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Can technology truly help traditional Nigerian Businesses experience astronomical growth?

Posted on: August 1st, 2016 by The Moderator 8 Comments

tech

Welcome to The Octagon

See the profile of our guests in this Octagon room conversation

The Octagon: Let’s begin with some introductions before going into the discussion. Can everyone let us know who they are and share a bit about what they do? Thank you.

Bade: Bade Adesemowo – Co-Founder, Social Lender; & Deputy Group Head, Bincom ICT.

Kazeem: Kazeem Bello-Osagie MD QUO Courier & Logistics

Daniel: Hello All,  I’m Daniel Oparison. Head, Growth Strategy & Brand Marketing @ Paga. Exec Creative Director @ Dmastermind Agency.

Udoka: Udoka Uzoka. Technologist. Run a software development company (Cubix Labs) and a few startups with focus on Education (BrightCube) and e-commerce (Heels.com.ng).

Mayor: Hello All. My name is Mayor. I like Game of Thrones and work in Brand Management/Marketing to be able to pay for this passion. (Hands of the King (And Queen) are very expensive!)

Dami: Hello, Akinwale Damilola. I used to work in Financial services, now I am on the proverbial Streets looking for a Unicorn.

Sam: Hi my Name is Sam Uduma, serial entrepreneur with a flair for innovative technology and Impact investing. Give me $ 1billion and you’ll get a dent in the African Eco space.. Give me $1m and I’ll get you a billion

Kola: Hello house. I’m Kola Aina. I provide leadership at Emerging Platforms Group – a suite of technology companies. We also recently lunched Ventures Platforms Hub (hybrid incubator / co-working / enterprise development / investing) with our first campus in Abuja – Ventures Park.

The Octagon: Great! Everyone is here….

Over the last few years we have seen technology change the face and pace of businesses around the world. So many tech driven businesses have not only emerged but have earned great profits in their very early years. Uber is a great example of the speed at which new markets are created, and it’s all driven by technology. Nigeria is not left out in this global trend. Do you think Nigeria is at the point where technology driven businesses can truly thrive? Can technology help traditional Nigerian Businesses and SMEs experience astronomical growth? Do we encourage and bring business developers and tech solution experts together to collaborate? Or should these exist as separate items? Over to you guys!

Mayor Esiaba: Ah Yes. Uber another famous American Unicorn

Dami: To be honest I don’t think the question can technology help traditional businesses is necessary anymore we are past that stage. The question is more how can we use technology to help solve uniquely Nigerian business problems quickly. Don’t get me wrong technology will not solve all of our problems.

Mayor: I would really like to Segway slightly to what has indeed driven “change” in Nigeria, helping us along the way elect a new Government. We can lay our current woes at the doorstep of tech. Our first technology powered elections ensured the voices of most Nigerians counted.

Kola: For me I think the real question here is not what tech can do for Nigerian SME’s rather is that how can we get SME’s to leverage tech in becoming more global brands. My other concern is how our SME’s and tech companies can collaborate more and build bridges for scale.

Kazeem: Technological advancement is a global trend & Nigeria being in the forefront of Black Africa must embrace this phenomenon or be engulfed by it. History has taught us the unhappy truth, that we must at all times engage or open up to disruptive technologies, because sooner or later, it becomes the norm.

Sam: I don’t mean to throw a spanner in the works… or maybe I do… But I’d like to shed some light on what I feel is a fundamental misrepresentation

Dami: OK Sam lay it out

Sam: Uber is not a tech business… Uber is a customer service and a tracking business powered by technology. Customer Service to stake holders, Tracking to vendors, and merchants as the case may be

Mayor: Errr…Mr. Travis says he runs a tech business. He collects rounds and rounds of money, whilst terrorizing everyone in his path.

Sam: Cos it’s sexy. Tech is sexy. But ask Andressen Horowitz. The Hard things about doing hard things

Mayor: Therefore the entire sharing economy isn’t tech?

Sam: Tech is the sexy dress you put on a fully functional paper/mortar business.

Kola: I agree with Sam. Tech leveraged well can make “any” business sexy. The key lies though in the business engineering first and building the tech to scale and make delivery more efficient.

Mayor: So Uber is just a Taxi company?

Sam: Nah Uber isn’t a Taxi company. Customer service and tracking, and seeing the fuel Come out of a sexy filling station tank, we wanna go and build our own filling station.

Mayor: Do you mean like DHL/FedEx? Sam, all of us who deal with direct to consumer businesses are in the end simply in the business of logistics and customer service.

Sam: Mayor, you are getting me now. And until we see ourselves as that, we are building castles in the sky.

Kazeem: Uber is the largest taxi company that owns no vehicle. So I will say it’s more of a taxi company.

Mayor: Nope. Not a Taxi business. You cannot be in the taxi business and own no taxis.

Kazeem: Most airlines lease their planes.

Sam: Monsieur Kazeem, Uber builds its customer service business on taxis but can easily switch that to moving goods around and take out your business. They can even start carrying technicians around and take out my business.

Mayor: They’re already doing that in New York. You can now deliver stuff whilst Ubering and earn some cash.

Sam: Uber eats will soon launch. If not already, they will take food delivery businesses out, and then dove tail into Uber for Okada… And then we don hear am. That’s why Travis is going to collect more money every month. Simple – For world domination. Same as Mark Z, all he wants is to be president of the largest country in the world. Anyway, I’m sure you get my point.

Mayor: Sam, I am absolutely passionate about tech, but have desperately worried about what the current American model of executing tech has done to their economies.

Sam: Hey Mayor … Me too. But I’ve failed a few times to know what won’t work at the least.

Mayor: I believe this growth in tech is responsible for the extreme Nationalism that has emerged across the World and the clowns masquerading politicians who come with them.

