How Globacom Started: From a Taxi Driver to Nigerian 3rd Richest Man

How Globacom Started

How Globacom Started – the harder you work the luckier you become.

Globacom Limited (GLO) is a privately owned Nigerian multinational telecommunications company headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria. It is owned by the Mike Adenuga Group which also consists of the then Equatorial Trust Bank (ETB) now Sterling Bank, Conoil PLC, Petroleum Marketing Company, and Conoil Producing, a crude exploration company. GLO started operations on 29 August, 2003. It currently operates in about 6 countries in West Africa. Those countries are Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Ghana, Gambia, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. It currently employs about four thousand staff members, but very few know that the man behind it started his career as a cab driver. Today I will share with you not just how Globacom started but the early life of the founder Mike Adenuga.

How Globacom Started – Early Life of Mike Adenuga

Mike Adenuga was born on April 29, 1953 in Ibadan, Oyo State Nigeria. But he hails from Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State. His father, Chief Mike Adenuga Senior was a school teacher and the mother, Chief Mrs. Onyindamola Adenuga was a successful businesswoman in Ibadan. Mike grew up under the great influence of his mother who was a successful business woman. In fact, some observers have traced his business acumen to his late mother.

He attended Ibadan Grammar School before proceeding to Northwestern University, Alva, Oklahoma where he obtained a degree in business administration. After that he went on to obtain an MBA, majoring in marketing from Peace University, New York.

While schooling in the US, Mike did not have unlimited resources at his disposal. So what did he do? He decided to seek part-time work to do. And he got jobs as a cab driver and security guard to pay his tuition fees. But rather than complain about that or see it as a bad omen, he only took it as the foundation for a life of hard work he will have to live to be successful in life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Chief Mike Adenuga Junior is the founder of Globacom

Chief Mike Adenuga is the Chairman/CEO of Globacom

As at 2020 Globacom has 54 million subscribers in Nigeria alone

Globacom was founded on August 29, 2003 by Chief Mike Adenuga after having his license cancelled twice


Mrs Bella Disu, the former Executive Director at Globacom Limited in 2019 took over as the Executive Vice Chairman

Bella Disu is the daughter of Chief Mike Adenuga and executive vice chairman of Globacom Limited.


Globacom is a fully owned Nigerian brand founded by Chief Mike Adenuga in 2003. It is the second largest carrier in Nigeria after MTN.

Other Businesses Before Globacom Started

When Mike Adenuga returned from United States, many would have thought that with a certificate from America, which most employers would want to honour above those from Nigerian Universities that he will easily go for a paid job. At least with such certificate he should get a well paying job and enjoy “job security”. But Mike had a different plan. He rather chose to take over the running of his father’s sawmill business. He believed in the tremendous possibilities of his dreams and he rigorously pursued them.

Mike later ventured into commodity trading in 1970. At 22, he saw business potential in commodities, general merchandise, construction, importation of mainly sawmill equipment, tomato paste, wines, beer and textile materials and some other businesses he could lay his hand upon. He particularly observed that the issue of stolen car stereos was becoming a chronic problem in Nigeria. So once again he saw it as an opportunity. And what did he do? He started importing car stereos and lace from the United States of America and Austria respectively.

Fast forward to four years later, Adenuga became a millionaire at 26 and, with tentacles in high places. It was not long after that and Mike had grown his business to a point that he can so easily invest in any sector he considers profitable.

From Commodities to Banking

After the liberalization of the banking sector in the late 1980s by the Nigerian government, Mike Adenuga obtained a banking license and incorporated his bank, Devcom Merchant Bank in June 9, 1989. The bank commenced operation that same year. He later obtained another banking license and incorporated Equatorial Trust Bank. Both banks were doing pretty well and became home for any investor in Nigeria then. However, some years later, when banks were forced to recapitalize, Adenuga merged his two banks into a mega bank with the name Equatorial Trust Bank having raised his ₦25billion capitalization pronto.

An Errand Boy for the Men

Mike was humble to the core. His humility gave him access to men that matters in the society. And it was that network that he leveraged on in addition to his entrepreneurial ability to build his business empire. He also understood that to be a global brand leader, you would have to start very small. To achieve his future goal, he would act as a private middleman who got termly oil contracts. He built military barracks, and supplied the armed forces and the police with weapons. He was doing all these while also working as a distributor for Coca Cola, Nigerian Breweries, Cadbury, Guinness and Continental Breweries. Mike was also a dealer for Peugeot Automobile of France.

