The Iroko tree is a very distinctive tree, even in a forest chock-full of a hundred trees. Hence it is apt to describe Mr. Jason Njoku, one of the iROKO partners, as a human iroko. A graduate of Chemistry, Jason Njoku saw an opportunity many had overlooked, weighed the risks and took the plunge in a very hands on manner. Trailing the streets of Alaba market to liaise with producers does not sound like a dream job, but that is exactly what Mr. Iroko did, and today we celebrate his success.
But before I forget myself, who is Jason Chukwuma Njoku? The recently married debonair dude and entrepreneur hails from the eastern part of Nigeria although he grew up in Deptford, South East London. A Manchester University alumnus, this was not his first business idea, but it has sure turned out to be his best so far.
So what did Mr Iroko do exactly? As I earlier mentioned, he co-founded iROKO Partners in 2010 in London, England with Bastian Gotter. The idea was born out of the high and rapidly growing demand for Nollywood films in the diaspora. iROKO partners initially set out to rid both the internet and the industry from the vast amount of piracy which was crippling the industry; once established, the organization birthed Nollywoodlove and Yorubalove which dominated the Youtube platform throughout 2011.
The company is globally the largest licensor and the leading distributor of Nollywood movies (both English and Yoruba) online. iROKO Partner is currently YouTube’s biggest African partner with distribution deals with Dailymotion, iTunes, Amazon and Vimeo. With the launch of iROKOtv in 2012, the sky really is his starting point. Other platforms are iROKING and iROKtv. iROKING has over 35,000 songs from 200 or so of Nigeria’s top artistes. It is touted as the future of Nigeria’s digital music scene where people can access songs from Nigerian artistes; anytime, anywhere. iROKtv is a behind the scenes look at Nollywood, and iROKOtv is the platform for people to watch Nollywood movies. It has a catalogue of over 5,000 movies whose online licenses have been duly paid for. Subscribers with $5 get an exclusive scoop on new releases every week.
Piracy is a very real and present challenge in the line of work that Mr. Iroko has chosen, and they constantly have to be on alert for pirates who encroach on their rights, inadvertently or otherwise. In an interview published on Bella Naija, Jason Njoku addressed the issue of piracy in Nigeria thus: “We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in combating the pirates who have no regard for the producers’ livelihoods and profit from stealing other peoples’ creative content.”
The future is rosy for the iROKO partners. The class of investors pouring in is a tribute to the skills, focus and creativity of those involved. Tiger Global, a hedge fund run by an early investor in Facebook and Zynga has invested $8milion into the company. If his past success is anything to go by, we can be sure it will be wisely ploughed back into establishing a venture that is above reproach on all fronts.