Nnamdi Ezeigbo has indeed secured a slot in the Nigerian technology industry, one wide enough to accommodate his rocketing ideas and advancements; while adding substantial value to the lives of his countrymen.
With more than 43 outlets and 520 employees across the country, SLOT has become a house hold name and one of the biggest phones and gadget sales company in Nigeria.
But things weren’t always on such a sure footing for Nnamdi. The resourceful Nigerian entrepreneur had to go through a string of trials to get to where he is today- a spectacular entrepreneurial journey of risk, belief and reward.
After his university education, Nnamdi was faced with the nagging challenge that still haunts most fresh Nigerian graduates; unemployment.
He roamed the streets for two years in search of a job, but each time like one who goes fishing with a broken net, he returned empty-handed.
But that was no time to lose hope, instead Nnamdi saw the period as an opportunity to truly discover himself and then work to change the existing situation; not just for himself but for thousands of other jobless young graduates.
“Interestingly, I never planned to do business. It was just that after my compulsory NYSC service at Guinness Plc, for two years I couldn’t get a job. I actually tried to get one; you know how it is to stay without a job. Even when I eventually got one, I resigned after a month because I was not fulfilled. Since I couldn’t get a job, my only option was to create one for myself. He explains in an interview with Thisdayonline.com.
So what did I do? I had to learn a trade and because I studied Computer Engineering, I wanted to follow my passion but I also needed to acquire practical knowledge and technical know-how. So what I did was to spend six months with a friend who had a computer engineering outfit at the time. That was just a way of getting my hands dirty and acquiring some practical knowledge. I remember telling my friend not to bother about paying me any stipend whatsoever because I was keen to learn the trade. However, before the six months were up, there was what I called value misalignment between my friend and I because I couldn’t compromise my non-negotiable value. So I had to leave because we had different values and thought differently.”
That timely shove created a stage for the fiercely ambitious entrepreneur and gradually shot him to lime light. With the knowledge from his years as a student of computer engineering and the few months of internship, Nnamdi began repairing computers for people; and in a short time, his company expanded and became more of a business to business company; which made it possible for him to start maintaining computers for organisations. That way, he was able to raise money to set up the first Slot store at Computer Village, the Lagos phone and gadget sales hub.
SLOT Systems Ltd was established in 1998 as an ICT company, selling computers, maintenance and accessories.
“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.”
And that to a great extent buttresses Joseph Sugarman’s observation, “Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity.”
But like every growing business, SLOT encounters its fair share of challenges, mostly with the influx of fake products into the market.
“The challenges are quite enormous. He says in a recent interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly. 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.”
The entrepreneur points out that his company’s unique selling point is not in giving out devices for a price, but to sell value in its real sense. Now, doesn’t this explain the overwhelming daily trooping into SLOT shops nationwide?
As a way of appreciating its numerous loyal customers, the company provides royalty cards, with which the customers can purchase goods in any part of the country at discounted rates. It also runs regular promos, with winners smiling home with several mouthwatering prizes.
The SLOT boss is still on the move, with the purpose of replicating his SLOT idea across the continent.
“We want to have our footprints across Africa. We want to dominate the market.”
And to the young and aspiring entrepreneurs he says……..
“The most important thing when it comes to business is the question of how do you start? Most people always run around looking for start-up capital and how they would raise money to start business. I think the best way to start is by rendering services and that was what I did. I couldn’t have afforded to raise money to start a store at that time, so what I did was to invest in myself, train myself and acquire the technical knowhow and then with that I was able to build what is called social capital and not financial capital. With social capital, you can then attract financial capital and that was how I started.”