From tailoring to tycoon: the rise and rise of Billionaire industrialist, Aare of Lagos, Razak Akanni Okoya as he ‘climbs 83rd floor’

by Joseph Omoniyi
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Razak Okoya is a man who has made a significant impact in the Nigerian business landscape. Born in Lagos in January 1940, he is a billionaire industrialist and the Aare of Lagos, who is known for his vast business empire, Eleganza Group of Companies. With a market spanning Western Africa, Okoya’s success story is one that is worth noting.

Growing up in a family of tailors, Okoya worked in his father’s tailoring business, which also included the sale of tailoring accessories. The experience he gained gave him the confidence to start tailoring activities on his own. He saved every penny he made until he had 20 pounds. His mother gave him the extra 50 pounds, and with the blessing of his father, he started importing and trading goods from Japan.

Okoya’s business expanded swiftly, and he traveled far and wide to learn how things were manufactured. He had a strong feeling that Nigeria could match the quality of other countries, if not better. His first wife, Kuburat Okoya, was obsessed with costly jewelry, and he was always baffled at how much she said they cost. He strongly felt the prices were outrageous since the metals could be designed at a cheaper price and the metals were readily available in Nigeria.

Challenged by this perceived healthy demand, he traveled abroad, bought the machines, and marked the birth of Eleganza Jewelry. The success was phenomenal. They could not keep up with the demand because the products were beautiful, durable, and cheap. They were instant best-sellers. He also started manufacturing buttons and jewelry.

He began the importation of shoes in large quantities, subsequently. On one of these occasions, the shoes were not delivered despite his payment. He traveled to Italy to see the manufacturer only to discover that they had used his money to settle their bills. He was so angry that he decided there and then to start manufacturing his own shoes. He imported all the machines and brought in some experts who trained his workers.

Today, under his Chairmanship, the Eleganza Industries produces a wide range of household goods and utensils including cutlery, collieries, food warmers, ice chest, electric fan, cosmetics, and ballpoint pen. His factory locations include, Oregun-Ikeja, Isolo, Alaba, and Iganmu. The Company now directly employs over five thousand Nigerians and non-Nigerians including those working in his RAO Property Investment Company. Okoya’s Eleganza Group is one of the biggest homegrown conglomerates in Nigeria today, with over six factories, and its products are household names in Nigeria neighboring African markets.

Okoya’s magnificent and outlandish estate, “Oluwa ni Shola” (The Lord creates wealth) Estate at Lekki/Ajah Expressway is his primary residence. The “Oluwa ni Shola” Estate, is well equipped with uninterrupted power and water supply, marble floors, central air-conditioning, sauna, lush gardens, billiard room, tennis court, swimming pools, expensive sculptures and more.

Razak Okoya has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award as Business Entrepreneur of Our Time from Thisday Newspapers. His story is a testament to the power of hard work and determination, and he remains an inspiration to many. Through his vision, hard work, and entrepreneurship, Okoya has completely altered the business landscape of Nigeria, and West Africa, by starting a cottage industry in the early 70’s that blossomed into a multi-billion Naira empire.

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Joseph Omoniyi

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