In the Nigerian travel and tour industry, the name ‘Zidora’ is not new and anyone who claims not to have heard about Zidora, may be new in the industry. Zidora Travel and Tours, one of the subsidiaries of Zidora Group of Companies, is a key player in the travel and tour industry saddled with the responsibility of providing end-to- end travel and tour solutions to Nigerians. In this one-on- one interview, Mr. Chioma Madueke, the Vice Chairman of Zidora Group of Companies spoke extensively with the Managing Editor of Biznesswatch, Arthur Aghogho Eriye on the operations of Zidora Group of Companies; why Zidora Travel and Tours is the best travel agency in Nigeria, the uniqueness of its products and services, Zidora Aid Foundation among others. Excerpts:
May I meet you madam?
My name is Mrs. Chioma Madueke, I am the Deputy Chairman of Zidora group of companies. I am also the founder of women in real estate; I am the co-founder of Zidora Aid Foundation. I am wife, mother, entrepreneur and a philanthropist. I studied Applied Geophysics at the University of Calabar, I am also pursuing an MBA. I have an MBA in view and I am also pursuing a Degree in Law.
How long have you been in Business?
Well, I have been in business almost all my life because I have been involved in one form of business or the other even while in school. I have been involved in business at different level. I remember before my NYSC, I used to travel to India and Dubai to buy human hair, gold and fabrics and sell to my friends, colleagues and family members. It was when i got into Zidora and that I started business full time.
What year was that?
Zidora Consults was incorporated in 2013.All our companies were incorporated in 2013.
Was Zidora Travel and Tours also incorporated the same year?
Yes, basically, like I said initially, all our companies were incorporated in 2013.
What is the inspiration behind the name ‘Zidora’?
Zidora was birthed by my husband, Dr. Arinze Madueke, he is the Chairman and I am theDeputy Chairman of the group. So basically it is an acronym of our names and of that of our children.
What is your goal for Zidora Group of companies?
Basically, we are a product and service company. Our goal is excellence in everything we do. When it comes to services, Zidora group has different subsidiaries. Let me educate you a little bit.Zidora is a group of companies with subsidiaries like: Zidora Real Estates, Zidora Oil and Gas, Zidora Agriculture and Food Services, Zidora Travel and Tours, Zidora Consults, Zidora Pharmaceutical and chemicals and a non- profit arm of Zidora; Zidora Aid Foundation, which is a charity organization. In all of this, our goal is excellence. When it comes to our products, for example, we have Zidora Pharmaceutical; we have a lot of products. We manufacture here and we also import from India and Vietnam. We try to ensure that are products are the best obtainable in the market. Also, Zidora Services, we offer services in real estates, travel and tours services. We assist those that want to travel abroad; we assist them in getting visas, procure admission for those that wants to study abroad. We also help those that wants to travel abroad to book their flight tickets, basically all travel needs. All we are working towards is excellence in everything we do. That is our goal at Zidora; Excellence.
Nigerians love travelling a lot, and reading through the pages of the papers and the internet, you hear stories of travel agents been arrested and charged for fraud, but Zidora travel and tours has a money-back guarantee. What give you such confidence about the service you render?
Like I said, we are aiming at excellence, I got into travel business basically was from my own personal experience. Having traveled over the years, like I told you, I used to go to India and Dubai to buy gold, human hair and fabrics that I sell to people in Nigeria. And having travelled over the years, I noticed that there was something lacking in the travel business in Nigeria. Nigerians get denied visa a lot, even when they are qualified, meanwhile Nigerians are the biggest spenders abroad. When you go to UK, they are the big spenders the same thing with Dubai. In Dubai, when you see Nigerians buying gold, you will be scared, the white people buy just a little, but when you see a Nigerian buying good, you will be scared. They buy in bulk. They are the spender. If you go to Europe, Nigerians spend the most, if you go the US, Nigerians spend the most. These countries are looking for us, but for some reasons, Nigerians always get denied visas a lot. If you go to the embassy, you find out that out of 100 applications, only 10 visas are granted. But there people are qualified; they deserve to get the visa.
What would you attribute the visa denial to?
Well, I think, firstly it is wrong orientation, Nigerian don’t take their time in anything they are doing. Before, I got into the travel industry, I took my time to study the trend, I didn’t just get into it for money. I got into the travel business to solve a problem. That is how to you succeed in business, solve a problem and from solving a problem, you get paid. That is how I got into the travel business and that is what has kept us here through the years. First of all, we don’t promise what we not sure of. At Zidora travel and tours, we don’t promise what we are not sure of. Fidelity is our word, our word is our bond. We don’t negotiate it. When we tell you something that is how it stands. We are the only travel agency that has the kind of success rate that we have.
