More than 16 million verifications have been done on the Sproxil’s Mobile Authentication Solution since it was launched. Director of Sales at Sproxil Nigeria, Dr. Lawrence Nwosu in this interview with IT Edge News, Martin Ekpeke, itemised the impacts of this solution on people and the environment. Beyond saving lives and increasing sales for its users, the solution has instilled confidence in the minds of consumers and enhanced marketplace confidence that technology can help to identity original products and services in a market swarming with counterfeits.
What are Sproxil’s plans and aspirations for 2015?
Sproxil has a very ambitious plan for 2015. We did very well in the previous years, what we are planning to do in 2015 is to create more value for brand owners in the market. We are also proposing to bring to the table new products and services. So 2015 promises to be a very wonderful year because it is a year we are extending to other countries like Pakistan, Brazil, Liberia and other market in South East Asia where the services are needed. More importantly also, in Nigeria we want to deepen market penetration and extend the value of our services to other sectors. We also want to extend Mobile Authentication Service to other sector of the economy because there are emerging opportunities in the Agro industrial sector, Automobile, Textile, cosmetics and electronics. These are the non-pharmaceutical. These are part of our plan for 2015; it is going to be a year of expansion and creation of more value for our growing clientele.
What technology innovations is Sproxil bringing to the table to improve and sustain the Mobile Authentication Solution, are you looking at mobile app?
Basically, that is where we are going. It shouldn’t just be a situation where people use their phones to send a text and get a response. We are also creating a platform where consumers at different levels can use a mobile application to access the service. The whole idea is to make product authentication easily accessible to every consumer at every point of sale. If you don’t have access to the conventional phone, you can use your internet, and if that is not available and you have a sophisticated smartphone, you can also use the mobile app. We are also thinking about the use of voice in the future and that will be revolutionary. It is a situation where you receive voice response when you text to verify, so even if you cannot read, you will be able to hear. And it will come in different local languages.
What is Sproxil doing to educate people, especially those in the rural areas on the Mobile Authentication Solution?
Ideally we are a service provider, it is expected that government agencies should take care of the awareness as part of public heath education services to consumers especially in the rural areas. The service provider job does not really include that kind of massive nationwide campaign. But we are also doing something; last year we conducted a campaign to educate both the industry and the consumers about the services. But we believe also that government agencies can come in to create awareness because it is very critical. Part of the challenges we have is the low awareness in the rural areas, but we are doing our best with fliers that we give to distributors, through which they can help educate the consumers. We do know that if there is awareness, the possibility of buying a fake product will be reduced. We are encouraging brand owners to assisting in increasing awareness because ultimately they are the ones that will massively benefit from the awareness because that will somehow help to protect their market share and by extension increase sales for them.
The Mobile Authentication Solution has gotten over 14 million verifications so far. How has that impacted on the lives and businesses of the citizen?
I think we are now over 16 million verifications and still counting. The impact of this is very significant both on the industry, consumers and the products themselves. Brand owners have now seen that lots of people are now identifying genuine products and avoiding fakes or look-alikes and buying original ones. The impact of this is that sales are also increasing, while they reclaim markets and sales lost to counterfeits. This also trickles down to their share of that market. On the part of the consumers, many people have been saved as a result of Sproxil services in ways never done before. Because when they go the shop to buy products, they see Sproxil’s label, they scratch and get a confirmation that it is a genuine product, and they buy and get value for their money. On the part of government, people now realise that the government cares for them. So the impact is spread across the various sectors and consumer groups. On our part, we are happy that we are rendering service that people have found very useful, service that is saving lives. So as awareness increases, we want people to scratch and verify the product they are buying even though the label has become a symbol of quality, we still want people to go and verify because fakers can replicate the label and the unsuspecting consumers will walk away with a product that is potentially dangerous.
Do you have a monopoly of the solution for Mobile Authentication Service
Sproxil is not a monopoly company. Nigeria is a free market economy. There are about five competitors in the industry, but the fact is that Sproxil was the first to successfully deploy the solution, and Sproxil has managed the solution in such a way that Nigerians saw value and security in it, and so the solution itself becomes synonymous with Sproxil. I am not surprise with people who say Sproxil is running a monopoly of this business, but that is very naïve also. It probably has to do with the professionalism we brought to the delivery of this service. We did everything that is possible to make sure nobody hacked into the solution; it is a robust solution, so strong, so effective that counterfeiters find it very difficult to replicate it. Because we are the first to deliver the service, people think there are no competitors, there are competitors.
Outside of the pharmaceutical sector, where else can benefit from Mobile Authentication Service?
The solution is designed basically to protect brands and to protect the consumers of these brands in the market. So our business is to protect brands –pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceuticals like automobile for instance, lifestyle products like mattresses, cosmetics and textile, agro feeds, electrical electronics. So the solution can be used for several things as far it is for protecting brands, creating opportunities, increasing sales for genuine importers and manufacturers. More importantly, this solution is designed to save lives and businesses, help brand owners make more sales and profit because it differentiate fakes from their original brands.
How does the technology work?
Very simple and user friendly! When you see a product that is protected by the Sproxil solution, scratch the label off and you will a 12 digit pin, text it to 38353 and you get an instance response whether the product is genuine or potentially suspicious. So the consumer at the point of purchase can make an informed decision. So, it is a very simple process, but behind the scene, the analytic is very complex technology. But accessing is very simple. You don’t need a specialised education or a specialised phone; you don’t even need to have credit on your phone, all you need is a handset and same way you make the regular text message is same way you do this one. All the GSM networks are connected to the solution, which means if one fails, another one can be used.