Govt Should Involve Stakeholders In IT Policy Formulation –Ezeigbo | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

CEO Interview

Govt Should Involve Stakeholders In IT Policy Formulation –Ezeigbo

Nnamdi Ezeigbo
Posted: Aug 11, 2016 at 9:50 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Nnamdi Ezeigbo is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Slot, one of the largest phone distribution companies in the country. In this encounter with Ikechi Nzeako, he talks about the brand Slot, IT policies in Nigeria, entrepreneurship and other issues.



Where did the vision to set up the company come from?

Well, there was no vision to set up the company; there was no business plan. It was something done out of necessity. I just needed to do something because I could not get a job.

I spent two years after graduating from school searching for job; of course it is the normal thing in Nigeria. I came from a family of eleven, nine children, and so it was very necessary for me to get a good job because I had to take care of my family. So after two years and I could not get the kind of job I wanted, I had no choice than to learn a trade.

So, you can imagine someone, after acquiring a degree, which is not common in Nigeria, to go and work as an apprentice to a friend in order to get a good technical knowledge in order to become a good computer engineer.

My background in computer engineering helped me a lot as I learnt the trade and became a good computer engineer and started fixing computers for people and making small money in the process; that was how the Slot brand started.

How has it been all this while?

Well, it was not been easy at the beginning; the most important thing was the fact that I was good on my job at fixing computers for people. I was doing the right thing and I was very affordable and I had integrity and people were able to trust me. And that endeared me to the heart of many people and that helped me to start the Slot brand and grow it. It was more like having the right competence and providing value at an affordable price.

I displayed integrity; these were the things that helped me to grow the Slot brand. Through that, I was able to move from one level to the other, just like somebody climbing the ladder. Through this, I have come to see business as a marathon than a sprint.

You have to be patient; you have to have a vision and you have to be dedicated in what you do. You have to do the right thing and people will come to know you because you rendered the right service to them and they will refer other people to you.

How long have you been in this Slot business?

Slot is seventeen years old and still counting. You can imagine growing a business in Nigeria against all odds. We are blessed to have the right people and we believe in training and having the right people to provide the right services to the people and building the right (business) empire.

We also know what our customers want and provide that service. Our products are affordable and adaptable and we have been able to provide the kind of services Nigerians require and making them to trust you is the key success factor.

Having been in this environment for such a long time, how will you assess it?

The Nigerian business environment is very tough and it requires courageous people to play in that tough environment. If you find any successful business in Nigeria, you should know that someone with courage is behind that business.

The Nigerian business environment is tough and only courageous people who are optimistic and have the persistent spirit and staying power can succeed in Nigerian business environment. Once you have a business and you are optimistic, you must also believe in Nigeria because Nigeria is a land of opportunities even though the system is unstructured and volatile; we can still find opportunities here and there.

The environment is unlike what you find in developed countries where most issues have been resolve and fixed. However, there are successes to be achieved in that volatile environment.

How will you compare Nigerian business environment to those abroad?

Well, it is quite tougher and quite unstructured here. The bureaucracy in Nigeria is killing and efficiency is not seen as something quite vital.

People do not really care about getting the right knowledge. People do not care about getting the right people to work for them, even in the ministry; people do not care about efficiency. People do not care about employing the right persons. They tend to hire people because they are their relations. Based on these factors, the system is slow.

The system may not also be friendly in terms of growth compared to what is obtained in advanced countries.

However, there are a lot of opportunities within this system that can always encourage people to improve on and take advantage of the environment. If the system is perfect, there will be no opportunities. Nigeria is an emerging economy because the system is unstructured. The system requires the people who can make it right.

The bureaucracy is not efficient and requires that the right people come in and fix it and that is what Information Technology can do for us. The Nigerian system is tough, very unpredictable and unstructured. However, there are a lot of opportunities you can leverage in the system.

There has been volatility in the foreign exchange for some time now. How has it affected your business and business generally?

It has a very negative impact on our business and other businesses, which use the dollar or buys their products from foreign market. But what we do in order to hedge against that is to apply the just “in time approach”. “Just in time” means to buy and stock and sell products within a short period of time. We believe it is a temporary measure and it is a short-term approach to fighting the fluctuation.

