When I began the Tech Turks interviews, I knew something great was going to come out of it. Tech Turks is an online video series for Diamond TV with the purpose of being a space for me to meet transformational thought-leaders and entrepreneurs who have been the new-age technology harbingers in Nigeria. As a banker and a technology enthusiast, I could sense a wave of change that new generation entrepreneurs were bringing to the market. Mark Zuckerberg in his recent visit to Lagos was taken by the city’s vibrant developer and entrepreneurial ecosystem. He strongly emphasized on the entrepreneurial energy of Nigerians and how, with technology they are going to change the country and lead the continent’s progress.
To me therefore, the interviews at Tech Turks reflected Zuckerberg’s belief in Nigerians. Through this platform, these young transformers share the stories of their struggles, their inspirations and vision for Nigeria and Africa. So here’s a list of the common takeaways I had from the interviews:
1) Market readiness is key and you will need to “fill in” the gap: Market readiness as a concept is instrumental in the rise or fall of an organization. There have been several instances in history where reputed brands have failed to dominate global markets because of market ‘un-readiness.’ . During my interviews with the entrepreneurs, what struck me was that each ventured into the Nigerian market, when the market was ready.
Take the case of Vanso. There was demand in the Nigerian market for software and mobile app developers and Vanso was quick to identify it. The same can be said about Wakanow. Obinna was smart enough to bring home his experience of using Experian and use it strategically for improving people’s travelling experience in Nigeria. Not only have they been able to consolidate the travel industry in Nigeria/Africa but have also been able to extend their portfolio (like busses) aimed solely at the student fraternity.
2) You don’t need to be an Innovator – but you need to have Vision: People often believe that in order to be big, you have to do something new. While speaking with some of the young entrepreneurs of Nigeria for Tech Turks, I realized that you don’t always have to do something new – but do things differently. People need to have the vision to realize what works/what doesn’t and then have the persistence and clarity to lead it to its goal. Take the case of Spinlet. It’s not that online music streaming is a new concept. But what Spinlet is doing different is that they are creating a niche for themselves by restricting their music to Africa and the Diaspora. With 2 million downloads and 1500 subscriptions every day, Spinlet is not chasing the crowd but compartmentalizing its audience base – and that’s its vision.
The same can be said about iROKOtv and how its’ CEO, Jason Nioku is doing more than creating a substitute for Netflix or Amazon TV. The present version of iROKOtv therefore is a download only option, aiming to bring the world of African cinema and entertainment literally into people’s hands at affordable rates.
3) Prioritizing Consumer Awareness: Being a banker, I have first-hand experience in dealing with educating the consumer. Education means sharing information and creating awareness – but most importantly instilling trust in its consumers. For instance, in OLX’s case, online classified is a new concept with only 3-5% usage in Nigeria. Although they have certain engaging plans like ‘Sell it for Me’ and ‘Do it for Me’; awareness and trust, like the two sides of a coin is a long-term relationship.
Similarly, when Google Nigeria started the company invested money in advertising to showcase how amazing their products are and how they can add value to consumer’s lives.
4) Technology is the Password: No matter what your business is if you have been able to recognize the potential of technology you are set to achieve your goals. All my speakers were recognized the need to use technology for their business. Spinlet, Digital Jewels or Wakanow are all driven by technology. As Obinna Ekezie, the MD of Wakanow explained, it is through the intelligent use of technology that Wakanow aims at improving travelling experiences among people of Africa. Needless to say – all businesses are relying greatly on technology, which definitely makes it the right time for the youth of Nigeria to hone their skills and leverage from the opportunities that the market presents.
5) Finding solutions to the common Challenge of Payments: I admit, this was the one section that piqued my interest the most, for three reasons – (a) How effectively were payments being carried out; (b) Challenger faced in terms of payments; (c) Is it possible for us at Diamond Bank to help? In a country where 80% of all payments are being made in cash, it’s a major challenge for any technology inclined business to drive and induce people to make online payments. As Nkiru Balonwu of Spinlet explained, it’s easy to get a week long or month long paid subscription from European/American countries using PayPal for instance, but that’s not the case with Nigeria, as people often don’t trust the concept of cashless transaction.
It is therefore my understanding that banks have a critical role to play in shaping the future of several businesses in Nigeria and Africa. Payment – or rather monitory success – is critical to all businesses and that’s the one area that most are struggling with. As CEO of Diamond Bank, this means opportunity for us to grasp and grow with. And I am certain we will do something out of it soon.