‘I started with sales and repairs of computers’
MD/CEO, Slot Systems Limited, Nnamdi Ezeigbo is a symbol of the indomitable Nigerian spirit. The Umuahia, Abia born entrepreneur who founded the technology company that sells original phones and mobile devices in 1999, has since become the ‘clear’ leader in the sector.
ENCOMIUM Weekly called at Slot’s Medical Road, Ikeja, Lagos office on Friday, August 22, 2014. And before our team left the home of quality mobile phones and devices, the humble, amiable and hard working hi-tech mogul shared the exciting and inspiring story of how he made it to the top.
Engineer Ezeigbo also revealed what separates Slot from its growing competitors, among others…
It feels good to know this, especially the fact that people appreciate what you are doing. We set out as a company to give value and it feels good to know we are doing just this. Our customers are happy that Slot is increasing their mobile experience.
What exactly is the vision of Slot?
The vision of Slot is to add value to people’s lives. Mobile technology has moved from just what people use to receive calls and exchange SMS. It’s now a life tool, people live with their phones. Their phones do everything for them. You just rely on your phone. From browsing to planning your work and programme, the phone is now indispensable. You connect with the world. So, Slot wants people to buy and use these mobile devices with peace of mind. Customers are sure of what they are buying. You are sure of the source.
How far has Slot been able to achieve this?
To a great extent. You started by adjudging us one of the best in the market. That means we are getting there. We have a lot of loyal customers. Go outside of Lagos, people in Port Harcourt, Abuja, Owerri and across the country are excited about Slot. They can practically go to sleep, knowing they bought their phone or any other mobile device or gadget here.
So, that’s what separates Slot from the others?
It’s about customer confidence, consumer loyalty.
How profitable has it been?
We now have 43 outlets across the country. So, it has to be profitable (laughs).
What has been the major challenges, so far?
The challenges are quite enormous. We are in a very unstructured economy. We have a big challenge with fake products. But because of our commitment to quality, given the right experience, it also became an opportunity for us because people began to see the difference. Even before phone manufacturers began to give warranty in Nigeria, Slot had started doing that at its own risk and cost. Somebody comes back with a faulty mobile device, you replace it at your cost. Without the manufacturer giving you any support. They weren’t ready to invest much here being an emerging market. We give you the right product at an affordable price and we stand behind you.
Related to the issue of fake products is your relationship with Standard Organisation of
Nigeria (SON) and other regulatory agencies?
We have a fantastic relationship with SON and other regulatory agencies. Interestingly, I was a member of the National ICTC Policy Drafting Committee. So, I have been right there at the forefront of charting the path and creating the proper policies for this sector. We also have a fantastic relationship with the Ministry of Communications. As little as we are, we recently brought National Communications Commission (NCC) to Lagos to interact with stakeholders. The meeting was with NCC’s Head of Monitoring and Enforcement. He was at Protea Hotel to parley with phone manufacturers and key stakeholders in the sector. It was a forum to meet each other. Though we are not phone manufacturers, we support regulatory agencies since we are players in the sector.
So, despite the not-so-cordial relationship with some of your colleagues in Computer Village with SON, you still have a fantastic relationship with them?
The simple thing I can say is that Slot is an ethical company. We believe in standard and quality. Every sector must have standard. A sector without quality benchmark is dead. So, we have good relationship with all regulatory agencies because of what we believe and practice.
Many are clamouring for Slot phones. When are they getting phones manufactured by Slot?
(Laughs) Good question. But Slot is all about marketing consumer mobile products. Slot will continue to work with manufacturers to improve their quality so as to give consumers the best.
Let’s go a bit personal, how did business start for you?
We started in 1998.
What did you study?
I am an Electrical Engineer. I did my NYSC at Guinness Nigeria Plc. I wanted a job with an oil firm but when I couldn’t get it, I had to go into private business. I started with computer sales and repairs. When working on the systems, I would always ask my customers to slot the cards in the computer. And that was how they started calling me Slot. I was selling and repairing computers until the GSM revolution when I joined this sector. By that time, it was dominated by the telecoms companies who were selling phones and accessories at very high costs. So, I saw an opportunity and started selling phones at affordable prices and because customers were satisfied with our products, they started trooping in their numbers. Though the phones were of high quality, we still offered a warranty behind them. That was the culture Slot introduced to the market.
So, where is the business headed?
It’s clear. We want to have our footprints across Africa. We want to dominate the market.
If you are in the position to advise the Federal Government, what are the basic issues you would want changed in favour of entrepreneurs?
There are too many things working against us. It would be good for us to start manufacturing phones here but we lack the basic infrastructure. From the road to power and security, it would sure take time to address these issues. And if you ignore them, you would produce products at a far higher production cost. Hence, you can’t compete. What about access to funds? If you go to China, government set up manufacturing centres. Can you find that in Nigeria? Here, entrepreneurs rent the place and produce their products at a competitive cost. You just pay rent and move away and return when you want to produce again. What about security? Where do you start and where do you end? You can’t just address one problem. It is a multi-faceted challenge. Nigeria should take advantage of the growth in the mobile sector to grow our economy.
What’s your staff strength?
And they are well paid?
That’s why I’m here (laughs).
You regularly run sales promos, are they real?
The most beautiful thing about Slot is that we are straightforward. The people who win these promos are real. You can verify their claims. The girl that won the other time was a fresh graduate of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Ogun State. The one that won the last one, Mary works with Ecobank. They all won cars.
In what other ways are you giving back to your customers?
We do that in many ways. We now have a Slot Loyalty Card. Once you have that you can buy our products anywhere in Nigeria and get a discount. Even members of your family can also be part of it. We just finished the pilot. It would soon roll out. We have also started online sales from Slot. You get the same quality and after sales services.
What’s the cost of delivery?
N500 within Lagos. Sometimes, we do free delivery. The home delivery system has been set up. We even do pay on delivery. You only pay if you are satisfied. Another difference is that the guy who delivered your product also has the technical expertise to address any issue you may encounter at the point of delivery.
What are the most sought after devices right now?
Smart phones. People want to do everything with their mobile devices.
How is Slot helping in stopping the spread of the dreaded Ebola virus disease (EVD)?
We are partnering PZ. Before you step into Slot, you would see a hand-wash bowl with sanitizers. And if you want to even buy it, they will sell to you at give-away price.