However, it has a negative impact on the economy and business because the purchasing power of the people is also very important; if the do not have money, their purchasing power will drop.

Instead of buying two phones, a person may decide to buy one because of low purchasing power. We believe dollar volatility is impacting severely in the economy. It is affecting the nation as a whole and the businesses as well.

How will you assess government policy on Information Technology in the country?

I think that government has started to see technology as the way to go and I pray that it will soon become a culture.Information Technology should be seen as a way of life.

The whole policy about the broadband, the whole policy about the Internet is welcoming and the whole policy about the local content is welcoming and I see the government moving in the right direction even though it has been slow. Who could have imagined a life in Nigeria without the automated teller machine (ATM); who could have seen life in Nigeria without money mobile transfer? Now people use their ATM cards to shop through point of service (POS) and transfer money using various apps. Information and Communication Technology is going to become a culture in Nigeria; it is a gradual process.

What specific things do you think government should do to make the environment better?

Government should involve the stakeholders in driving policies; government does not see that as something that is very important. T

here is the component that stakeholders can always bring to the table. They are the ones that will interface with the people; they are the ones that will deal directly with the people. You do not just bring in somebody who does not have the requisite experience and skill to head an agency or parastatal. They should get experts and technocrats involved; they should get stakeholders involved. When this set of people comes to share their ideas, it will be something that will impact on the nation positively. Policies sometimes can be wonderful, but if they are not properly driven by the right people and agents, they may not have the desired impact.

What advice do you have for some businessmen who import inferior phones into the country? What is your comment on that?

That is left for the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and other regulatory bodies to handle. I that believe in all businesses, there will always be people who cut corners to make money. That is left for NCC, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), and Consumer Protection Council (CPC) to handle. These agencies are doing a lot in that area.

The advice goes to the buyers; apart from the fact that they are buying cheaper phones, they may actually be buying devices that will constitute health hazard to them.

What is your assessment of infrastructure in the country?

That is what makes Nigeria a Third World country; lack of infrastructure could hinder businesses, logistics and supply chain. You tend to spend much money to do things others could have done with ease.

So, infrastructure decay is a big challenge apart from wrong approaches in the education sector. Infrastructure for me is huge; looking at the power supply, roads and broadband etc, it is so terrible.

I believe government should borrow money to meet the infrastructure needs of the people. You cannot expect a manufacturing firm to survive in the midst of infrastructure inadequacy. It kills businesses. It has a ripple effect on the economy.

How do you get the right people to drive your business?

The problem of businesses in Nigeria today is the lack of qualified middle managers.

This is because of the poor educational system. When these people get out of school, they do not have the right training. They are not employable. It behooves on every organisation to have a training system in order to train people on the required skills they want from them.

Organisations should do more to help people become employable. That is basically what we do; we hire young people, train them and make them imbibe our culture and that help them to imbibe the organisational culture. I believe that is what other organisations do.

What do you want to achieve through the training of other people through the Slot Foundation?

I believe in every country, organisations must have a corporate social responsibility. You are in an environment doing business; you should give back to that society.

We believe that the youths are the most important group in terms of demography. They constitute 60 per cent of our population and in terms of our customer base; they constitute 65 per cent as well. So we needed to do something for the youths.

Some years ago, I had conversations with some group of youths and I asked them to mention the names of people who inspired them. I was embarrassed when they started giving me the names of musicians, actors, etc. They seem not to know about entrepreneurship and that was what gave birth to that foundation, the Slot Academy.

Slot Academy is an arm of Slot Foundation. It helps people to acquire vocational skills that will help them to become employable and to be on their own. It will make people feel that we are one Nigeria and that we have to do something for the country.

It is a social enterprise that helps people to find jobs and be on their own. Today we have up to 400 people who have gone through that programme. They are working as engineers either in Slot or in other companies. And some of them are already doing business on their own. We feel we are contributing our own quota to the country and we are urging every Nigerian to do so.

In the next five years, where do you expect Slot to be?

We believe that with time we are going to create more jobs; we believe that with time, we are going to employ more people, especially those who have gone through our academy.

We hope to go to other African countries; it is not only a Nigerian dream. It is an African dream, trying to provide our services to other African countries and touch the lives of people on the continent. We plan to use Nigerian people to create a strong brand around the continent.