes beyond mother and son. She’s my friend and my confidant. From the age of 2 she always reminded me that kings don’t cry. Even when I didn’t have the right toys and friends wouldn’t play with me, she would tell me that Joseph was rejected but he became a king among his friends. When I started doing business and having my own income, she encouraged me always and would act in the capacity of a bank, by granting me loans, even when it affected her own business. Words of affirmation never left her mouth. ‘Ajaniogun’ she would say, you are a different breed. You were born to lead, to build and a gift to your generation. She’s a woman who has gone from being an ordinary sales girl to a billionaire. Today, her story should be a case study for every young single mother, who believes Nigeria still has a place for their dreams.
Who are your competitors in Nigeria and indeed Africa? What would you say is your edge over them?
They are two things that separate Apple from other IT Companies; the first is innovation, second is putting customers first. Look at Apple; they pay careful attention to details. They are constantly creative and continue to innovate products that make peoples lives easier. We believe that we do not have any competitors in Nigeria because we think like Apple, while others think like Nokia.
We understand that to be second is to be last. No one ever remembers the second best, but everyone remembers Usain Bolt. For us to be first, we had put our customers first. For us, value maximisation supersedes profit actualisation.
What strategic alliances and partnerships have you formed to further your aims and objectives?
Can you imagine that in the 70s’ the banks gave 1Million USD to two young College dropouts who lived in their parents’ Garage? They had no collateral, no proven cash flow. They didn’t come from big families. They had nothing, except for intellectual creativity. Where would Microsoft be today, had the Banks not had faith in the vision of these two friends? I strongly believe that Bill Gates would still be in Computer village, if he were in Nigeria.
Having said that, we all know that from inception, Sujimoto has always been strategically aligned with excellence, as illustrated in our strategic partnership with visionary real estate maestro and UNICEF goodwill ambassador – Mr.Yazeed Alrahji, Chairman of Yazeed Alrahji Investment Group – notably recognised as one of the top real estate investors in the Saudi Arabia. It is no longer news that we are building the tallest residential building in Nigeria and Africa’s first fully automated building. An iconic building such as this requires strategic partnership. We are finalising a financial injection of about 30million USD, which would push us through almost 60% of the project.
We have already concluded discussions with some partners and are in talk with others. These include: Trevi Foundation, Brunelli Construction, Pinconsult Associates, Cappa and D’Alberto, Harinsa (Top 10 builders of Europe) and Novikov – known worldwide for its chic clientele, dynamic menu and elegant atmosphere.
In a recent interview, you reportedly said, “Luxury is not expensive, it is rather the intention to provide luxury that is expensive”. Could you please shed more light on this assertion?
In law, there are 2 major ingredients of a crime, actus reus and mens reus; the action and the intention. Moreover, according to different case studies, your intention always supersedes your deeds. Look at HERMES and Gucci for example. What’s the difference? The attention you pay to every detail, is what separates price from value.
Do you know that it takes just 13 hours to build a Toyota and 6 months of non-stop dedication and hard work to build a Rolls-Royce? Have you ever wondered why? Unlike the Toyota, the Rolls Royce is hand-built with every stitch telling a unique story. Exotic woods, the best among equals from Europe, are sculpted into automobile showpieces. From personalized hues to lavish interiors and eye-catching motifs, the only limitation to a Rolls-Royce is your imagination.
This also explains why someone would buy a Hermès Birkin bag for $200,000, just because it is a symbol of meticulous craftsmanship. Some people are on the waiting list for up to 6years. A recent study found that Birkin bags have performed better than both the American stock market and the price of gold in the last 35 years. This is value, not price.
Apart from the luxury apartments, does your firm have any intention to help address the challenges of low-cost housing for the masses, given the 17-million housing deficit Nigeria faces?
If charity begins at home, what happens to a child who has no home? Shelter is one of the fundamental basic human needs and it is ironic that Nigeria with a population of about 170 million is currently facing a national housing deficit of about 17 million units. The World Bank estimates that to bridge Nigeria’s housing gap, the country requires N60 trillion. This is not within our space of responsibility, but Sujimoto would be willing to give the government free counsel, whenever we are called upon to do so. We are not Jesus, but we have mastered the art of sheltering. Recently, we decided to launch a project in Osun state (Ilesha; my home town), where people would experience lifestyle at an affordable price. We would be developing a 1,000-unit estate that would give the residence the impression that they are in Johannesburg.
It is within our goal also that by 2020, we would be developing the Adebukola Estate; a development with about 2,000 Units. It would be a one–stop-shop where residents can live, shop, work and play. It would be designed such that within a circus of less than 500 meters, the residents can go to work, school, hospital, and shop at the mall. It is a project where the middle class would have an opportunity to experience the Sujimoto Luxury.
How can modern technology help further your business aims and objectives?
As I told you earlier, putting the customer first is the pillar of who we are as a company. We believe that luxury without comfort is mediocrity. So for the first time in Africa, we are building the first fully automated building. With the LorenzoBySujimoto development, we are putting an end to architectural slavery in Nigeria and by extension, Africa. It is a development where you can control everything from light, curtains, AC, music and entertainment, with a single device.
From our extensive research, security and comfort top the list of things people want in a home and we are providing top-notch 24-hour security with live feeds to clients anywhere in the world. Never again would you witness a second of darkness or lights out, because of our BMS System that can even anticipate every electrical and mechanical necessity of the building. We are developing a smart building that would compete with international standard.
What is your assessment of the real estate sector in Nigeria in terms of growth and challenges?
Nigerians have realised that they can no longer drink the fuel nor can they smoke the gas, so they have started looking to real estate as a better alternative. We cannot ignore the fact that we are going through one of the most difficult periods in the history of this country. But then, I believe we could learn a lot from the transformation of Dubai, from a Land of Sands and Camels to a City of Marble and Towers. When the Real Estate and Investment Boom of Dubai started in the late 90s, savvy investors jumped in on the opportunities and saw an intrinsic value in a fast growing City. Today, the desert village has grown exponentially into a metropolis equipped with some of the most exotic man-made structures the world has to offer.
Investors looked beyond oil and focused on Real Estate because they realised in good time, that Real Estate is the new oil. In the last quarter of 2015, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) predicted that the Real Estate sector’s value would rise from $9.16billion to $13.65 billion in 2016. It reported that the sector was growing at a rate of 8.7%, making it the 6th largest in the economy. Today’s economy belongs to only two types of people; people who understand that Customer is King, and people who have the great capacity to deliver great value at an affordable price. We need to develop the real estate sector and move from the current ‘quick fix – quick gain’ syndrome, or else we will continue to remain in the backwaters of world class Real Estate Development.
What advice do you give to Young entrepreneurs and Nigerians in general?
There’s no nobility in poverty. We have to know that our destiny is in our own hands, not in the hands of government. Every Nigerian is a president of his nation, his home, and the responsibility to achieve more and give more to your family is in your own hands. We must surround ourselves with positive-minded people. People who know they are going places, not people that would try to bring us down. Most importantly, we must eradicate our religious and cultural differences. They take us nowhere, but backwards.
If a Musa from Maiduguri has a true vision and a dream, I would be there for him. It doesn’t matter if he is Hausa or Muslim. I don’t care if Ngozi is Ibo, as long as she has a great character and the fear of God, I would marry her and make her my wife. Religious or Cultural differences are the fastest way to ruin a nation.
Are you married and how’s your leisure life?
I’m married. My wife is young, jealous and takes no rival. Her name is Sujimoto.