Managing Director of HP Inc, Mrs. Ify Jennifer Afe, speaks with IT Edge News, Anthony Nwosu, on why the computer giant had to split into two entities and why the company can take innovation faster to the market.
As the Managing Director of HP Incorporated, what is your assessment of computer/software market in Nigeria?
In the IT market, we have a lot of untapped potential here in Nigeria. The PC penetration in this market is still under 11 percent, so we have a long way to go. Now, HP is quite strong in this market and we haven’t even started the brand yet. We have a long term strategies as well as short term strategies for this market and we intend to remain in this market as long as possible. I think we are the oldest so far, HP has been in this market much longer than a lot of companies we have today and that shows our power and our intent to remain in this market.
What are the opportunities and challenges you are having in the PC market?
There are lots of untapped opportunities within our education segment. I think education is very key because that is the only medium for us to improve the lives of the youth and we are dividing the youth into various segments because some of them are already exposed to computer; to some degree and some have little or no exposure yet. So, I will say that education is very key area for us to continue to improve. We want to take our HP Life running programme to a lot of schools here. We plan to do a lot of school race and activities where we actually go there, be part of them, understand what they need and we will go back and build the software on the product that will really address them better and that is the key area for us now. That is one area we are really focusing on.
How would you compare Nigeria’s market with other African countries?
I think if we start within the African continent, Nigeria is a very strong market to Africa and then we move to global economy. I think one of the key things we have in Nigeria is that we have a lot of strength pace and strength starter in the country. We have a lot of people that are exposed and open to this technology and so we have a strong adoption rate here. A lot of countries today may not be on the same level with Nigeria, so, when you bring out innovations, you have to slowly in those countries. The second challenge is to find out where you can then play into, we don’t have that problem here. We have the population working for us. We have the minds of the people working for us, and so, Nigeria is a force to reckon with in Africa and in the world. The only thing we have to improve on is how to get this message to every household and every individual and that is where we are working on. In Nigeria, the potential is huge, massive, untapped, and we haven’t even harnessed half of it. We have to keep improving on it.
You mentioned huge and untapped potential – Are we naïve about the existing opportunities or absence of infrastructure has made it difficult to tap the opportunities?
I think it is a bit of everything. First of all, awareness is very important, the education of the people is important. We have seen a lot of product today in our presentation but how many of you are aware of them? In the same way, we are moving on to the population at large. How many people are aware that they could acquire the right software to solve their problems? Maybe they know the problem, but they don’t know where and how to get to the solution. The first key thing is that a lot of Nigerians are not fully abreast of the technology lined up to help them enhance their productivity. That is the first area we need to tackle. We need to create awareness that is why we attribute a lot of time and effort on marketing because we need to get that message out there. When you talk about being naïve, it is not a case of having a semblance of knowledge and not wanting to go into it but we are talking of complete absence of knowledge here and that is why we need to get this message to them. In Nigeria, I think people need to talk to the government to make sure that they have the right level of policies in place in schools, in the city’s establishment; the right level of standard of products and make sure that they are addressing the need of the users. That is also another essential key, we don’t want to walk into hospitals of ours and see that we are not using the state-of-art technology, the kind of technology that is applicable to any hospital around the world. We need to make sure we measure up to that and that is really the key thing to us.
“Healthy competition is very good for the market, so we are not a company that shies away from the competition because competition will always be there…. The important thing is to set yourself apart from the competition.”
What actually motivated you to have HP Life+Unido partnership and what do you intend to achieve with this programme?
For the HP Life Unido Partnership programme, we want to capture individuals, that is, the youth that are in that confinement; that need-market where they are not able to use the right product. They don’t even know about it, so, we want to make sure that these people are aware of it and that they can use it in whatever idea they desire to implement. I met a couple of people, some of them related to me when I took a trip recently and some of these people have sound business ideas. Some people tell you that they want to have their own enterprises but they don’t know how but they believe they can achieve it. Now, it is our job to tell them how and show them what they can use and that is what we are trying to do with HP Life programme. We want to capture these people and a lot of them have gone out of schools, out of age classification to start up SMEs but they don’t see how they can move their business from one level to the other and they are part of our audience in this programme and that is really what we are set after.
Why did HP split so that we now have HP Incorporated and HP-Hewlett and Packard -What does each arm target to achieve?
