The Fidelity SME Forum is a weekly radio programme organised by Fidelity Bank Plc. to educate, inform, advise and inspire budding entrepreneurs in Nigeria with knowledge and expertise that will enable them build sustainable and successful businesses. Nkemdilim Begho, founder and Managing Director of Future Software Resources Limited, an IT solutions provider of online solutions, e-learning and IT security, recently featured on the Forum’s Women in Business series. She shared her insights on ‘Leveraging ICTs to Gain Competitive Advantage.’ Excerpts:
You got into the ICT industry at a young age, why ICT?
My dad was a very big influence. He was into ICT as well and made sure that his daughters understood what ICT is. I studied Bioinformatics, which was a double major in Computer Science and Biology. By the time I came back to Nigeria I realised that I could not really do much with that. I decided to use the Computer Science part of it.
Tell us about Future Software Resources.
Future Software is an IT servicing company. We have three focus areas. The first focus area is digital marketing, the second focus area is e-learning and the third focus area is IT consultancy with a focus on process engineering and work flow management.
How were you able to build such a strong footing in such a competitive market?
Because we started early, there was not really much competition. It is also about doing good work and the good work speaking for itself. Our business up until today is pretty much based on referrals and we pride ourselves that we still have clients that started with us 10 years ago.
You stared at age 25. It was not easy to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. What defined your willingness to take the risks and how did you overcome the fears that young people have about entrepreneurship?
I remember telling my best friend that if I do not do this now, when am I going to do it. Am I going to do it when I’m married, have children, and have an income that I’m used to? I said to her that if I do this now and I fail, I can still go back to working somewhere and it will not be a problem. It was also about being able to control my time and do the things that I am passionate about outside of work. I also wanted to be able to attend every school play or soccer game that my kids have. It was really about having a very high level of freedom and I wanted to solve a problem, which was how to get Nigerian businesses online and how to get them on the map.
The ICT industry has evolved over the last 10 years. How do you stay current and upgrade your skills as an entrepreneur?
I am constantly learning. I always tell my team that if you have not learnt anything new today then you have not lived today. In our company we do knowledge-sharing sessions because you cannot stay on top of everything. You do not have the time for it. This year I have also started taking professional courses just to add to the knowledge that I already have, because the more in-depth your knowledge is the more comfortable your clients will be with you. Taking that learning culture into an organisation is very important.
How large is your organisation in terms of staff and how do you keep them engaged and excited to remain in your company?
We recently had an interview session and the candidate mentioned that he noticed that the place was like a family. I think it is really about building a team that not only works together but also plays together. The members of my team are all friends and they are an integral part of the recruitment process as well. For me it is not only about skill but also about personality. For my staff the work is also part of their lives. So building those family and building fun activities around work is very important.
What opportunities still exist for entrepreneurs who want to enter the ICT sector?
The sector is still at its infancy, I think that there are opportunities to start new tech businesses. Many people are relying on Africa as the next frontier. As Africans we need to own the sector and make sure it is not just about working for a bunch of Americans and at the end of the day we don’t own anything. We need to build skills, capacity and infrastructure as well. Technology is becoming an integral part of all industries and the number of start-ups that we already have shows that technology is something that people are excited about. There are opportunities for even non-tech people to work in tech.
For those who have regular businesses, how can they leverage the ICT sector to increase their sales and profitability?
I think that any business that is not technology driven is going to be dead in a couple of years. Technology can be something as simple as WhatsApp, Instagram and other social media platforms. There are many platforms for project management and customer relationship management that you can use to make your business more efficient. In 2018 everybody needs to be into technology and if you’re not, go and learn.
You mentioned your second business and how you market it on Instagram. Tell us about this business.
My sister and I run a manufacturing company. We manufacture baby products using African fabrics. It is completely unrelated to technology. We’re three and half years old. We have been able to sell our products in 22 countries and are currently looking at entering the UK market.
Was funding a major challenge for you when you started?
No, it was not. I always say that the minute you have funds available, you spend it the wrong way because it is money that you didn’t really work for. However, if you start small, you can build on it. I started with just having a website and a business card. I did not have an office or anything. I just went out, got clients and did the job.
What is the trend that you see about women in tech, and how can we help more women entrepreneurs to grow their business in this sector?
We are seeing a lot more female developers and we believe that some of them will start their own businesses at some point. I think it is for the women who are already in tech to keep grooming them, mentoring them and showing them that it is a lucrative sector and that they can make it as women. Yes, it is a male dominated sector but I think the minute you have skill and you know what you are talking about, there are no questions. It is really about being the best. Technology is about skill. Once you have the skill you are fine.
What’s your website, for the benefit of those who want to learn more about Future Software Resources?
Our website is www.futuresoft-ng.com
Source: Fidelity SME Blog