He clocked 70 on June 25, 2022. But Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bindalo Group of Companies, Chief Adedoyin Abiodun still has a lot going for him. Apart from being in charge of a chain of businesses, he is a people person.
Known as Bindalo by many people, only a few perhaps call tell the origin of the name.
Chief Abiodun however explained in an interview with Church Times that the name came about when he needed to get an identification for his consignment when he was in the importation business.
He recalled, “There was a general cargo that had all the imported goods by different companies and individuals. So there was a need to put a name on the goods to identify their owners.
“Many of the goods I was buying then were from India. So the name my goods were identified with is a combination of My name, India and Lagos.
“It simply means, Biodun sending goods from India to Lagos. B stands for Biodun, INDA stands for India and then LO stands for Lagos. It was not a perfect combination of words then. But as time went on, I was known with that name.”
Today, Chief Abiodun who is also the Bale of Awodi-Ora, Ajegunle Apapa has become an enduring authority in entrepreneurship.
He started early
Chief Abiodun started off early in life. Shortly after his secondary education at St. Anthony’s Grammar School, Ijebu Imusin, Ogun state he secured employment with Adebowale Electricals Limited.
Adebowale Electricals was the sole distributor of KDK Fan. The fan had the payoff, KDK, the mosquito-killing fan.
He worked there for a while and then took a leave of absence to Nigeria Institute of Management to pursue a programme in Business Administration. He later continued with the organisation.
Experience at Adebowale Electricals
When he came back from his studies he was posted to the Lagos Island branch of the company. at Moloney Street, Idumagbo where he served as the manager of the branch. He was known then as Shop Master
Chief Abiodun was there for seven years before he resigned his appointment to start Bindalo Agro-Allied Industries.
He described Adebowale who was one of the leading entrepreneurs in Nigeria then as an extremely humble but hard-working person.
It was from his company Chief Abiodun honed his skill as an entrepreneur.
He recalled, “Adebowale had an in-house school for all his employees. He organised lectures for us and also set questions for us after the lectures to be sure we were on the same page with him.
“The lectures were practical tips on how to conduct oneself in the market place. That was what helped me to a great extent to build my own business.”
Desire to start own business
Despite having a good time at work, he began having this strange but exciting feeling that he needed to start something on his own.
An Indian had suggested to him that he could be importing his own products too to sell even while working with Adebowale Electricals. It was a nice idea.
Then, $1 dollar was 50k. It was not even up to naira in value. So it was easy to import goods from abroad. That was around 1975.
He had started work on a salary of 31 pounds 10 shillings. He was not married. So he had a lot of money at his disposal to trade.
So he brought in some items for sale. But there was yet another hurdle. He could not display the imported items. He had to rent a shop and locked them there; waiting for the appropriate time to sell them.
His boss soon got to know about his moves. But he could not sack him because he had become invaluable to the organisation.
Rather, he was transferred from the Lagos Island branch to the Agidingbi branch of the company. His boss had thought that would discourage him from running a side business along with that of the company. They had suspected that his shop was also somewhere close to the official shop where he worked.
The dilemma about paid employment
“It was a big crisis for me then. I was in a dilemma. I was not sacked and I did not want to resign. I was actually afraid to resign because I saw the organisation where I worked as a kind of financial security. I thought about survival. I was not even sure the products I imported would be patronised. So I was caught between resigning and holding to my job,” he said.
At the point of confusion, he went to his mentor who was a close friend of Chief Adebowale to seek counsel. His mentor said to him, “Biodun if you don’t resign and face your own business, you can’t make it in life.”
Those were the words that propelled him to resign from paid employment. That was around 1977. He was still young. Marriage was around the corner though, but that was not going to stop him from making up his mind.
He took the plunge and resigned. By the time he resigned courage welled within him. He quickly went to the shop where he stored the items and began selling. He had no option but to face his own reality.
One of the unique things about Chief Abiodun was his frugal disposition to life. He is the quintessential Ijebu businessman. You perhaps won’t catch him engaging in frivolous spending.
The general advice is for budding entrepreneurs not to eat with their 10 fingers so they could save some money for the rainy days. But in his own case, he was not eating with any of his fingers. He was into hard savings.
Chief Abiodun recalled that his mother was the one who advised that he should submit his monthly salary to his father and that his father was the one to determine what he would spend out of it per month.
“I found her advice quite instructive. I did not hesitate. In those days, you hardly find children kicking against the instruction of their parents. It turned out that obeying my mother and handing over my salary to my father was the game changer for me. That was the initial capital I used to import the spare parts of agricultural equipment which I later sold.
His father would then give him 1 pound which he said was just enough for him to eat and for his transportation for the month. He lived in his father’s apartment at Ebute Meta. So, he was not paying rent. That helped him to conserve his funds.
A great book keeper
Over the years, Adedoyin has proved himself to be a great book keeper. Documents, receipts, and files that would have been thrown away by some people are still in his custody.
