By James Agada, Chief Technology Officer, Computer Warehouse Group Plc
When a small business grows, it adds locations from where to serve customers. It adds staff, grows her inventory and requires additional funding from banks and other financial institutions to sustain the growth. The financial institutions in turn demand proper business record keeping and in some cases a history of financial records. With operations in multiple locations, the small business has difficulty keeping track of inventory, sales and cash from the different locations. The growth is capped by her ability to surmount these challenges. And if she just grows without dealing with these challenges, the growth very quickly becomes unsustainable and she runs into difficulty with suppliers, financiers and customers. This is a familiar refrain of many SMEs.
Larger organizations, especially those with an affiliation to global multinational organizations, already know how to overcome many of these challenges using technology. So they invest heavily in hardware (different types of computers), communication networks, linking their locations together, various software, typically for accounting, sales, operations and people management. They also invest in people with the requisite skills in technology and business to keep these all working seamlessly together and delivering value.
These business systems, however cost a lot of money, typically beyond the reach of many SMEs. Large Enterprise servers and ERP software installations cost millions of dollars. Large IT departments have yearly budgets of a few million dollars as well. For 20 years, CWG has built a N20 billion business helping large organization rollout these systems and keep them running. Banks, Telcos, manufacturing, consulting and other such organizations have benefited from CWG’s service which quickly earned her the nickname – the technology of business. In these years, CWG has built a name for herself in the quality of service she offers and her spirit of never leaving the customer stranded.
Utilizing her learning from these years of serving the large enterprises and taking advantage of the advances in technology – smartphones, tablets and the cloud, CWG has launched an initiative to bring the same tools large organizations use to drive their operations and growth to the smaller businesses and SMEs, who do not have the kind of budget that the large organizations boast of.
In essence, this initiative dubbed CWG 2.0 is democratizing access to technology for business growth. By enabling much smaller companies and SMEs to utilize these tools, CWG 2.0 can drive an economic revolution. There are 17.6 million micro, small and medium enterprises in Nigeria compared to the roughly 200 companies listed on the stock exchange. The impact on the economy of these enterprises adding just one more employee or increasing their output by even one percent is beyond imagination. Some schools of thought have suggested that the ICT Cluster alone can shift the needle from the current $40b contribution to GDP, to as much as $150b market, not to talk about other value added segments in the supply chain such as Logistics.
CWG has already released several products in this initiative, starting from her FinEdge software for microfinance and cooperative institutions, and now available on a monthly subscription basis through a partnership with the telco giant MTN. Also available is the openshopen.ng eCommerce platform that allows anyone to own and operate an online store with minimum fuss. With more than 60million Nigerians online from all across the federation, an online store allows the SME to expand her addressable market way beyond her immediate street or town or even state. The CWG SMERP platform also brings a complete business management solution to even one man businesses at the barest minimum cost. With other solutions still in the pipeline, one can very well say that CWG 2.0has indeed democratized the technology of business.