When Chinedu Okorafor moved to Lagos from his village in the Eastern part of Nigeria in 2016, all that accompanied him were a Bagco bag containing two shirts and two pairs of trousers. Those were the sum total of his belongings.
With no education, no accommodation, very little funds, and no family in Lagos, Chinedu was in search of greener pastures and he had no problems baking his bread on the streets.
He started by hawking packaged sausage rolls (popularly called Gala) on the streets of Lagos and making just NGN 5.00 on every unit sold. But fast-forward four years and Chinedu now makes a minimum of NGN 1 Mn monthly solely from hawking and one can throw in the fact that he has also bagged a chieftaincy title in his village for good measure.
So, how does he pull it off? How does he manage to average a monthly income of NGN 1 Mn by chasing vehicles in traffic while carrying consumer goods on his head and shoulder?
Well, as anyone can guess, it’s no cakewalk. Joseph Osemegbe Aito, a Sales Manager at Unilever, who got to know Chinedu because he regularly purchased snacks from the hawker, engaged him (Chinedu) and learned some interesting details which he (Joseph) shared in a LinkedIn post.
In his third month of hawking, Chinedu was making a profit of NGN 5.00 on every unit of Gala as was earlier mentioned. By selling an average of 300 units daily mainly in the traffic around the Mile 2 area of Lagos, he was making roughly NGN 40 K monthly.
By the time he clocked six months in the business of hawking Gala, Chinedu had explored more than a few of the traffic hotspots across Lagos and made the decision pitch his tent at Oshodi. There he was able to sell as much as 10 cartons daily, more than tripling his previous average daily sales, and his monthly income surged to NGN 150 K.
But that was just a snippet for what was to come months later after he made a trip back to his village in Eastern Nigeria for the Christmas holiday.
While Chinedu may not exactly have been living large in Lagos, the young people back home saw him as a hero all the same. He made it no secret what he did for a living in Lagos and many young, able-bodied men who weren’t gainfully employed were motivated by the fact that he seemed to be doing well for himself.
By the time he returned to Lagos at the turn of the new year, he was in the company of 12 young men who adored him, relied on him, and were ready to follow him (forgive the similarity with the 12 in the good book who became fishers of men).
With them, Chinedu unofficially started a crude distribution company. He bought sausage rolls, in cash, from wholesale points, and resold to the twelve, making 30 percent off their supposed profit.
But this was not before he incurred significant costs in paying for their accommodation and routinely setting up dinner after a long day running after vehicles and passers-by in Lagos traffic.
Chinedu, now some sort of middle-man, could have easily removed himself from the streets and became some kind of towering figure among the hawkers. But he didn’t.
He remained there with his boys, carton of sausage rolls over his shoulders and a worn-out pair of slippers under his feet. He eventually revealed this to be his own secret maneuver as it gives him knowledge of what works in traffic and what doesn’t.
Two years after he moved to Lagos, that’s sometime in 2018, Chinedu had built a network of over 100 young men and women who were buying consumer goods directly from him, at least, once in a week.
But Chinedu still kept chasing cars. By now, he earned a monthly average of NGN 550 K (About NGN 3 K from each of the hawkers buying from him, totaling NGN 300 K, and NGN 250 K from his own direct sales).
Eventually, Chinedu “diversified his portfolio”. He started hawking newer products with better margins like Pure Bliss wafers, Bigi carbonated drinks, plantain chips, etc.
Before long, his average profit per unit sale started to average 38 percent of the unit cost and interestingly, he began to attract a special kind of attention from managers at multinational companies.
And this is because his sales channel provided something unique. He became the go-to guy for companies that needed a quick sales spurt, possibly to end the month on a high.
Chinedu got larger discounts from this sort of arrangement, especially those cases where consumables are close to expiry and companies needed to sell off stock quickly. He would get discounts of 60 percent at times.
With his network of hawkers, he quickly sells to consumers who do not have to keep the products longer than a few minutes or hours.
His network also became some kind of informal route for market entry of new products. All these saw his earnings shoot through the roof.
Chinedu ranks Berger as the number one quality traffic spot in Lagos, followed by Oshodi, Yaba, Obalende, and Ajah, before other spots like Mile 2, Orile, Iyana Ipaja, and Agege.
His experience and knowledge, his distribution network of over 100 hawkers and his relationship with key distributors of the consumer goods industry are what has elevated his income to up to NGN 1 Mn in less than five years.
However, Chinedu, like many others, appears to be swimming against regulatory tides in a place like Lagos where extant laws forbid street trading or hawking.
And it is feared that their means of livelihood may soon be tanked especially as it doesn’t fit into the so-called Lagos mega-city masterplan that recently ousted commercial motorcycles/tricycles from Lagos roads.
As it is, he’s already walking regulatory tight ropes because of the absence of tax records, business registrations, offices or structured employment processes in the hawking business.
And because of this, a dash through a maze of vehicles under the sweltering sun while dodging government revenue officers is just another day at work for Chinedu.
Featured Image Courtesy: SilverbirdTV