While many traditional businesses feel threatened by the advent of AI, Gopse has managed to stay ahead of the curve by embracing innovation and adapting to changing trends. The company says it can save time, and money and increase its margins by implementing a robust digital strategy for the business. “I think that has been sort of my proudest moment being able to achieve more by making data-driven decisions,” said Oluwaseun Olorode, CEO of Gopse International.
Gospe International is a corporate gifting company, that has provided prominent organizations with quality executive business gifts and souvenirs that are both personalized and customized for over four decades. From promotional campaigns and seminars to annual dinners and celebration activities, Gopse tailors products to suit specific requirements. Since 1982 when the brand was incorporated, it has become a convenient one-stop solution for corporate organizations in Nigeria. What started as merely offering promotional gift items steadily evolved into printing services and personalized items that promote brands and assist in their marketing.
Gopse was founded by Goke Olagbaju, in 1982. At the time, Gopse was one of the two main corporate gift suppliers in the country. The industry has seen several new entrants in recent years, assuming it to be a straightforward way to generate quick income. However, the reality is that successful corporate gifting demands careful consideration, a systematic process, precision, and accuracy—from selecting the appropriate gift item to the final stages of execution and delivery. In 2014, Olagbaju’s daughter Oluwaseun Olorode took over the business as CEO. “I took over to do things a bit differently. I had new ideas and strategies that I wanted to implement,” she said. “My father still sits as the chairman of the business. He is still a big part of the business, offering sage advice now and then.”
Corporate gifting has played a crucial role in business culture for centuries, and in Nigeria, it carries a distinct significance. Gifts are seen as more than just material items; they are expressions of personal connections and relationships that hold significant value. Corporate gifts go beyond the tangible—they serve as expressions of appreciation, contributing to goodwill and reinforcing bonds between parties. This unique cultural context makes the corporate gifting market in Nigeria particularly robust. Despite its potential, many corporate gifting businesses in Nigeria operate seasonally. Olorode emphasizes the importance of staying current with technology while preserving the core values of the business.
While Olorode may not be a tech founder, her approach lies in leveraging technology as a powerful tool to innovate within the business landscape. “By integrating cutting-edge technology into our operations, we gain efficiency, enhance customer experiences, and stay ahead of industry trends,” she said. “My focus is on utilizing technology as an enabler, allowing us to achieve innovation and excellence in our business practices.” She began her career as a chemical engineer, but her passion for technology quickly led her to pursue other opportunities. She went on to work for several leading companies in the data science and technology space, including Virgin Atlantic and British Airways.
Olorode is a seasoned business development executive with over 15 years of experience, with most recently a specialization in cybersecurity. “As a revenue development executive at British Airways, every decision I made was data-driven. Data was used to drive pricing decisions, develop brand strategies, analyze market conditions, and build customer relations,” Olorode said. Gopse has developed a robust digital strategy for the business. The company uses technology to cleanse, process, and analyze data to understand the latest trends and what people are looking for in gift items. This information is then used to narrow down the selection of gift items that Gopse offers, making it easier for customers to choose the perfect gift. The company also uses AI to improve the customer experience. For example, Gopse uses AI to personalize recommendations and to create targeted marketing campaigns, especially in the area of Customer Segmentation. This helps to ensure that customers are seeing the gift items that are most likely to be of interest to them.
For customers, the gift selection process can be an overwhelming one. “Imagine having over 100 gift items to choose from. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. You don’t know where to start,” Olorode citied. Gopse has streamlined the process by identifying the latest trends and what people are looking for. This has allowed them to narrow down a selection of 100 to just 20-25 items, making it easier for customers to see and understand the options. “It also shows that we know what we’re doing and aren’t just throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks,” Olorode noted. Customers have responded very well to this approach. They appreciate being able to see a smaller selection of curated items, rather than being bombarded with choices.
Corporate gifting has traditionally been a high-touch industry, relying on personal relationships and face-to-face interactions to build trust and secure deals. In 2017, Olorode set up a retail arm of the business, called OliviaRodes, which operates as a walk-in retail store. “I was exposed to a lot of ideas and a lot of cutting-edge technology and gift items. I needed an avenue to introduce these new trends and get first-hand customer feedback,” said Olorode. She would attend different exhibitions all over the world, and bring various gift items back with her. She experienced first-hand the evolution of the corporate gift product offerings steadily moving from, for example, Bluetooth Speakers only, to Bluetooth Speakers with Lamps, to three-in-one devices that incorporate Bluetooth Speakers, Lamps, and Wine Coolers. Olorode uses a sales system that allows her to analyze data at the end of the month. She can see what items are popular, what new items caught people’s attention, and what
feedback she receives from customers. “Sometimes I also discuss with customers what options they would like to see in the future. I can predict the trend based on what people like and the feedback they give when they enter the shop. This helps me to know what is appealing to customers in different markets and know what to offer to my corporate clients,” she noted.
The company’s investment in technology also comes into play with effective risk assessment, a crucial part of the business. Risk management involves evaluating risks associated with gift selection, branding techniques, accuracy, budgeting, and meeting client expectations. These have to be managed effectively, especially when dealing with third-party vendors. “Most of our suppliers are based in the UK, Europe, and South
Africa. “Given the nature of our work with suppliers, cybersecurity takes center stage in managing third-party vendors,” she said. This is particularly important when it comes to branding gift items, as these companies provide Gopse with specific details, oftentimes including personalized information such as client names. “The emphasis on cybersecurity is essential for aligning our business with core principles, ensuring the protection of confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information. This extends to general data protection, including the training of staff in handling sensitive customer data. This is especially critical in scenarios where customer names are used for personalization,” said Olorode.
Like most businesses, one of the main challenges for Gopse is the supply chain, especially when it comes to importing goods into Nigeria. According to the World Bank, Nigeria ranked 171 out of 190 countries on the Logistics Performance Index, which measures the efficiency, quality, and cost of logistics services. The report also found that the average time to clear goods through Nigerian customs is 45 days, which is significantly longer than the global average of 10 days. Gopse often experiences delays, losses, and damages when clearing goods, which could potentially affect quality and delivery. To mitigate this risk, they order extra items to cover any shortfall or defect, based on years of experience and data analysis. “I hope that someday there will be a technological solution that will make this process seamless and digital, without any personal intervention or interference from customs and other authorities,’ said Olorode.
Another challenge is the lack of a level playing field in the market. “Sometimes, competitors who do not do their work, copy ideas, and present them to the same clients, or use their insider relationships to get awarded contracts. It is unfair and unethical. We invest a lot of time and resources to develop innovative solutions for clients, based on our data-driven business model,” said Olorode. “I wish that the market would reward reputation, quality, process, and innovation, rather than personal connections and relationships,” she added.
Gospe has increased its profitability since 2014, despite a downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company carries out business with corporate businesses across the world. Olorode hopes the business will remain in the family. Hopefully, her daughter who is an engineering scholar, takes an inkling of the business. “Evolving with technology is how we maintain the original legacy of the business. You always have to go with the current technology to maintain the value of the business,” she said.