Vice-President, Emerging Markets (Nigeria) Hitachi Data Systems, Mr. Steve Murphy, says despite security threats and infrastructure deficit, Nigeria remains a toast of global investors. He spoke with UDEME EKWERE
One of the things that attracted our company to the Nigerian market was the market growth, which I will describe as incredible. The fact remains that about 30 per cent of the population of Nigeria are made up of middle-class citizens who are in need of good and affordable data systems. That is the reason most consumers across the regions are creating data. Data needs to be processed and made conducive, strong and long lasting. And we saw the need for all these things here. And so, having all this in mind, we made available our digital data systems for the capturing of data by our customers and the handling of their data. That is what we have been doing with some of the big banks across the nation as well as oil and gas companies. That is also exactly what we are doing for our customers; we have been managing people’s data well.
Another thing is the availability of customers around Nigeria. You will agree with me that this is the reason a lot of companies from the Middle East, South Africa, and Europe are moving into this region for investment. For instance, companies like Chevron and MTN came into this country because of the large customers for their products and services here. And that is why Hitachi came into the country to support the IT system.
Our operation is not limited to Nigeria; we have our branches and entities in other regions such as South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Uganda. The customer base is growing and many people are trying to have African presence. And Nigeria is becoming the number one country in terms of population and GDP in the whole of Africa. Apart from South Africa, which is the biggest in terms of generated income, Nigeria is where many companies seeking expansion want to be.
And going by the projections made by the government, we expect that by 2020, the infrastructure challenges would have been addressed and improved upon to a very great extent with the existing and ever growing population from the new mobile generation. So, we are not in hurry, we are here to support the growth of this country with our data system. This is a long term investment. We are not just flying in and flying out. We are here to be part of the development process.
How much has your company invested in Nigeria?
Well, it is very difficult to tell you that this is the exact amount we have invested or plan to invest in Nigeria. It is the level of demand that will determine how much we will invest in the country. In other words, there is no amount we consider too big to invest as long as the market is appreciating the products and there is a demand for our brand. What I can say is that we will not stop investing in Nigeria as long as the market is still here. And we are doing all that is possible to ensure that the company keeps growing.
There is the need to continue to grow our business. We see the need for more engineers; we are getting new computers from region to region and we are investing in Nigeria as much as we can. We are going to keep doing all that as long as we get marketing funds. We have also got a new office here and we are getting more people involved in our business. All these require huge investments and we will continue to increase our business interest.
We are not constrained by the investment foundation. As long as there are opportunities here, we will continue to support it. And to achieve this, what we are doing is to build the local nationals. That is why we are employing local personnel and we will continue to employ them for our business in Nigeria.
Also, we want to be able to help the government and the people of Nigeria to grow. Therefore, we are training as many local people as possible.
Hitachi was recognised for the second time by Fortune Magazine as one of the ‘100 best companies to work for’ in 2013. How did you achieve this?
Our company was described as the best place to work because we are very optimistic about our workers and we are a growing business. We are not aggressive in the way we treat our workers and we create space for them to contribute their part. The first thing we do is to train our workers on what is expected of them.
The second thing is the leadership quality of the people we bring in.
The third thing is education. We equip and educate our workers, making sure that they get used to the technology of the company as well as most of the competitors. They know that when we say that we are going to do something; we are going to do just that. Our customers also know that they get real value for their money for any service coming from us.
Most multinational companies operating here usually offer their products at higher prices. How do you combine price with quality in order to make your products affordable?
You cannot become number one in the world if you don’t get the price right, you may have the best technology in the world but if it is too expensive, people won’t buy it. So, you get to number one by having the right price. You get the price right by a couple of things; one, you have to understand the value of the solutions. We help the customer to really understand the total cost of the ownership of the solutions. We also help the customers in terms of investment and the range of purchase of solutions that we have.
We help our customers with their challenges and work within their budget to get what they need from us. We have a lot of scale in the business so when we are buying component to put things together, we buy at such huge volume to have the price that will suit the consumers
The global credit crunch has had a multiplier effect on economies in Africa; in what ways do you want to make positive impact on the Nigerian economy?
We are not going to flood the whole of Lagos with our brands but what we are doing is to have a more structural approach towards the market and that is what we have been doing with some of the oil companies and financial institutions. That is to tell you that we are not here to compete but to create a very big partnership with a lot of Nigerian companies and by that we want to have the largest partners here in Nigeria. And we will be partnering with them and having a business to business relationship with many small companies to transform them into larger ones. That is what we are doing.