On a percentage scale, how would you rate the level of success you have had as regards visa procurement for your clients through the years?
On a percentage scale, the level of success we have enjoyed is basically second to none. We have a very high success rate. We don’t do visa racketeering. All our services are 100% legit. We are the only travel agency that kind of success we have, if you visit our website, you will see a lot of testimonials from our clients. We even state it categorically for all our clients, I tell them complicity, that I don’t have the power to give you visa. I don’t sell visa, what I help you do is to ensure that your application is well and properly done. I ensure your documents are in order. I look into your application and ensure everything is in order. I tell you what to include in your application and what not to include. Basically, I assist in ensuring your application is in order. You asked one of the reasons Nigerians face a lot of denials at the embassy? First thing like I said; wrong orientation. Nigerians have this trend of spreading false news, once somebody hears something, they start spreading it around without verifying the authenticity of what they are saying. So when someone has heard that they don’t give somebody that is single visa, everybody just starts spreading the news. You see someone that is single, when they get to the embassy and are asked if he or she is single, they say they are married, and they asked him one or two questions ,and then they has issues. I always tell my clients, always tell the truth, the people at the embassy don’t like lies. Always say the truth and the truth will set you free. That is why a lot of Nigerians get denied at the embassy. It is because of the wrong information, wrong orientation as well as miss information. This is where Zidora Consults comes in. Zidora travel and tours will tell you the whole truth. Some people come to us that they want to apply for a particular country, and l openly tell them, this country will not accept you, your acceptance rate is very very low, I even tell them their chances of getting the visa. If you decide to go ahead, no problem, but I will tell you the truth, that you don’t stand a chance in that particular country.
Where do you aspire to take Zidora Travel and tours to in the next 5 years?
Well, I intend to take Zidora travel and tours as well as Zidora group of companies, like I said excellence is our goal in everything we are doing. We want to be the number player in the market; we want to be a known name for fidelity, delivering on our promise and for excellence. That is what I want and that is what I am working towards.
The travel and tours business is Nigeria is very competitive with a lot of other big players as well. How have you been able to stay on top of the competition?
Zidora travel and tours has managed to carve out a solid niche for itself in the highly competitive industry. First of all, we are the only brand that gives money-back guarantee. I tell my clients your money is safe. Whatever money you pay for whatever services, if you are not satisfied with our service, you get your money back at the end of the day. No other travel company does that. They just do their work and show you what they have done, whether it works for you or not, you don’t get your money back, but at Zidora, we offer you a money-back guarantee. Also, like i said earlier, our success rate is second to none. Visit our website and read the testimonials of clients we have helped. We have helped a lot of families travel abroad to countries like USA, Canada, and Australia and so on. We have helped individuals to travel Europe, Canada, Australia and even the Caribbean. People that never thought they stood a chance of traveling abroad, through our company, we offer them various vacation plans. We have affordable vacation plans to various countries. We also assist them in getting their study and work visas, tourist visas to countries like: USA, Canada, Australia, Europe and the rest.
Do you have other travel and tours affiliates you work with abroad or you do all you processing from Nigeria?
We do our processing from Nigeria. We also partner with travel companies abroad; like I told you we organize holiday tours and excursions. So off course, we have partner institutions abroad in different countries like Australia, UK, USA, and Canada and so on. We are also in partnership with a lot of foreign schools in the Caribbean, UK, USA, Australia and Canada. We have a very strong study abroad department, so we assist students that want to study abroad. What we do is that we recruit students from Nigeria that want to study abroad and place them in reputable institutions abroad.
Let’s digress a little, talk to us about Zidora Aid Foundation.
Zidora Aid Foundation is a non- governmental, not for profit organization. It is an NGO, a charity organization that basically works towards making people feel better by living better. Our goal is to improve the quality of life of Nigerians as much as we can. We touch lives every day, once in a week, usually every Thursday we go out. if you come to the office you see our staff dressed in theirZidora Aid Foundation T-shirt, we go out for charity work. So every week, we have a new programme, a new initiative we work towards. We have a lot of projects we are currently embarking on. We have the project 2020 Educational Projects which is a project design to do our bit in eradicating eradicate illiteracy from children between age 2 to 18yrs by the year 2020; we are working towards that. We are involved in the distribution of relief materials, study material and food items. We also provide medical and legal aid. We also assist people in dire need, regardless of their social-economic status, age, gender, religion and, social orientation. Once you come to us for assistance, we try to assist in whatever way we can. We have staff strength at Zidora Aid Foundation; we also have volunteers. We have medical doctors that we work with that provide medical aid, we have lawyers that we work with that provide legal aid to people that have been wrongly accused and who can’t afford legal representation in the court. We assist them with all that and that is what Zidora Aid Foundation does.
