By: Toluwalope Ayeye
The UI SU Week ran from Tuesday the 21st to Saturday the 25th of this month. For virtually all students at the University of Ibadan, it was the first Students’ Union week they would be experiencing. If anything, what this meant was that there was no scale on which to compare this session’s SU Week to another, to gauge just how successful it was.
Did the week run as expected? Were there any improvements on the SU Week of past sessions? It is difficult to tell. However, as UItes reminisce in the aftermath of last week’s bubbles, it is important to gauge and rate one of the most important aspects of the recently concluded SU Week – the UI Market. A feature of this UI SU Week, the UI Market (Trade Fair) was a 3-day event that started on Wednesday 22nd of September and ended on Friday 24th of September. It was an attempt by the Students’ Union to be of help to student business owners and student buyers alike.
For the studentpreneurs, they were to be met with the opportunity of making sales and promoting their brand names, while the buyers would be met with the opportunity of getting what they wanted at an affordable price
The UI Market had business owners and buyers from different faculties present and ready to trade. The market ran successfully for three days. Or did it? Did the Students’ Union executive council achieve the aims of having a 3-day trade fair? Were they able to satisfy both the sellers and the buyers? The best way to find out is to take a visit to the market and speak with participants. It seems quite late for that right now? Well, the visits have been made; journey with us:
THE UI MARKET: THROUGH THEY EYES OF SELLERS
Earlier this month, there was a call for business owners – students, non-students and corporate bodies – to take part in the UI Market for a token. UI’s studentpreneurs were to pay a token of N5, 000, non-student business owners were to pay N10, 000, while corporate bodies were to render the price of N20, 000. Suffice to say that these were fairly good rates for a 3-day event. There was a great turn-up of business owners with more than 35 sellers; 6 sellers each under a canopy. The SUB Car Park was packed with sellers and their merchandise.
Even though it is considered good that the responses from business owners were on the positive side, we cannot brush away the problem of over-crowding, or as Kamier had put it, congestion. Kamier, a business owner present at the market, was glad that the UI SU organized the trade fair, as it helped her promote her brand. However, she had reservations on how many business owners were allowed under a canopy, “because of overcrowding and corona,” the studentpreneur said.
While Kamier was worried about her health, Adebonike Oguntoye, the owner of Boni’s Beauty Hub, was more concerned about the fact that many sellers under a canopy meant that some business owners were at the back, and so didn’t get as much attention as those at the front row of the canopies.
Although there had been e-flyers and announcements of the trade fair, it seemed fewer buyers got the memo, as compared to sellers and business owners. At a first visit to the SUB Car Park, one would think that the whole school was aware of the trade fair, but as it turned out, even sights can be deceiving. Someone like Comfort was not aware of the trade fair, she only “saw what was happening”.
Even when sellers acknowledged that there was a high turn-up of buyers, they also stated that not many of them had come prepared to buy. In the case of Adebonike, she relayed that most of the people who had patronised her were actually unaware of what was going on, as there were repeated questions of “what is going on here?” thrown her way. It was why she was happy that the fair was held at the SUB car park, what she regarded as being the centre of the school.
THE UI MARKET: CONSIDERING THINGS FROM THE BUYERS’ PERSPECTIVES
“My friend said I should help her ask for the price of hoodies and when they said the price, me I was even scared for her,” Temi said. “The person said N10, 000. I even tried to price it, but she brought another one and said it was N9, 000. I don’t know why they will sell a N10, 000 hoodie at a students’ trade fair. Let me not talk sha; some students can buy it.”
What exactly is a trade fair without buyers? Even with some unaware of the Trade Fair, they turned up at the SUB Car Park to see what exactly was happening. They either came to get something specific, or they came around to scout. For most, what attracted them was the simple mention of cheaper prices, but while everyone had heard ‘cheaper prices’, not everyone got offered goods at cheaper prices.
Of course, there were products that were sold at affordable rates, but when compared to the prices of the same products outside the trade fair, it didn’t seem as cheap as one would think. And then, there were products that had students shaking their head with an awkward smile, while taking two steps back.
While Adufe thought that the trade fair was a job well done, she still believed that something could have been done about the inflated prices. She acknowledged that while she bought some things, there were other places that she could have gotten what she had purchased at even cheaper prices. “I bought a pair of boyfriend jeans and when I showed my friend, she said she could have bought something like that elsewhere at a price 40% lower,” Adufe said.
When asked what they thought could be done to make the next trade fair better, both buyers and sellers alike gave their opinions. Adufe thought that there was going to be a need to put in place people to monitor the sellers so they didn’t inflate the prices. Shalom, a business owner, thought it wise that the Students’ Union found better ways to create awareness among the students next time, to inform the students of the trade fair. Another business owner proposed the reduction in number of the amount of ‘tables’ under a canopy.
One of the strongest things that define us humans is our continual strife towards perfection. And at the heart of such a strife are roadblocks, and also guides who point us to better parts. The Students’ Union made a good decision in organising a trade fair. However, a visit to the Market showed that the Union did not fully achieve its aims, due to factors that participants during the trade fair – the buyers and sellers – noted.
Cogent suggestions have been given, and we can only hope that the Union acts on them during the next trade fair. One thing that the Union should look beyond the next time is social media broadcasts. Truly, the world has gone digital, however, social media platforms – especially WhatsApp – do not effectively deliver justice to information dissemination. The Union should have collaborated with Public Relations Officers in halls of residence, faculties, and departments to make broadcasts over P.A. Systems. A trade-fair-focused hall-to-hall visit would have done well in contributing to heightened awareness among the student populace.
One does not do enough at a point in time, to do better next time. The UI Market has come and gone, and amidst the expected celebration of a successful trade fair, it is important for the leaders-to-be to heed the voice of the people and do better next time.