If you hear his name for the very first time you may not be able to instantly place who Engr. Nnamdi Ezeigho is. This is because he is a quiet and easy going guy.
But if you hear the name of his company, SLOT Systems Limited, it will instantly ring a bell. This is because SLOT has become a popular, household name. Everybody knows SLOT, the leading indigenous Telecommunication and IT company that has about 60 outlets across Nigeria.
Nnamdi is the founder and MD of SLOT, a company, he founded 17 years ago. It will be 18 on December 9th 2016. From just being a little company that sells laptops and mobile phones in the past, Nnamdi has built SLOT into the No.1 IT company in Nigeria and the first choice of many mobile phone users across the country. No wonder the SLOT brand has become known for quality mobile phones and accessories. Nnamdi is a shinning symbol of the irrepressible spirit of the Nigerian entrepreneur who are passionate, committed, resilient, hardworking. He has clearly dominated the sector and has added some other incentives to his offerings, which makes SLOT, the preferred choice for many phone users.
The big news is that the SLOT boss turned 50 last weekend and he celebrated it big. It is to be expected. He has many reasons to be happy at 50 in terms of accomplishments. When you sit atop a company that is doing well with a staff strength of 700 in 60 branches, in an economy that is in recession, then Nnamdi has everything to thank God for. He is very happy that SLOT has touched the lives of very many people, especially the young ones, who form about 60% of its clientele. He has an academy that trains young people in IT and mobile phone issues.
How does he feel at 50? What are his regrets? How did he build SLOT into a formidable business empire that it is today? These and many more were the questions City People Publisher’s SEYE KEHINDE, asked the Slot’s boss, when he met him for a 50th birthday interview and he gave brilliant answers. Give it to him, he is a very brilliant and creative entrepreneur who has an impressive story. By the time the 2-hour interview was over, Nnamdi had given a brilliant analysis of the IT market he plays in and of which he is a big player. His pedigree is rich.
Born on 4th August 1966, in Delta State, he began his primary education at Pamol Primary school in Sapele, and later proceeded to Ogini Grammar School, Ogharefe, both in Delta State for his Secondary education from 1979 to 1984.
Mr. Ezeigbo gained admission to the Yaba College of Technology Lagos, in 1988 for his Tertiary education, where he studied Electrical /Electronics Engineering and graduated with a Higher National Diploma (HND). He undertook the compulsory National Youth Service Corps in 1996, with Guinness Nigeria Plc. Mr. Ezeigbo also studied Computer & Electronics Engineering at the Lagos State University between 1996 and 2001, where he bagged a B.Sc (Second Class Upper).
His quest for further education took him to Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso, for his Masters in Information Technology, (MIT) between 2008/2009. Apart from being the founder of the SLOT Brand, Nnamdi Ezeigbo has spent time and resources to develop budding entrepreneurs across Nigeria. His impact in the society has helped young entrepreneurs find easier ways of starting their own businesses.
As part of his contribution to the development of the society, SLOT Systems Limited has trained about 20 teachers from the Lagos State Technical College on some cutting edge technologies required for the present age Telecoms industry. Read on.
How do you feel turning 50?
I feel excited. I feel so honoured God has given me the opportunity to experience 50 years on this planet. I am hoping that I will spend more years on earth particularly the fact that I have good health. I have a wonderful family, and I have been privileged to touch lives, using my business and using the wisdom and knowledge that God has given me. I feel so happy.
If you look back, will you say you are where you thought you would be at this time?
In all honesty, I never thought I will be this successful, looking at the state of the economy, looking at the deplorable state of the system in Nigeria, looking at your colleagues, and, of courses, looking at your mates and friends. Obviously, I will want to count myself as a very blessed person. I never expected I was going to be this successful. I was just doing my own thing trying to make a living for myself and trying to create job for myself. And so, I eventually found myself doing this. Gradually, it is something that has grown big.
You built SLOT from the scratch into what it is today. What is the success secret? What are the challenges? What are the pains?
Building a company from the scratch is the stuff of creative people. It is about creativity than investment. Creative people want to start something from the scratch and build it up, while investors just want to invest in something that is lucrative. I see myself as a creative person, an innovator. That is why I have been able to grow a company from the scratch and thank God for the knowledge and the opportunity I have been able to leverage on. The growth so far has been my ability to apply some basic principles. One of it is the fact that I was able to acquire the right competence to create value and create wealth.
Apart from the fact that I have a formal education, I was able to spend 6 months with a friend and I acquired sound technical training in computer engineering. So, I was able to start off as a Computer engineer, providing services to people, and then with that I was able to raise money to kick start the SLOT brand. So, in essence it was very important to have a company that started from the scratch, because it was creating value. Our challenges were basically things that were very normal with start-ups for a typical Nigerian businessman, the ability to get the right personnel, middle managers, high cost of doing business, security cost, I mean basic cost of doing business. Our experience has not been different from what other people are experiencing. We were able to start from the scratch because we were able to apply some creativity and understand the people. We were able to provide the kind of value, product and services that the people wanted. Those were basically the success factors.
Slot has evolved from being a small company it was years back into the big brand it is today with many branches. What has been the growth pattern?
Business evolves. And SLOT as all businesses has evolved. At the beginning, there would be a time you would need to micro manage the business. I did that. That was at the very early stage of the business as the CEO of the business. But at that time, you also need to start putting in place a structure that can actually run on its own because you can’t expand if you don’t have the right structure and that can only function if you have smart people. We have been able to hire smart people and get them engaged. And so delegating jobs to these smart guys has always been a success factor for us. So, we have been able to get the right people, who fill the right position, and who are doing the right things. So, it is easier for me to supervise and easier for me to oversee the entire system. It has freed my capacity in terms of how the system is being managed.