From an Errand Boy to Big Time Player in the Oil Sector

From there he went ahead to also acquire some oil blocks in the late 1980s, which gave birth to Consolidated Oil (Conoil). Back in those days, indigenous firms shy away from the risk of oil exploration. So they sell their oil licenses to expatriates. Even his mother, Chief Mrs Oyindamola Adenuga had queried the sense in throwing money into a ‘bottomless pit’ by investing in oil exploitation under the name of Consolidated Oil.

Not many gave him a chance of success but the extremely daring man felt no venture, no conquest. He has always been a risk taker. And so he went against the norm by choosing to drill for oil instead of selling out the license. Not minding the risk involved, Mike followed his instincts and explored for oil.  He successfully stuck oil in 1991 and became a major player in the oil and gas sector. With his unique flair and absolute tenacity of purpose, the multi-millionaire soon became a multi-billionaire in any currency.

Mike’s distinct ability to identify and utilize opportunities has always been legendary. In one of his rarest interviews with Newswatch, he narrated how this ability has helped shape his business acumen. “I went on a trip to New York and when I was coming back, I missed my flight. That should have been British Airways. But now I had to fly Swiss Air and I sat next to the owner of one of the biggest lace manufacturing factories in Austria. So, we were talking and he got me interested in importing laces, and all sorts of things. That was how I ventured into commodities.”

How Globacom Started – Revolutionizing the telecom sector

In 2003 Adenuga bought a telecommunications license under the name Globacom and in August 2003, Glo Mobile was launched in Nigeria. Although Glo Mobile was the fourth GSM operator to launch in Nigeria, within seven years of the company’s operation, its subscriber base grew to over 25 million. In fact, in its first year of operation, Glo Mobile became the fastest growing GSM network in Africa; with one million subscribers in over 87 towns in Nigeria within nine months and in excess of 120 billion Naira in revenue.

How Globacom Started - a Glo outlet
How Globacom Started – a Glo outlet

Introduction of Per Second Billing

Globacom’s unique selling point was the introduction of per second billing. It became the first to do that when other telecom operators claimed it is not something they are considering in the near future. For this reason and also for the historic crashing of the price of SIM cards to as low as ₦100 Nigerians credits the telecom revolution in Nigeria. The network also pioneered such revolutionary products as Blackberry, mobile internet and mobile banking services in Nigeria among others.

FYI: Before the arrival of Globacom, SIM cards sold for as high as ₦30,000. But Mike Adenuga through Globacom brought it down to as low as ₦100.

In June 2008, Glo Mobile was launched in the Republic of Benin. Glo Mobile showed unprecedented growth through the sale of 600,000 SIM cards in the first ten days of operation. In May 2008, GLO acquired an operating license through its Glo Mobile division in Ghana. And in April 30, 2012 GLO officially launched its operation in Ghana after series of postponements.

In telecoms, Globacom is adjudged one of the most innovative networks in Africa and has operations in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic, Senegal, The Gambia and Cote d’Ivoire. The philanthropist made history in 2010 when his telecom company inaugurated its international submarine cable. No one else could have pulled off this feat and a Youtube broadcast confirmed that much, “no one else has the submarine optic fibre cable from Africa to Europe and America connected to its own massive nationwide network.”

How Globacom Started – Dealing with challenges

But it has not all been smooth sailing for Adenuga. He has probably had more challenges than any other entrepreneur you can think of in Nigeria. Everything seemed to be going on well until late 1998. Adenuga had decided to expand his business empire by submitting his first application for a telecommunication license. After obtaining the license and entering into strategic partnership with Alcatel. Everything was put in place to get the business rolling. The launch date was set to September 1, 1999. But suddenly, the new government cancelled all GSM licenses issued out claiming due process was not followed. Instead of grumbling and lamenting over his predicament, Mike Adenuga went after another license.

How Globacom Started – Another License Cancelled

He won the bid to a GSM license with a massive sum of $285 million, which he raised from Bank Paribas of Paris. Mike Adenuga’s love for his business and his firm belief that business and politics do not mix incurred the wrath of the government. The result was the cancellation of this second GSM license. Along with the GSM license also went his $20million application fee. Wow! Would you imagine that? The road to greatness is not always as smooth as it seems.

Mike would later admit that the cancellation of his second GSM license was one of the most trying periods of his life. Down but not out, he kept hope alive and pressed on. He applied all legal strategy within his reach and after a long tussle; he regained his GSM license. With his GSM license back, he founded the second national telecom operator, Global Communication Limited. That was actually how Globacom eventually started.

His brother, Demola, would later testify to how Mike handled challenges after he won the bid to get his telecoms licence, “Mike never gave up hope. He kept hope alive; that is one thing about my brother. He is an eternal optimist. Something kept propelling him not to give up on the matter. He pursued it and he eventually got the licence.” Any young entrepreneur would learn the power of perseverance and patience from Dr. Adenuga. Without his perseverance, Nigeria today probably would not have witnessed what has been regarded as the country’s biggest corporate export with footprints in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic, Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire and The Gambia.

