How IT Can Improve Performance of Small Businesses-Johnson | Independent Newspapers Limited
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How IT Can Improve Performance of Small Businesses-Johnson

Posted: Oct 13, 2016 at 7:11 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Yetunde Johnson is the chief executive of Slingshot Technologies, an online company that enables small and medium enterprises improve their performance and bottomline. She spoke to Ikechi Nzeako on her company’s activities and how to deepen use of IT among Nigerian companies.Excerpt.


What does your company do?

We help small companies extend their reach, extend their visibility and improve their bottomline with the use of technology. We try to make them more profitable with the use of technology. We help them choose the right technology and we teach them to use technology more effectively.

How long have you been doing the business?

As a business we have been running for two years. However, as a person, I have been in IT for 10 to 15 years.

What success have you recorded in helping businesses grow?

From the feedback we have been getting from the businesses we have worked with and the repeat businesses, the response has been positive.

You said you train young people in the IT business, tell us about that?

We train young people so that they can fill the IT vacancies in the local market and also work for me. For me, when you train a young, even though it is an investment in time and effort, the product is very good. Once they are trained, they are very industrious and they produce very good results. When I send him or her out, they have good report and there is no young person that I trained that has not done more.

When you started the business, what did you have in mind?

My vision was that Slingshot Technology would a Nigerian company that provides quality services in the area of IT. I wanted a situation in which IT companies in Nigeria and West Africa would not lack the IT support they need to increase their bottomline. I also wanted Slingshot Technology to be the company where IT companies would come and get IT support. I did not want Nigerian companies to go to other countries when they want hire people with IT skills. We have the people; why not train them instead of going to South Africa and other countries to import IT specialists. Nigeria as big as we are, why can’t we provide the required IT manpower for own locality, West Africa and the rest of Africa? That was the vision that gave birth to Slingshot Technology.

What is your assessment of the online business in the country?

The online business in the country is picking up and thriving and the market is evolving quickly. A lot of the young people are going into the market very quickly; a lot of the business people are tapping into it very quickly. However, there is the need for us to incorporate the market women and men into the online market. There need to involve more of the small businesses so that they do not lose in the benefits that accrue from the use of ecommerce. Online business is growing and is going to continue to grow in the country. But the concern is how much of our people are we carrying along? You have markets where many people do not know that they could do to extend their reach by putting themselves online even if all they do is having a notification that says “I sell this or that, my address is this, this my telephone number, please send me an sms.”

How can more people be brought into the online market?

There has to be more outreach. For instance, my firm has a product called “Ipolowo” and it specifically designed to target market women and small businesses that do not necessarily think about putting anything online. I involved young people, who speak Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa to go and speak to the market women and men on the need to put their businesses online. We employed young people to speak to the market women and men; we taught the young people to respect the traditions and culture of the people so that when they approach the market they get a positive response. We actually train the young people how to approach market women or owners of small and medium businesses.

The first time they went about talking to the market women, they did not get positive results because they thought they were talking to themselves. But the second time we sent them out, they had a better success rate and the good thing we found about the market women is that they are very astute. If using online platform is explained properly, if the benefits of online are properly explained to them and their businesses, and if they understand they quickly embrace it.

It is a matter of investing time and energy to build trust. When we want to put them online, we have to show them that we do not just put your information online. We need to build trust and understanding and also sustain it and this takes time. We also encourage them to go further.

Recently, the federal government said it was going to reduce taxes on small businesses. What is your comment on this?

I would welcome any reduction in taxes for small business owners in the country; small businesses pay a lot of taxes. Any type of tax on small business is a disincentive. If you really want to encourage people to come into the sector to use technology, there has to be some kind of incentive. If you reduce taxes on smes for people to use more technology in the country, then that is brilliant.

This will encourage more people to come into the sector. However, the reduction in taxes for smes should be specific because whichever way they reduce the taxes, they need to impact small technology companies. They should also impact smes that are using technology. It should not be on pieces of hardware because if that hardware is not used, it may not impact them.

How would you assess the Nigerian business environment generally?

I have the greatest admiration for every business that is surviving in contemporary country. Any businessman operating in the country deserves kudos because it is not an easy environment to work in.

The good thing is that if you survive in the Nigerian environment, you can survive and grow anywhere. There are many challenges in the country; if it is not infrastructure, it is the taxes. If it is not the taxes, then it is lack of skilled labour. Competition is not a challenge because business is about competition; the economy is in a bad shape and people are not spending and are very cautious and that does not help business.

The indicators from government do not make people to be adventurous. The banks are not helping the situation by demanding impossible condition for loans. If you are looking for funds, it is not going to come from the banks and the interest rate is very high and crippling. However people should not give up. There is a lot of support in terms of business-to-business because people are looking inwards.