President of Computer and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria (CAPDAN), Ahmed Ojikutu, spoke with IT Edge News, Aanuoluwa Omotosho and Amole Olatunde, on the challenges of kitting CAPDAN members to be more responsive to today’s business environment. Inside Computer Village, Ikeja, Lagos, he affirmed to IT Edge News that: “we are in the industry to renovate, to build knowledge, to provide solutions.” Ojikutu believes CAPDAN members must reflect the dynamics of the ICT sector to best serve their customers.
How effective has CAPDAN been under your leadership?
CAPDAN had issues before my emergence as the leader of this market and the truth of the matter is the association had issues that relate to the ethnic dichotomy of people in the market. But one of the premises of which I came out to lead the market is that I know that I have what it takes to bring people together. So the different ethnic backgrounds, I had meetings with them separately because there are a lot of ethnic interests. I spoke with everybody. I told them from the onset that I want to run for the presidency of the market. I have what it takes, despite the fact that I was actually disrupting the status-quo of the elderly running and taking affairs of the market. At that point, I made it known to people that Ojikutu wants to lead and the slogan of coming on board was the unifying factor. So I resolved the problem by unifying people and went to the election and won over 98% of the votes. I became the leader.
Under my leadership, I have made my number one cardinal campaign promise to be business development. As CAPDAN, we have to build exposure and expand our knowledge base in the business. Now, we have done monthly business training bringing speakers from as far as Italy and business leaders in the country. We have successfully tried as much as possible to increase the working capital of the people by introducing them to a lot of ways whereby they can get recapitalization. Number one, Lagos Employment Trust Fund gave a lot of people in computer village a 5%loan which you can’t get from any commercial bank. Financial and skill capacity are essential elements that we have brought into the system.
Number two, we are speaking to some of the commercial banks right now and some federal government institutions to add direct impact to our people’s capital, and recapitalizing of businesses. We are doing a great deal. I don’t want to mention the ones we have on the pipeline but the ones we have accomplished. We have successfully and continuously been able to put more capital in people’s hand. We have successfully been able to train. We have changed the trading perspective that people believe that the people in computer Village are traders but now we have changed that psychic from people knowing that we are business leaders, business strategists that we are not just into IT industry to buy and sell. But we are in the industry to renovate, to build knowledge, to provide solutions. We cannot be here and somebody would come and give us a disrupter, develop Uber. Why can’t people that have been in IT business for 10-20 years develop Uber or something like that or even import technology if you cannot make one? So at that point, we are trying to re-orientate people and that we have done so successfully.
In terms of the sanity in the market, it has drastically improved through the task force that we’ve inaugurated. And just about recently, we inaugurated a software application that you can use to check the quality of the phone that you want to buy. We just launched that app recently. We are going to come up with a free-toll line that we would launch and that we would be able to give everybody a line. The customers can call in and we can resolve issues that have to do with warranty and guarantee for them so that people will have fulfillment when they make purchases from computer village.
“We have successfully and continuously been able to put more capital in people’s hand. We have successfully been able to train. We have changed the trading perspective that people believe that the people in computer Village are traders but now we have changed that psychic from people knowing that we are business leaders, business strategists that we are not just into IT industry to buy and sell.”
How has economic recession affected businesses in the market?
The Economic recession has affected the volume of business we do. But looking at it, it increased the margin because the higher the price, the lower the quantity demanded (basic law of elasticity of demand). Now the lower the price, the larger the quantity. Before now, the competition was high, quantity demanded was high, prices were low but now what we have is lower demand, lower supply, higher price. This is because people would hold on to what they have. Now the volume has decreased and the profit has increased. So in a way, it’s a 60% of advantage, 40% of disadvantage to us. But when we look at it, it’s more of an advantage to us in the market
Concerning your relationship with the police, what is the issue of controversy between your people and the police?
We have so many good eggs in the Nigeria Police Force but there are some bad eggs that have capitalized on the issue of tracking to affect and exploit some people in computer village. If not for the intervention of the Commissioner of Police of Lagos, by now we would have had a serious protest against the Nigerian Police Force. But the Commissioner of Police has assured us that we can complain to him once there are excesses. There are a lot of police officers that would come that they are from Abuja, they are under this, under the IG that they come to exploit us. But we are saying no. People of Computer Village are saying no. We have spoken to the authorities and they said we should report to them. So any police officer that comes to Computer Village to exploit now, we are saying no, everybody in computer village is tired of it. And I tell you with the co-operation of the police force, we would achieve a greater Computer Village and a better society. That’s why we have a task force to make sure anybody that errs will be handed to the security agency. And that is what we have been doing. That is why we have peace in Computer Village.
Concerning the security of goods and services, when a stolen phone or any electronic is linked to Computer Village, what steps do you take?
The step we take is that anybody that buys a stolen phone, we’ll lock that person’s office, punish them and hand them over to the police. And that is what we have been doing. That is why we have gone ahead to partner Phonereg Mobile Nigeria. What we did is any phone you buy here in Nigeria, we advise Nigerians to register it on Phonereg.com. You can login to register your phone. So even if the phone gets stolen, you can log into the portal and lock it. And once it’s locked, it can’t be sold. Nobody will have access to it. So in the next two years, if Nigerians buy into this technology that means if your phone gets lost, people will bring it to you because they won’t be able to sell it. Apart from cash, the next liquid thing is the phone. In Computer Village, we are trying as much as we can to curb this. The truth is if they know they can’t get where to sell it, they won’t steal it. The Phonereg technology is basically to kill phone theft and to secure more lives. And it has other features that we can’t reveal. But I tell you, it will help the nation.
“Any phone you buy here in Nigeria, we advise Nigerians to register it on Phonereg.com you can log in to register your phone. So even if the phone gets stolen eventually, you can log in to the portal and lock it. And once it’s locked, it can’t be sold.”
What is the one thing you would want the people of this village/market to remember you for?
A lot of things! We have set up a taskforce, empowering people with knowledge, developing people’s business. What we want to do really is that we want a situation in which people’s business would develop. Somebody that has one sales girl before Ojikutu leaves will have seven. Somebody that has ten would have twenty. So people would move from small scale to large scale businesses in my tenure. I know that knowledge is what would rule the next world. That is why we anchor it on knowledge, on training and business development. Very soon we’ll start sending people to business schools all around Nigeria that is the plan. We have lots of countries speaking with us, but we do not want to take capital flight. We want a tropicalized, domesticated business analysis and solution. We won’t just have business owners but business gurus and that’s part of what we are working at and we would get there very soon.
What is your opinion on the relocation of this village to Katan Gowa, Abule-Egba?
I want to say this and I want to say it in clear terms, Computer Village did not emerge as a result of the government but as God’s blessing to this state. And I want to enjoin our government, our amiable governor, Akinwumi Ambode to understand that it is not easy to build a market. We need coordination, coherence and co-operation and thinking.
Bring everybody on board, we’ll sit and strategize. We don’t want to lose the largest ICT market in Africa which is in Lagos and it’s a blessing to the state. So we have discussions with the government. We feel and we want to commend the terms at which it was spoken. We can’t move to an area still occupied by people. Some of the traders there have c/o, a block has not been laid and the way, with which it was said, it has automatically started affecting businesses here. But for the fact that the government is close to computer village than ever before, we understand that it was just a statement of the plan. Whatever the government would do, we believe they will still communicate it with us.