Oladipo Raji is the president/CEO of Focus Group, one of the fastest growing ICT conglomerates in Nigeria with a clear and dedicated focus on providing end-to-end ICT solutions and services to solve present and future problems, with four subsidiaries.
He is also the founder of Oladipo Raji Foundation, a humanitarian organisation set up to empower the underprivileged to achieve their full potential through access to formal education.
In this interview with Daily Sun, he speaks on the operations of the group and its vision for 2020.
How does your group work?
We are a technology company using technology to innovate in order to serve our customers. We basically use innovative technology to deliver value-added solutions to corporate organisations. As a vendor agnostic but customer-centric company, we partner with world-class technology brands such as Dell-EMC, Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco, Newgen, HP, NetApps, Airtel, Glo, MTN, etc, use their technology to innovate and solve organisations’ business problems that they are most suited for. We also create new solutions and intellectual properties (IP) of our own to solve problems where existing solutions are either not suitable or not optimised for such business problems. In all, if it doesn’t add value to the operations of the customer or solve a business problem, it’s no business for us.
Our greatest challenge is availability of pool of skill set from which to recruit from. There seems to be scarcity of skill set in the country as its very difficult to get capable skilled people to employ. Although there is so much cry of high unemployment in the country, unfortunately, the so-called unemployed graduates do not have any skill neither are they ready or willing to learn and work, all they are interested in is money. Looks like the very few good people have left the country. The next is the general lack of adequate infrastructure that is common to every other Nigerian business, especially power. As a 24/7 company, we spend heavily on power to keep our operations running and this impacts greatly on our bottom line. Another challenge worthy of mention is the market structure, especially in the connectivity sub-sector, where we have to compete with our service provider for the same business due to lack of effective regulation of that segment the market for different scale of operation. Apart from these three major challenges, others are lack of government patronage and support, lack of protection for young local companies, and multiple taxation.
By the end of 2020, our group will be entering its fifth year, within the first three years, we have grown from an SME to a large corporate and set new record in our industry as the youngest ICT company in sub-Saharan Africa to be certified to ISO9001:2015 standard as well as the youngest ICT company to run 24/7 operations in the country. These landmark achievements have raised the bar for us and positioned us appropriately for the next level. At inception in 2016, we set these goals for ourselves over a four-year period in our Vision 7:2020. This vision is for us to be among the seven top ICT companies in Nigeria by the year 2020. By God’s grace, we are set to deliver this vision next year. Besides being among the seven top ICT companies in Nigeria, other things to expect from us from 2020 and going forward are: Improved customer support with our 24/7 experience centre, launching of innovative service to solve current-day challenges and expansion to other African countries.
Nigerian business environment
Doing business in Nigeria is challenging, especially for new companies, but we have come up with creative ways to deal with most of these problems. For skill issues, for example, we have created an academy where we train young school leavers for free as part of our CSR and then recruit from the graduates of the academy while the others are released into the industry. To date, we have had a 100 per cent employment rate for all graduates of the academy from inception. For infrastructure, we have had to provide our power to supplement whatever we get from the national grid, like every other company. To deal with the anti-competition structure of the connectivity market, we have had to create other value-added solutions on top of our connectivity offerings that position us better than our suppliers whom we have to compete with.
In the last three years, we have created innovative solutions revolutionising the industry. Some of the innovations we have successfully delivered today include:
•e-legal: This is a legal office management system that provides a 360-degree management of the law firms available as a software as a service (SaaS) and on a pay-per-use model available for use by law firms and individual lawyers. This solution allows law firms and individual lawyers to manage their offices and cases. It also provides artificial intelligence that guides a lawyer on a step-by-step basis to deliver on any legal objective. This is the toast of every lawyer and law firms today.
•HRWorkPlace: This is a human resource management system available as a pay-as-you-go model. Even though human resource applications are not new, the innovation around our own solution is the fact that it is made available as a service and on a pay-per-use model. Hence companies no longer need to invest in infrastructure to run their human resource system neither do they need to be in their office to access their HR systems but can have access from anywhere in the world. This service delivers full human resource management service to SME, SOHO and other medium companies. The solution manages the staff from entry to exit, including their records, career progression, training, leave, appraiser and renumeration. This is required by every organisation for their staff management. The fact that we made it available at no infrastructure cost made it very attractive to all prospects.
•SmartHome: This is an intelligent home monitoring and control service. The service is to monitor and manage devices in the residence of people on a subscription model. Hence, we have created different types of services that people can subscribe to, depending on how many devices they want to control remotely.
One of the ways we mange competition is through innovation. We operate a blue ocean strategy at Focus Group, thereby creating our own future, instead of struggling for the already saturated market. Our capability to offer end-to-end solutions from within the group positions us to do this effectively. For existing markets, however, we compete effectively through unmatched efficiency in the industry. Our unique value proposition that sets us above the pack includes: one-stop shop, service excellence, trust and confidence, innovation, agility, experience and industry knowledge and cost-effectiveness.
For our CSR initiatives, we own a foundation known as Oladipo Raji Foundation, a humanitarian organisation set up to empower the less privileged to achieve their full potential in life through access to formal education. The foundation became operational in June 2018 and its currently sponsoring more than 10 young Nigerians in secondary and higher institutions of learning across Nigeria. Besides the foundation, we also run an academy where we train young graduates to make them employable for free.