Founder and CEO of Bizsoft Solutions Limited, Oluwasegun Sanni, speaks on the challenges by indigenous IT companies to develop and deploy software solutions in Nigeria’s fast changing marketplace. Bizsoft recently launched Cloudsens, an application that runs on and harnesses the power of the internet of things (IoT) to assist business owners to reduce their cost of fuel supplies. Sanni speaks on how Cloudsens is helping to end decades of fraud that organisations face in fuel supply. He explains how Bizsoft is working round the complicities in several organisations to help them drive fuel efficiency and save them millions of naira lost to unscrupulous suppliers and staff. He speaks in Lagos with Anthony Nwosu.
What would you regard as the unique solutions that Bizsoft Solutions Limited has deployed in the ICT ecosystem?
As an information technology (IT) firm, our aim in the ICT space is to provide innovative solutions for businesses and since our inception, we have deployed two solutions. The first solution (Bizsoft HRM) was developed to handle human resource information challenges and has been on the market since 2015. The second solution was recently deployed in June this year and it aims to reduce diesel purchase and storage costs by combating fuel theft during delivery and during storage. Ours is a firm that is always trying to answer questions in the society. We look at challenges that businesses face and try as much as possible to solve them.
Talking about your IoT based solutions for monitoring fuels such as diesel, petrol, etc., what prompted you to implement this?
The public power supply in Nigeria still leaves a lot to be desired and that has prompted many organisations to seek alternative means of obtaining power. The most common one is by using diesel generators and thus the need for purchase and storage of diesel fuel. However, we noticed that a lot of firms suffer from under-delivery of diesel fuel from their suppliers who in most cases have adjusted the metres to inflate the amount of fuel delivered; this is apart from the prohibitive cost of diesel in the country. On the average, we noticed from our tests that the inflation of fuel delivery can short-change the customer by up to 15% of the diesel purchased which translates to a huge sum for medium to heavy fuel users. We also noticed that complicity is usually present in these organizations, thus ensuring that the under supply of diesel goes unnoticed at great cost to the company. Finally, we found out that most organizations are aware of the losses to theft but are unable to quantify or do anything about it. These findings led us to develop a solution which makes it easy for administrators to view their diesel level from any internet enabled device including notifications and reports to help them keep track of diesel consumption and delivery. We have deployed this solution in a couple of firms and they have saved millions of naira on their diesel cost.
We know that developing software can be an onerous task, how did you collaborate with the hardware manufacturers to integrate your software with their products?
“[With Cloudsens] all of these companies will see an immediate benefit of up to 15% reduction in diesel procurement cost just from theft prevention alone. In addition to theft prevention, organisations will get efficiency savings as they can remove the human element from the fuel monitoring process.”
The truth is that stand-alone products already exist which allow viewing of fuel levels on site. However, what we wanted to achieve was the ability to view such information from anywhere and from any internet enabled device this is what differentiates us from these stand-alone and the software engineered and developed by us not some foreign software that some firms might dump on clients. Furthermore, we wanted a solution that will provide insights to fuel usage and one which aggregates all the various tanks owned by the organization into one easy to use portal. We set out by speaking to various manufacturers and based on the need to balance cost with durability and reliability, we settled for our current hardware partner. It took a lot of collaboration between our development team and the manufacturer’s team, including physical visits to manufacturing plants to overcome identified challenges and come up with a device which is fully integrated with our solution and which is cost effective, durable and reliable.
One of the challenges of this type of solutions is resilience and durability. How durable is this your fuel monitoring device?
One of our aims when we were putting the solution together is reliability and we are confident about our devices which all come with a one year warranty from date of purchase. We have gone into rigorous research and development and also considered the nature of our environment and we can tell you that the solution is robust and resilient.
Elsewhere, deploying IoT solutions has becomes imperative in today’s business but by nature of our internet and other infrastructural challenges, do you think that Nigeria is ripe for IoT?
Indeed! I do believe we are ripe for IoT. I believe businesses are beginning to see the benefits of embracing technology in their operations. Over the last few years, our communications sector in this country which serves as a backbone for IoT solutions and web applications has progressively gotten better. This has provided the right conditions for an array of solutions such as ours to be deployed, some of which would not have been possible just a decade ago.
Banks, churches, filling stations and hotels are few of the organisations that use a high volume of petroleum products. How can your fuel management solution be of use to them?
All of these companies will see an immediate benefit of up to 15% reduction in diesel procurement cost just from theft prevention alone. In addition to theft prevention, organisations will get efficiency savings as they can remove the human element from the fuel monitoring process. Organisations will be able to get insights into their usage and get predictions on depletion date. The solution puts all information about their fuel levels right at their fingertips with powerful historical reporting delivered directly to the user’s email inbox. Aside from banks, churches, filling stations, etc., already mentioned, organisations such as construction companies can combat siphoning of fuel when requisitions are made to fuel their heavy equipment, event centres and electronic outdoor billboard companies will also benefit immensely from this solution.
Sales support and after sales are often a challenge here. What are the strategies that you have in place to address this?
Support is something we take very seriously because it has a direct impact on client’s satisfaction with the solution. Once a client comes on-board, initial training will be provided and we have dedicated support staffs that are available to provide technical support through our support channels such as phone, email or website.
What are the challenges you are having deploying these solutions in Nigeria?
The major challenge with this product is getting the right person to speak with. We have uncovered collusions surrounding fuel theft and under- supply in organisations, thus making it imperative to speak to company owners, or c-level executives who are interested in saving cost. But unfortunately, the fuel or diesel supply system in most companies in the country are run like cartel where those that are in charge of supply give us a brick wall thereby engaging the owners or decision makers becomes hard or virtually impossible.
“Over the last few years, our communications sector in this country which serves as a backbone for IoT solutions and web applications has progressively gotten better. This has provided the right conditions for an array of solutions such as ours to be deployed”
In today’s world, mobility is the key. Is the platform mobile, adaptable and do you think that government can key into this?
Absolutely! Users will be able to access all the software capabilities directly from their mobile phones. Our software is a responsive web application which means it adapts to the form factor from which it is being viewed – be it a laptop, desktop, tablet or mobile phone. I believe the government can key into this solution. There are lots of government agencies which are heavy users of diesel, and these agencies can benefit immensely from using our solution thereby translating to big savings to government and improving efficiency. Do you know the government budget on energy alone? This can cut down their budgetary expenses up to 15% and this is a lot.
What is your advice to IT firms like yours trying to solve problems in the country by deploying IT products?
My advice to such firms will be to ensure you provide affordable solutions that work and solve a problem. It is imperative to do proper market research to ensure that the problems you are trying to solve do exist. If they do and by the time you deploy such solutions, you will be soothing the pain point for your customers and in my view, they will gladly pay for such solutions.