When you said why the separation, I am happy today because we have started demonstrating why, so, if after this separation nothing came out and if there is no difference, I think I will be very worried to defend that question. Now, we want to make sure that our focus is more streamlined. We are faster in our operation that way as separate entities. As separate entities, there’s a clearer sense of focus that drives projects or the company itself. That should bring a better output at the end of the day. We have split into Hewlett and Packard Enterprise and HP Incorporated and those are the two arms that came out from the split. HP Incorporated which is the office you are sitting in today is focusing on computing, printing, mobile devices and solutions behind each of them. Now, this helps us to drive innovation like you have seen with our 3D printing. In the area of computing, we have been able to shoot out the world’s thinnest PC. For so long, we know that different companies have held that position, we have not been able to hold it for a while but today we are able to and it is not just the size we are going after, we are going after the improved productivity of the product. So, we are offering a wider range of innovative products with many functionalities including the 3D scanning ability. All these products you have seen, we have been able to delve into managed print solution as well, so, those are the few of the innovations and that is why we have shown them to you.
HP as a global brand dominates the Nigerian market. Is HP planning to encourage local content development and how will you rate your support for local OEMs?
That is a very good question because you can’t work without the knowledge and strategy of local development and the local users as well. We have been guided by this policy in everything we do. Our market strategy is one that involves selling through the local channel. We sell to our partners and distributors and that has always been HP window strategy because by so doing, every product that is sold is as a result of each local individual’s effort and the result he gets out of it. HP as a company is sound today because we are held up by our full channels. We have so many partners and distributors and we are very proud of that channel programme we have been able to develop over the years and that is why everyone today can stand and say I am an entrepreneur because of HP. In everything we do, our programmes seek out potential partners and that is one out of many activities we do imbibing the local content policy. And each time we keep improving on it, we are not saying we are perfect, we are not completely there, so that is why we keep having this meeting and session with the bodies concerning the local content policy to see what more we can do. We know HP has been here for over ten years and the reason is because we are local centric. We care not just about the company and the product, we are not here to make quick money otherwise we would have been out a long time ago. We want to be seen as a local company too and if you look around we are fully local here today.
How is Nigeria’s FOREX challenge affecting your operations?
The current economic situation is affecting many businesses not just HP. One thing is that in every situation, we try to look for the best solution out of it. We always make sure that the solution is in line with what the government requires from us and I think that is even more ideal that we don’t go against the set guidelines we have. In trying to work our way out of this economic situation, we have been able to do things a bit differently. We have been very understanding as to the situation and we have been able to look for ways not to hamper the business and we are still working our way out of it not to say that this will cause any long term effect. It is just that as the situation comes, we will adapt with it.
“When you said why the separation …. We want to make sure that our focus is more streamlined. We are faster in our operation that way as separate entities. As separate entities, there’s a clearer sense of focus that drives projects or the company itself.”
How do you intend to be ahead with some many competitors in the market?
That is very key because it is the backbone of every company. You have to work in such a way that people around you are satisfied with what you are doing. We have always had competition up and down, greater or less each year and that is really the dynamics of the market. Healthy competition is very good for the market, so we are not a company that shies away from the competition because competition will always be there no matter what. The important thing is to set yourself apart from the competition; you have to always remain in line with what consumers have always wanted from you. You have to make sure that you do not disappoint the users or your clients. For your enterprise clients, you need to make sure that you give them the most reliable and most secured products they can work with. If it’s the consumer space, you need to make sure that you give them right value for what they are going for. The value point also cuts across enterprise but you need to keep demonstrating what you are in business for. The moment you start getting sidetracked at different things, then there is problem. You can see what happens today in the market, people drop out, people move forward in the race and that is what is constant in the market but we as HP, our primary motive is value for our consumers and that is what we do to set ourselves apart.
What is HP’s take on the PC adoption initiative?
PC adoption initiative is very broad and it spans across a number of activities that are already in place basically. We have been working with a number of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and I believe you were at Intel programme where we did talk about a lot of activities we wanted to kick start. It is to make computing more affordable and accessible for people. A lot of people want this technology but they are faced with financial obstacle, so we need to make sure that as much as we are saying that we are innovative, it is something that can reach to wider populace and that is what this initiative is about, so, we are working with our partners and OEMs and the media will be continually briefed by the marketing team as to what we have done towards this initiative.
What are your personal priorities that drive HP business vis-a-vis technology development in Nigeria?
This role is an opportunity for me to do what I have always wanted to do in my country and having the backbone of such a company like HP, I have the opportunity to do better. All the projects we have pushed forward are borne out of personal effort because I believe it is time we give back to my country. The fact that HP believes in Nigeria so much that they can put their company in the hand of someone like me gives me courage to say that HP is here on a long term basis and HP is here to make a difference. I think the action of the company shows how much they believe in what they are doing and that is my number one priority: To make that impression that technology does change life in Nigeria.