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Airtel Nigeria once came under attack for its fast campaign where it described fast as a young Nigerian who thinks age 28 is too late for he or she to become a millionaire. Well Ladi Delano is one fast young Nigerian Diaspora returnee because at age 30, he has created a billion dollar investment management company.
How did he begin? His story is one of a restless, jet setting entrepreneur anxious to make it big even in faraway China. Ladi lived an entrepreneurial life from a very young age experimenting with all sorts of entrepreneurial pursuits including selling suits.At the tender age of 22, Ladi founded Solidarnosc Asia,a Chinese alcoholic beverage company that made Solid XS, a premium brand of vodka. Teaming up with marketing director, Matt Reid, he sought visibility by sponsoring performances from artists such as British DJ Pete Tong and Canadian singer Avril Lavigne, among others. The company waxed from strength to strength, launching a dining and entertainment venue, The Collection. Solid XS, the company’s flagship brand went on to snatch up about 70% market share in China and three other Asian markets and distributed to over 33 cities in China, achieving over US$22 million in revenue.
However, with the global economic downturn, Solid XS faced troubled times and eventually had to close down. Clash flow dried up in the company, followed by massive layoffs of staff. The company was eventually sold to investors for about $20 million.
Meanwhile, Delano had set up a real estate investment company while running Solid XS, the Delano Reid Group. The company went on to raise over $80 million for real estate investments in mainland China profitting from China’s real estate economic boom. With a penchant for running multiple ventures concurrently, Delano was also a Founding Partner in DRG CIN Energy and Global DRG Capital, providers of global energy solutions along with the Reids who he had collaborated with on his real estate ventures. Headquartered in HongKong and with trading facilities of more than US $3 billion, the company was a player in the Asian oil trading and exploration space.
Recognizing the rising opportunities in Africa with its estimated 1 billion people, Delano in December 2011 continued his serial streak by focusing exclusively on Africa with his latest venture, Bakrie Delano Africa. This time, he partnered with Indonesia conglomerate, the Bakrie Group under a joint venture partnership. Through the joint venture, the Bakrie Group would invest about $1 billion over five years in Bakrie Delano Africa (BDA) in areas as diverse as mining, oil & gas and agriculture.
The Bakrie Group, a leading player in Asia and owns stakes in PT Bumi Resources, Asia’s largest thermal coal exporter, diversified miner PT Bumi Resources Minerals and other Indonesian firms.
Speaking on the formal launch of the joint venture, the group stated, ”With this venture we wish to reiterate not only that Indonesian companies are increasingly more active in shaping the world’s investment landscape, but also that Africa, especially Nigeria, is indeed an attractive investment destination.”
In addition to Nigeria, the group will be investing in other countries with attractive investment prospects in sub Saharan Africa.
Speaking on his recent joint venture with the Bakrie Group, Ladi Delano said: “Nigeria is attractive to the Bakrie Group as an investment destination for several reasons. Firstly, it is experiencing excellent rates of economic growth, approximately 8% per year, which is forecast by a wide cross-section of respected economic commentators to continue over the medium to long term.
As an indigenous company, Bakrie Delano has deep rooted relationships in Nigeria too, which is a very important point. Business relationships on the ground are vital when operating in any market, especially emerging markets.
The combination of these three factors: rapid economic growth, an operational track record in particular sectors and local knowledge makes Nigeria very attractive.”
In a recent interview with How we made it in Africa earlier this year, Ladi had this to say as his message/advice for Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs:
“keep going, keep believing and never give up. It’s an old saying but the phrase “Show me a man who has never failed and I’ll show you a man who has never succeeded” really resonates with me.
All entrepreneurs suffer periodic ups and downs and running a successful, profitable business isn’t easy. If it was, everybody would be doing it. But this is Africa’s time and the demand levels within our own continent’s domestic economy needs satisfying. This is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurial, hard working individuals.”