There Were Also Challenges with His Bank

Still not satisfied, the government unleashed the Anti-graft agencies on him. In fear for his life, he fled the country and returned when a new government took over. Early in 2009, during the banking reform in Nigeria, Mike Adenuga was stripped of his bank, Equatorial Trust Bank. But like a comeback kid, he regained control of his bank in the month of December 2009 after he was proven innocent of all the fraudulent and sharp practice charges leveled against him by the Central Bank. Despite all the trials and challenges he has passed through, Mike continues to soar higher like an eagle. Every challenge he faced and solved seemed to take him to a higher level in life and business.

Other Brand Stories from How They Started:

Glo African stars

No single individual has contributed more to the development of sports and of African sports men and women, than Adenuga has done through Globacom. He has been in the fore front of supporting not only the Nigerian league, the national team and the supporters club but other sports as well. March 17, 2005 at the historic Ritz Hotel, Paris, France, marked the dawn of a new era for Nigerian football. On that historic day, Mike Adenuga leading Globacom officials signed a contract with the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) vesting the title and marketing rights on the nation’s national carrier for the CAF awards. Glo presence in the annual CAF award has made the award more popular than ever, as it comes with lots of funfair and glamour.

Mike also believes in the law of reproduction or capacity building, saying of The Mike Adenuga Foundation that “our aim is to find the visionaries of tomorrow. We want to find and nurture young people with the ideas and the drive to make a difference in Africa, in a really hands-on way. This is the legacy I would like to leave behind. Therefore, a great deal of the energy of The Mike Adenuga Foundation will go to entrepreneurship. We will strive to provide a unique education that will develop the instinctive entrepreneurial talent of young Africans, in addition to supporting knowledge and skills acquisition in other disciplines that drive innovation.”

How Globacom Started – The Growth Curve

Even though sometime in 2014 Glo temporary relinquished its position as the second largest carrier in Nigeria, it however bounced back to that position with record breaking numbers in 2015. In 2015 Glo proved to be the preferred network for most Nigerians and the records are always there for all to see. From January to May, 2015 the subscriber data on Nigerian Telecommunications Commission (NCC), indicate that Glo amassed a total of 2,263,346 new activations in the five months under review to raise its customer base from 28,219,089 active lines in at the end of December 2014 to 30,482,435 subscribers at the end of May 2015.

In the same vein, The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had also in June 2015 credited Globacom with the growth recorded in the Nigerian telecommunications industry in the last twelve months. Quoting NCC’s 2015 first quarter report, NBS said Globacom recorded the highest number of subscribers from May, 2014 to April, 2015 with an average growth rate of 1.45% as compared to 0.95% of the industry.

Even in the area of internet users, Globacom has also proved its meteoric rise to fame. NCC report in June, 2015 shows that Glo recorded the highest number of internet users in Nigeria in April, 2015 with over one million new internet users in its network. The industry regulator said that Globacom had 19,690,526 subscribers surfing the net with its network in April, which is an increase from the 18,617,607 users recorded in March, 2015, the same period when some other networks were losing as much as 384,487 internet users.

These records all point to the fact that Nigerians have welcomes Globacom as the network of choice. And that the great revolution of Mike Adenuga in the telecommunications industry does not go without much embrace.

Where are They Today?

As at 2018 Glo Mobile’s subscriber base in Nigeria stood at over 45 million by December 2018. And by November, 2020, the subscription level has hit 54 million. Mike Adenuga is still very much in charge of the company as the Chairman and Chief Executive. And in 2019 Mrs Bella Disu, the former Executive Director at Globacom Limited has become the Executive Vice Chairman.

FYI: Bella Disu is a daughter of Mike Adenuga, the billionaire founder of Globacom.

Advice to would-be entrepreneurs From How Globacom Started

“I am a firm believer in the saying “the harder you work, the luckier you become”, so for any young person that is looking for luck or success in business he must be ready to work very hard, and he will automatically give himself more chances for success” concludes Adenuga.

Before the arrival of Globacom at some point SIM cards were sold for as high as ₦30,000. But today virtually all GSM operators are giving out their SIM cards free of charge; thanks to the revolution brought by Globacom.

I trust you have learnt a thing or two from the story of How Globacom Started. Don’t let challenges stop you. And don’t allow your beginning to define you. If you keep on, you will achieve your goals.

The story of how Globacom Started was first featured in HOW THEY STARTED by Kachi Ogbonna. Always visit our how they started section for how more Nigerian brands started. And you can contact Kachi here.

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