6? with John Nwachukwu,Solutions Program Director @ Zoracom Ltd.
What are the challenges you face as a startup doing business in Nigeria?
It is unfortunate. Most banks won’t support us. It is very bad that they don’t even believe in us, particularly startups that are into ICT. These people will tell you that you should go write a business proposal. Imagine if you are a guy that wants to start up a business and you are paying people to write a business proposal, imagine the charges. Then these banks keep demanding for a business proposal. If these organizations can provide startups an avenue to have these things done, it would be a nice idea. Now another thing is that these banks will want to see a turnover. How can a startup declare turnover? These are a few hurdles that we encounter. I think that the banks do not wantto put their money where they are not sure especially in ICT startups. They are not risk takers. Let me give you a personal experience, a company in Germany believed us when they saw the way that we have been trying to push their products in Nigeria, do you know what they did? They made us master reseller in Africa this is to show you the level of confidence that they have in us. But at home, the reverse is the case.
Mobile internet has dominance here. How are you keying into this?
During the past few decades Nigeria has embraced the mobile internet and other online activities and as an ICT firm we are rightly positioned with our online cloud applications mentioned earlier to support businesses in several sectors including medical, educational, hospitality and business management.
What actually prompted you to establish Zoracom as an ICT firm?
The reason for establishing Zoracom is quite straight forward; My passion for information technology and business process automation.
Do you feel that the government and banks are doing enough to support indigenous ICT firms?
I will say the government is trying in their own way but the banks are doing little or nothing to support indigenous ICT firms. When you haveideas and innovations to offer and financial impediment stops you; you can’t even go to banksbecause interest rates are high.
What is the advice you have for young ones that want to establish their own ICT firms?
I will start by saying ICT is very lucrative and we have seen the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs to mention but a few succeed in this sector. My advice to the young ones that want to venture into ICT is that they should be consistent and patient because we see so many young ones today into ICT, tomorrow they are in into entertainment. They should also undergo required training and certifications because the challenges are enormous, especially in this part of the world.
Why should people look for Zoracom for their ICT projects?
We have competent and certified engineers and developers to handle their projects and our core value to do every task the right way every time with emphasis on quality and efficiency. We deliver and exceed our customer’s expectations in our projects.
The funding narrative is changing for Nigerian startups
Startups hoping to get financial respite from Nigerian banks will only wait in vain. Banks generally shy from helping SMEs and technology startups are particularly outside of the core focus of lending institutions. Nigerian startup ecosystem has largely grown on the sheer obstinacy of its drivers. Bereft of government support and funding, startups have depended solely on their wits and temerity to keep their dreams afloat. Like Nollywood, Nigeria’s indigenous film industry, growing out of the backwaters of Nigerian creative of industry, to storm the world, technology innovation has remained the effort of individual stubbornness to prove a point. Somehow, with the support of a few private sector investors, the startup ecosystem has gained recognition forcing government and; now, even banks, to consider putting in some funds. Increasingly, SMEs are gaining traction as government come to terms that sustainable growth can only be hinged on bolstering SMEs. The Central Bank of Nigeria plans to push some $6 million to support SMEs as part of the seed-attempt to empower small businesses. Within the technology ecosystem, the global attention on the startups is forcing government to pay heed. While things may still be far from being ideal, but the sub-sector is gradually gaining momentum to achieve those goals Nigerian startup dreamers have always believed will happen.