At what point is the business today? How big is SLOT today?
Our growth pattern is in line with our business strategy. Our strategy basically is to have SLOT in every city in Nigeria. It is about bringing our services to the door step of Nigerians. Today, we have about 60 retail stores. We also have a very active on-line store. So, consumers can actually buy from the on-line store as well. You know the landscape is changing. So, we have to change as well. For those who want to buy from the on-line store, it is also a very functional store. So, the on-line store for us is an extension of what the physical store is doing for us. We have been able to reach every nook and cranny of Nigeria and we have been able to reach the Nigerian people through our services, so, our expansion growth his very tremendous.
How do you mean?
We’ve been able to understand the people. We have been able to understand their taste and so we have been able to provide these kinds of services. So, that is basically what we have done. Today, we have about 700 Nigerians working with the SLOT brand and SLOT Companies.
We have also noticed that unlike other competitors, you don’t only sell products, you also offer some other allied services and incentives such as screen insurance, repairs, etc. is this part of the growth pattern?
Ours is a company that understands the people, and puts our culture into recognition. We have been able to provide services and culture that meet the needs of the people. Nigerians are very trendy people, so we look at that and we introduced the Buy Back service. What that means is that you can buy a phone from us and you can come back after 6 months to Trade in that phone for a new one. We have that service. We also have the Screen Insurance or the Screen Warranty. We know that so many people carry phones with broken screens. That also gave birth to the Screen Warranty. What that means is that your phones can now be insured against accidental damage. If your screen is broken and your screen is actually insured, you can have your screen replaced. So, our products are very, very, adaptable.
We are more like a company that understands the people. We are more of a solution provider. So, we are looking at the people and what they need and we tried to provide the service or create the service. That is what gave rise to the screen insurance and then the Trade in.
How come SLOT is always a step ahead of others in terms of creative ideas?
We believe in training and retraining. One of the things that I think is working for the firm is the fact that I believe so much in knowledge and skill acquisition. I believe so much in improving myself and improving the lives of my workers and employees. So, for us we spend money to actually acquire knowledge. We have been able to use this to create the kind of strategy that aligns with our business models and the need of the Nigerian people. Apart from that too I have been able to educate myself in the area of business.
I always like to say I am an Engineer by profession. I am an Engineer that eventually became a businessman. I believe an Engineer who becomes a businessman should acquire business training as well. That is what inspired me to attend Lagos Business School for my MBA and eventually I went to Harvard Business School for my entrepreneurship training. The whole idea is to have the right training and then use this training to create products and services that meets the needs of the people. If you are not just meeting the needs of the people you may just be selling commodities. For us, we are jot just selling commodities, we are selling values.
You operate in an ever changing sector of IT and Telecoms. How do you play catch up? How do you stay relevant?
Yes, the ICT industry is a very dynamic one and very unpredictable and if you work in such environment, you should be as fast as possible. So you should be fast, you should be simple and your strategy must also be dynamic. It means you have to own your own strategy.
So that at every point in time you can tweak your strategy in tune with time. Because thinks change, consumers taste changes, and so all you have to do is to be able to change your strategy at every point in time, change the way you do business, change your business model, change the way you train your people, making sure that they align with time. That is basically what we do. We believe if you have to run with consumers taste, if you have to align your strategy with consumers taste then you have to know what consumers want. You have to update yourself. You have to upgrade your system. You have to train your people and continue to train your people because if your business outgrows you that will be dangerous.
So you have to be faster than time. You have to be faster than what consumers want. You should also be able to predict well what your customers want now and what they want in the future. So with that in mind you can actually meet the needs of the consumers.
You deal with a sector that also has a lot of youths revolving round it. Many of them are hooked on IT and Telecoms. What have you done at SLOT to embrace them?
Yes. Youth for us is important. The youth are a very important aspect of our business. In fact they constitute 60% of our customer base. As a company, we believe in corporate social responsibility, and that make us a company to set up our SLOT Academy.
We have a foundation called SLOT Foundation. And the SLOT Academy is being funded by SLOT Foundation. The academy is one that helps young people to acquire vocational skills in other to become employable.
It also helps them to become self-employed. The academy trains them basically in the area of mobile phone engineering. Obviously so, because of the huge demand for mobile phone the industry is growing.
The number of users are so tremendous. And so we have seen that it is something that can help the youth in other to create jobs for them. So, the academy trains them. Today we have about 400 people who have passed out of that place. And they are doing very well.
We hire some of them and the others may get jobs in other IT and Telecoms companies or they may want to be on their own. We are giving back to society and we have been able to identify the youth as a very-very important group in terms of demographics. That is why we have that academy. The youths are the leaders of tomorrow and we don’t want our youths to be driven only by wanting to be entertainers, musicians, and footballers alone. We can have a society that is driven by entertainment alone, we should help these guys to become employable. We should help them think like entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs are the ones that create the products and services. They are the ones that drive the economy. They are the ones that help the economy to compete with other society.
They are the ones who help to drive productivity. I think Entrepreneurship is very, very important. Our youths need to think like entrepreneurs. And if we have so many entrepreneurs. And if we have so many entrepreneurs in the country, the better for us.
Apart from running SLOT as a company which is profit driven. We also have another company called SLOT Academy which is more of a social enterprise because it meets the needs of the people. It helps young people to get jobs IT trains them to become employable and to also become self-reliant. So we didn’t just set up a company because we want to make money, we also have another company which is more of a social enterprise.