Nnamdi Ezeigbo: CEO, SLOT Systems: From Apprentice Phone Repairer To Founder Of Major Phone Brand: I’m A Product Of Grace, Circumstance

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For Nnamdi Ezeigbo, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of SLOT Systems Limited, business is a passion, he single-handedly revolutionized the mobile phone business in Nigeria, among other issues Enjoy it.

As the first of nine children, he learned the rudiments of trading early in life when he assisted his mother by hawking bread after school.

In this interview, Ezeigbo opens up on how he single-handedly revolutionized the mobile phone business in Nigeria, among other issues. Enjoy it.

How would you describe the phone market in Nigeria compared to the southern African countries vis-a-vis our population? Do you think Nigerians patronise mobiles more?

Nigerians are trendy people; they are very contemporary. They like to associate with the latest models, new phones, devices. I think the market is quite huge in Nigeria. We are not at maturity yet. People still aspire to buy phones.

The man who is using the A31 today aspires to buy the A71. It’s just like what happens in the fashion industry, the car industry; people want to drive the latest cars.

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So, Nigerians are very aspiring people, and I think the Nigerian market is bigger than that of South Africa in terms of consumption.

You introduced dual-SIM phones into the Nigerian market. How are they doing?

Of course, that is the trend. Every company, every OEM is now manufacturing dual-SIM phones, because you know particularly in Nigeria and some other African countries where the network is not strong enough, you are bound to have two SIM cards or three. For instance, you might want to have sims of two service providers.

I think it’s now the trend that every company now considers dual-SIM slots in their phones. Some even have three. So, it is a trend that has come to stay.

By this time last year, the whole world was experiencing lockdown. How did it impact the phone or technological device business in Nigeria generally? And even now that the vaccine rollout is ongoing, did you experience a leap in sales or otherwise?

Like every other business, the COVID-19 affected our lifestyle, our social behaviour and also affected our industry and business. But I also think that the introduction of the vaccine is beginning to bring some hope and so people are now beginning to spend more and are being hopeful.

I think that would increase spending. Hopefully, the economy is going to pick up because once the government is ready to spend and people are ready to spend, that would impact our GDP.

SLOT Systems is a major brand in Nigeria, what is your staying power?

One of the things we’ve done right is the fact that we have the right people; quality people and we’ve been able to understand the Nigerian business environment.

We understand the people and we’ve been able to provide the kind of services that meet the Nigerian business style. I also think that one of the things that have helped us is the fact that I understand business.

I’ve attended business schools. So, I have the combination of street experience and the knowledge I’ve been able to acquire from Lagos Business School and Harvard Business School, and that has helped me a lot.

When you say you understand business, can you put it in specific terms putting into consideration the business landscape in Nigeria?

Business is a profession. I mean if you want to do business, you need to study business. It’s either you study as an apprentice or you study from a business school. It’s either you work with someone who has the skills and expertise or you go to a business school.

I’m being very specific here; business is like a profession, just like you have the medical profession. So, you don’t do business because you have money in your pocket, you do business because you have the capabilities in terms of resources, not necessarily money but in terms of knowledge, skill and expertise.

Hence, we’ve been able to understand the Nigerian business landscape over time. Don’t forget SLOT is 22 years old. We’ve been able to understand the people, their behaviour and most importantly, what they like.

So, you don’t go to set up a very classy, premium store in Agege for example, you will just have a beautiful store that is producing overvalue.

So, you have to understand the people and products they like and provide that service. That’s what business is all about.

What are some of the consumption behaviours you have seen of the Nigerian consumers, post-lockdown?

I think consumers are emotional, particularly Nigerian consumers. Consumers are sceptical and so they want to trust you first. Once they trust you, they will want to do business with you. I think it’s a general thing with Nigerians; we are very sceptical people. We’d want to ask questions to be convinced if you can be trusted.

It’s only in Nigeria a person will walk into a store and ask the store owner, ‘are you sure this phone is original?’ So, what do you expect him to say? Nigerians are very sceptical; they are very particular about trust, reputation, and once they get that, they become emotional. Nigerians are wonderful consumers. We love Nigerians.

What is your impression of the A-series recently launched by Samsung?

Just like the slogan is ‘Awesome’, it was an awesome experience. Samsung is introducing its A-series to the market. They’ve always had the A series which is the A31, A51 and A71 but this time they just introduced the A32, A52 and A72, and I believe the capabilities of these phones are awesome.

You’ve come a long way from being a phone repairer at Ikeja Computer Village to a major stakeholder in the phone business in Nigeria. Taking a look back at the last couple of years, how would you describe your business and life?

I’d say I am a product of grace and circumstance. Like you mentioned, I started from the apprentice kind of beginning. A whole lot of things have worked for me and grace is number one. But I also believe I was able to do some things fundamentally right because you have to understand the fundamentals and principles.

So, if you do the right thing, there’s a possibility of getting the right result. What did I do right? I acquired skills from the apprenticeship point of view and I started small. Over time, I made mistakes, learnt from my mistakes and I was able to grow steadily.

I also think that the fact that I have strong staying power has also helped me. The man who is on the floor, where can he go again? He just feels like that’s the last stop for him, and he either makes it or dies there.

The man that ejected you from his shop many years ago, when you see him now, what comes to your mind?

Oh… I appreciate him every year. I set out a day every year in December to appreciate him. SLOT was established on the 9th of December 1998 and so every December, we appreciate him.

Is your wife still working with you or is she on her own now?

My wife is the strong power behind the SLOT brand. She is the Executive Director. And so, the combination of my wife and I have made SLOT to be a very strong brand.

I am the one who wants to jump without looking, and she is the one who says look first before you leap. She is more of a risk-averse person while I’m more of a risk-taker. The combination has been wonderful.

As a business leader, how would you describe leadership?

Leadership is service and not a title. It’s not a position, just a service to humanity. Leadership is doing the right thing, being empathic, and understanding that your influence can hurt people or create an avenue for growth. Leadership is about service to humanity.

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