He still keeps the tellers of the monthly bank savings done by his father on his behalf. He still has tellers of the defunct Savannah Bank where his father saved his monthly salary.
Starting off on his own after about seven years of paid employment was indeed a wise decision.
“Looking back, I thank God for the man who gave me the advice. But I discovered I needed to bring courage to what I was doing. Life is about risk and I think the risk I took was the best thing that happened to me.”
The business took off
The year he resigned from Adebowale Electricals was the same year he married. He resigned early in the year and married later in the year.
So his hands were full. But the future looked bright and certain.
The first day in business as he recalled was a bang. “the profit margin was so much that I began congratulating myself that I resigned from paid employment.”
The process of importation was not as cumbersome as we have now. The importer only needed to approach the bank. There was excess foreign exchange. The documentations were not clumsy. So it was easy for anybody to import goods into the country and sell them.
Chief Abiodun started his business at 42, Agoro Street Idumota, Lagos. The place was not far from the office of his former employer. His wife, Adesola, a trained secretary resigned from her job and teamed up with him to run the business.
His wife was in charge of the sales in the shop while he was always going out to seek clients and make more business connections.
Later, one of his uncles, Mr. Ladipo Ekisanya joined the business. He applied a lot of wisdom at the initial stage of the business. His wife and uncle were the only staff he had. That helped a great deal to make his overhead manageable.
Besides, there was the element of trust which helped the business to thrive. “My wife was a great instrument in stabilizing the business in those early years. My uncle too did a lot. I can’t thank them enough.” Chief Abiodun said.
He was also quite prudent. “One of the secrets of success in business is the ability to manage your overhead. Don’t employ people who will become liabilities. For whatever reason, don’t load yourself with staff that are redundant.
“If you know your gross income from your business at the end of the month is say N15,000 and your overhead is about N10,000 for that month, it is a clear signal that you are running at a loss. As much as possible your running cost should not be more than 20 percent of the gross earnings if you want to stay afloat in business. This is because the business climate is uncertain. You need to reserve something for the rainy days.” he counseled.
Chief Abiodun also applied the principle of self-discipline. “I had no time to play around with girls. I was focused on what I was doing and was committed to it. I seldom go to parties in those early days and I did not belong to social clubs where my funds would be drained. Those were the factors that kept me in business,” he said.
Though his father was wealthy, he did not depend on him. “My father had taught us never to depend on his wealth. He actually told us to work for our own money. That was the orientation we had. So we could not afford to depend on him.”
His father had a block of nine flats at Ebute Meta as at the time he was working at Adebowale Electricals. But he gave him just the boys quarter to live.
“We all knew him to be a disciplined man who believed every child should work hard and make their own money. What he owed us was education which he gave us. And that really helped us to think and work hard.”
His frugal lifestyle
He recalled that by the time he had his first child, he had enough money to live in a three-bedroom flat and buy a car for himself. But he rather chose to live in a room apartment.
“I was living in a single room at 46 Adekeye Street, Ojo Road, Ajegunle-Apapa,” he said.
Ajegunle was particularly not the nicest of places to live. The environment was decrepit. The living condition was appalling. It was the days Ajegunle was referred to as Jungle City.
Yet, that was the environment he chose to start his family life even when he could afford a flat at Surulere which was then the settlement of rich folks.
Some of his colleagues were living big. Some were buying cars. “But all along, I knew cars and flamboyant lifestyles were not things I should pursue as a young man in business. My desire was to grow the business.
“Even when I was sure the business could pay for some of the things I wanted, I still had to discipline myself. I was into hard savings. I just had the foresight that the business climate was not predictable.
Importation was lucrative
Chief Abiodun admitted however that the importation business was quite lucrative in the 70s.
The amazing thing about business for him was that he did not incur any loss in the early years. He did not go for a bank loan either. So, he was not indebted to anybody. The business flourished naturally and he had the wisdom to manage the funds that accrued from it.
By 1982, he was able to build his first house, a two-storey building of six flats. By that time he could afford to build a house every year because the business was flourishing. And he did. He had about seven big houses in succession.
“The business was good. The profit I made from just one importation of spare parts of agro-allied equipment was what I used to build one of my houses which is a block of six flats. This is just to tell you how lucrative the business was then.”
Bindalo, a family man
Today, Chief Abiodun has built a business empire. He runs both primary and secondary schools. He is into petroleum marketing and had done several other businesses over the years including owning a bakery.
One of his defining features is his love for people. He is a community and family man to the core. Despite having all that it takes to live in the Banana Islands of this world, he chose to remain in Ajegunle-Apapa. He has been living there since the 70s. He is also very much committed to his immediate and extended family members.
All his children have turned out well, doing great different fields of human endeavour.
His philanthropy extends to people in his hometown and those in Lagos. He gives scholarships to students regularly, built infrastructure for schools, and supported many in their business endeavours. And he does all these without making noise.
By Gbenga Osinaike