Sam: My problem with addressing these questions laid so intelligently by The Octagon is this. Nigerian businesses have caught on late in the tech game… So what they are seeing is result of years of infrastructure development by the Henry fords and Rockefellers. We are catching up to decades of pipe laying.

Bade: I think it is inevitable. That we are generally behind the curve is also true. Imagine a tomato seller on the street actually using basic technology. If we think of technology as an enabler, the question will be slightly different.

Mayor: Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. Hi Bade. I’m now with Sam. She’s at her core, tomato Seller

Kazeem: Lol @ tomatoes seller

Dami: Bade, but she does already. If she wrote down all her customers numbers and called before venturing out she could scale.  I.e. determine what routes are best, and how much quantity to take with her.

Bade: that’s actually my point, she would actually scale better based on the technology available to her. For example, if someone put her tomatoes on Konga and we all knew I can get quality tomato on Konga. She would sell more, and we would buy conveniently. There is a site like that by the way. So I think the focus should be on the how … and actually the massive education required on both end of the value chain.

Daniel: Uber is getting more airplay than our Tomato seller here… and she’s the one who needs the enablement #justsaying.

Dami: @Bade I think that’s where we start to make mistakes. By scaling too quickly.

Bade: @Dami managing scale can also be done with other technologies, but more education is required.

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8 Responses

  1. Folusho says:

    Technology is undeniably an Enabler,and it helps drive economic efficiency in businesses, how ever not all businesses can fully benefit from the potentials technology offers, as have been pointed out.
    And as such I would add that business models in Africa should be designed in a way that identifies the limits in the use of technology, for now.
    And as pointed out in one of the comments Africa needs to learn QUICKLY cause technology will double the speed of development in the continent.

  2. Bolaji says:

    I went trough the conversation thoroughly and I got lots of answers to questions have been asking myself over the years. The conversation also addressed one of my current issues; I founded DukiaNG.com sometime last year with the believe that I can change the face of even the online real estate industry. As a young software developer, I thought with only technology I could quickly tap into the wealth of real estate industry. But after trying to pull it out as possible as I could, I learnt I didn’t possess some of what I’m supposed to. Which means one has to work out the conventional face enough before adding the sexy technology. I could have re strategize and work my way into doing it again but for the fact that I’m still in the university and quite busy, I have to conclude to the fact that I am looking to sell the site to an existing real estate person to make his own business sexy and at least deliver better. Although I will be launching some other web & mobile application soon that I’m optimistic its going to solve some existing problems. But I have learnt from the first lesson.

  3. Oshomha says:

    A continuously flattening world (Borrowing from “The World is Flat” is a huge huge opportunity) which will allow a writer living in Zaria do some copy writing work for a client in New Zealand. However what are the threats? What do you mean when you say if we don’t take advantage of technology it will pass us by? Is the term “technology” here restricted to mobile technology? One very important factor lacking in even as we leverage technology is the age old value our parents preached to us growing up – Dilligence. I find very old information (or not a lot of it) on websites belonging to Nigerian businesses. So that even when I can find you online, I still have to call you to inquire about everything. I like the example of the suya man who should call his clients. Our websites should speak and constantly speak and should have the prices out there. Dilligence and transparency are very very important. And they don’t cost a thing.

    • Dami says:

      @Oshomha thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I totally agree with you need for Nigerian businesses to understand the need for updated information. I literally have to restrain myself from pulling out my hair when i look up a website and their’s a phone number that isnt working. Ops let me go check mine now.

      The threats? The threats are simple, in Lagos where i live the typical taxi (Pre-Uber) was a rickety number driven by an elderly man who may or may not be a mild mannered. Post Uber my typical taxi is clean conditioned ride with a driver who is required to be nice to me to get a great rating. Uber isnt an astronomical phenomenon its technology flipping taxi services on its head and guess what the older taxis are feeling the squeeze. Think how Jumia and Konga now sell us products online (Now all of these examples have an underlining factor, they are mostly foreign owned, so a key threat is if we do not use technology in whatever form then the WhiteMan “In Man Friday’s Voice” will come again and take me brothers and sisters and me gold only this time they wont use boats and whips.

      Technology isnt mobile, or electronic its the use of advanced science to gain leverage, here’s a thought how come we cant Microwave ready Suya. I mean we’ve been eating the stuff for years and we still cant figure out how to make it store it and eat it whenever without me having to drive at least 5-mins. Dont get me wrong we need the exercise, but image if we could pull this off, The scale, The revenues the export opportunities, the the the…… (Drooling like a mad scientist)
      But wait for it, a few years down the line it’ll be imported back to us here by Krafts food or a subsidiary of Starbucks or maybe even P&G. It wont taste like street suya not doubt but we’ll buy it all the same. The Innovators Dilemma at work.

      • Kelikume says:

        Love your comment. Especially “Technology isn’t mobile, or electronic its the use of advanced science to gain leverage” and ” technology flipping taxi services” about Uber. I think you’ve just generated me some ideas with your comment and I totally agree. Kudos!

    • Sam says:

      I think you’ve touched on a vital issue in that most people that attempt to apply technology to scale their business do not have the follow through to sustain their efforts.

      This is where proper education and skills matching comes in. As an entrepreneur I could try to update my own website info as much as I can but this could prove unsustainable and it might serve better use of my time to outsource that to a digital marketing specialist. Collaboration is key to sustainability.

  4. Subomi says:

    Every business needs to constantly update itself in totality (technology, skills, people, processes, policies e.t.c) as the world and all it encompasses keeps evolving. Technology in itself is not static and as it keeps changing, every business irrespective of the industry is required to seek ways of improving it’s product/service delivery. Therefore, the importance of updated technology for astronomic business growth cannot be overemphasized.

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