African Technopreneur: Jason Njoku taking Nollywood Online

Piracy was always a problems for Nollywood filmmakers. There were many ‘hustlers’ in the diaspora who made their living off pirating movie and keeping all the profits. The business problem that most filmmakers had was distribution and since their core competency is actually making movies and not distribution. Then came the savvy businessman Jason Njoku who sold the problem and protected the intellectual property rights of the filmmakers.

If I was still in business school I would have opted to study Nollywood a perfect African Business School Case Study. Nollywood  before Njoku can be compared to the business philosophy of Ford and his Model T where it was all about the product. Of course producers and writers are artists and creativity is their core competency but creativity means nothing without the avenue to get the product to the market. Business savvy and creativity have to be combined so that the creators of intellectual property reap the harvest of their work that they had toiled in the Nigerian sun.

 

Piracy and intellectual property rights

We always hear about one of the major challenges of doing business in Africa is the lack of respect for intellectual property. In no other industry is this highlighted than Nollywood the film industry of Nigeria.

One of the challenges that the Nollywood film industry faced was piracy. The industry being in its infancy where the barriers to entry were low anyone with a video camera and a few friends with a script could produce a movie. Duplication was done with a computer and sold in the markets and shops in Nigeria. There was a great demand for African produced content so the hustlers began to buy one copy and duplicate movie and resell them in African and overseas markets. These hustlers made a lot of money particularly in overseas markets of United Kingdom and the United States where these DVDs sold for $5-$10.

Jason Njoku was so revolutionary to the Nigerian film industry because he cut out the middle man when he created iRoko Partners the largest digital distributors of Nigerian music and movies, with an extensive library of content. iRoko employs almost a 100 people. This web based business is ushering in the digital age in the West African country.

The advent of YouTube became advantageous for the creators of original content as more and more people in the diaspora turned to free movies on YouTube rather than the now $5-$10 DVD. This meant that producers were finally getting paid for their work and cutting out the middleman who had been reaping the bulk of the profits.

The story of Nollywood reminds us of what they teach in business school that regardless of how superior a product is if there is no means to get it to market then its features mean nothing really to the consumer. iRoko has been revolutionary because it allows the artists to reinvest in their businesses.

Facts about iRoko

  1. 500,000 registered users
  2. London, New York and Lagos
  3. Received $8 million in funding from U.S.-based hedge fund Tiger Global

 

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