What year was Zidora Aid Foundation incorporated?
Zidora Aid Foundation was officially incorporated last year, although on our own, we have always done charity work. We usually set aside a particular percentage of the profit of Zidora grouptowards charity work, because I believe that the fastest way to God’s is through charity, by helping someone who cannot help himself. So we have always done charity, but Zidora Aid Foundation was officially incorporated last year.
A lot of people go into the NGO just to make money for personal use. We have heard cases of NGOs getting aids from foreign donors that were not used for charity. If I may ask, how is Zidora Aid Foundation funded?
Well, I can’t speak for others organizations, but I can speak for Zidora Aid Foundation. Our record speaks for itself. No single dime have we ever gotten from any foreign donor, all our charity work is funded strictly from proceeds from Zidora group of companies.
Are there challenges you have faced in the course of running an NGO?
Yes Of course, everything in life, you encounter challenges. Nothing good comes easy. You definitely encounter challenges in running an NGO, not only NGOs, just the same way you encounter challenges in business and your personal life ,finances, there are always challenges. But you work towards overcoming every challenge that is what makes you stronger.
As a person, what is that the thing that gives you fulfillment?
Personally I love putting smiles on the faces of people, whether they are my clients from Zidora group of companies or people I don’t even know via Zidora Aid Foundation. I feel good whenever i touch a life. Whenever I help someone no matter how little, I feel good. Not only financially, you can help someone morally and even in their personal lives. Whenever I help someone and they get a little bit of relief, I feel good. Also, one of the reasons we do charity work at Zidora Aid Foundation and carry our staff along for charity work is that we are working towards making the world a better place. We believe that by helping someone who cannot help himself, someone in need; when you help him and he is back on his feet, he will then go on and help another person in need and thereby creating a ripples effect. I alone can’t change the world, but by helping someone that goes on and help another person, you create a ripple effect and the world basically becomes a better place. That is what we believe and that is what we are working towards at Zidora Aid Foundation.
As a mother and a busy Executive, how balance family and work?
Well, that is a very interesting question. The work-life balance is not an easy life, but with the grace of God we have been made capable to handle whatever comes our way. It is all about delegation, planning your time very well, using your time effectively. Sometimes you put work before family and at other times you put family before work, all we ask God for is the wisdom to know what to put as a priority and at what time.
How do you unwind?
I relax mostly on the weekends, I like taking my kids out a lot. Most time I go with my staff, we go to the beach, we go out to take a drink, eat, just sit down have fun and we are back home.
Walking in to you office, you could feel love and the environment is very friendly, staff doing things like a family? How were you able to build that spirit of togetherness in your organization?
I have always operated my business, not just as a business. I take my staff like my family members. Number one, that is the only way to get the best out of them, because when people work for you, sometimes they don’t take it as their business, they just come to work and sign out at the end of the day and go home. But in order to bring the best out of your staff, you make them part of the business. Over here at Zidora, yes, you have a salary, but aside your monthly salary, I also encourage you with commission. I have a rating system, if you do very well this month your commission will be very much, if you don’t do so well, it is basically a reward system. I have a reward system in place for my staff. I also reward good behaviour. That is one way of encouraging them. I am also interested in human capital development, I don’t just encourage my staff to come to work, I encourage entrepreneurship spirit in them. I encourage my staff to run small businesses on their own. I encourage them to write business proposals, business plan and bring to me. I look at it, the one that is viable, I assist them with finding or show them how they can raise funds. I am interested in my staff not only working for me, but also doing something for themselves at their own spare time.
Are there some other things you would like our readers to know?
Not really, I think I have said it all, but the most important thing I would like the readers to know is that whatever you do in life, make sure excellence is your watchword. Mediocrity will not take you far. Don’t just be averages. Whatever your hands finds to do, ensure you excel and that you be the best. It is not everybody that will be an entrepreneur, a lawyer. If you a singer be the best singer in the world, if you are a dancer, be the best dancer in the world. Whatever you are doing, make sure you excel and be at the top of your game.