Ladi Delano is an accomplished British-Nigerian young entrepreneur in emerging markets, generally south-east Asia and China. He has been involved in a variety of sectors and also natural resources M&A and structured finance. He made his first million dollars selling alcoholic beverages during his residence in China. At the age of 22 in the year 2004, he started a business called Solidarnosc Asia which specialized in manufacturing a premium brand of Vodka called Solid XS. Delano did not stop there, however. He branched out his company to launch The Collection; a dining and entertainment venue which is obviously a smart move for someone who owns an alcohol business.
Delano subsequently sold the company to a rival liquor company for over $15 million and ploughed his funds into his next venture-The Delano Reid Group, areal estate investment holding company focused on mainland China. Today, Delano is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bakrie Delano Africa (BDA) – a $1 billion joint venture with the $15 billion (market cap) Bakrie Group of Indonesia. Bakrie Delano Africa serves as the investment partner of the Bakrie Group in Nigeria. The Indonesian conglomerate has provided over $900 million worth of funds to invest in Nigeria and Bakrie Delano Africa is responsible for identifying investment opportunities in mining, agriculture and oil & gas and executing them.
‘The path may have been well lit, but hardship lurked around the corner. In his student days, Delano found he suffered from mild dyslexia and deafness in one ear. Learning became more and more difficult and the idea of school waned. Despite this, with the help of extra lessons, Delano made it to a top university on a day he describes as glorious. The novelty soon wore off and academia became Delano’s nemesis. In his second year of a political science degree, he made up his mind. “It became quite clear that I didn’t have a passion for my course. I think that lead to me being easily distracted and that, ultimately, culminated in me thinking that rather than flogging a dead horse, it would make more sense to do something I was more comfortable with. There are two types of education and each form of education is equally as valuable. The academic approach to education is vital; no business can operate and be successful without those who have spent the time to understand the academic side of anything. However, that approach to education is not necessarily for everybody. And in my case it wasn’t. So, I decided to withdraw from university,” he says. Delano’s decision didn’t go down well at home, but there was no stopping him. At least university had planted the idea of becoming an entrepreneur.’ He says.
In April 2012, Delano moved back to Nigeria; a country with 60% of the population under the age of 35 and a youth unemployment rate sitting at 43%.
Delano moved back to Nigeria with one of Indonesia’s biggest conglomerates, Bakrie Group to form Bakrie Delano Africa (BDA) with the intention of investing $1 billion in Nigeria over the next five years. Also to provide jobs and help Nigerian youth develop themselves.
From London, to Chicago, to China and West Africa; through vodka, mining and hotels; it has been a roller coaster ride for Ladi Delano in his first 31 years and you get the feeling he has only just got started.