From his look, you will hardly think he is a computer geek, but Engr Emmanuel Ugwu, the Managing Director, Ideal Computer Tech Limited is one of the best brains the four walls of Nigerian Universities ever produced in Computer Engineering. In this interview with INSPIRE, the Enugu state indigene disclosed how his inability to get a paid job after graduation led him to his fortune.
How did you come to love computer?
After I graduated from Enugu State University of Science and Technology where I studied Computer Science and Engineering, I was posted to Lagos for my NYSC. On completion of my NYSC programme, I sought for jobs briefly and could not get any but being a computer professional, I came to Ikeja and started hustling in computer related business; installation, networking and so on.
Did your parents agree that you should study Computer Science in school?
It was in the 90s, and then a computer was regarded as witchcraft by my people because they believe it does mysterious things. It was not my plan to study computer science, I wanted to study medicine, I had a high score and they gave me computer science and engineering. I accepted Computer Science because all I wanted was to go to school and acquire education.
You just accepted it without a second thought?
As at then I had a guardian, my eldest brother, when I told him that I was offered admission to study Computer Science and not Medicine, he encouraged me, with unmeasured hope that it would pay off. I accepted because of his experience in life.
Do you regret studying the course?
No! Not at all! I have never written a job application letter since I graduated.
How then did you start in Ikeja?
What happened was that I had a friend during my NYSC, his name is Tunde, he was the one who told me that he did his internship in Ikeja. I was interested and after lunch one day, he took me to Computer Village. I saw people working on computers without studying computer science. Each day, after that day, I would go to see how things work there. One day, one man called me from Onitsha that he wanted to buy a system that my brother had told him that I studied Computer Science, that was my first business and it paid off. Before I knew it, the whole Onitsha GRA started contacting me for business. Most especially, to clone their system and what has been helping me is that I have been honest with all my customers. The other one is prompt delivery and maintenance, if you have any issue with my system I change it for you, I don’t wait for you to start doing trial and error.
What is your goal in this business?
Soon, there would be Ideal products as you have the HP and others but for now, cloning is what we do. What we do is that we get the casing, and other things needed. The only thing you don’t clone is the monitor but every other thing, can be cloned. These things are of different products but we couple them together.
How do you cope with competition from other cloners?
There is no competition because most cloners are fraudulent. We have our integrity to protect. When we give out any product, we make sure we test run it. The other edge is that I am a Microsoft Certified Engineer. I am the author of Today’s Computer
How has it been working in Ikeja?
I don’t see myself as part of those who work in Ikeja, as you can see my office is far from the crowded area. With my education I should know how to disassociate myself from the bandwagon. Most people you see in that market are fraudulent and illiterate, some of them don’t know what a quotation is, or write a proposal and that is why most still don’t stop seeing themselves as hustlers, that does not mean that some are not doing well.
Was there anyone who discouraged you from going this path?
What I did was to start with those I think would discourage me. I started with my friends, I was introducing them to computer one after the other. I showed them how the computer can help in taking stocks and calculation, which they bought into it. When they saw me making money, there was no point to discourage me. With the computer business, I bought my Mercedes Benz 230 six months after NYSC. Though the business is facing challenges now, it has been lucrative.
What are the challenges?
They are mostly entrepreneurs’ woe; finance. There will always be the need to expand and this requires capital. Currently, we have about 250 staff but would like the number to extend before end of the year.
What was your wife’s first opinion about you on your first meeting, because in those days, computer literates were usually seen as con artists?
From the outset, she knew what I was into. Later she complained for long time and now she has given up on me because there is no separating me and computer whenever I am working but I have also found a way to pay her and the children back. Like yesterday when I returned home around 1 am and went to my computer she observed that I wanted to work, she gave me space but made her intention known that she would like me to rest.
So would you say it is hard work that earned you the recent award?
Yes! Honesty and diligence did it. The funny thing is that when I was looking for where to do my industrial attachment, I was sent to Inlax Computer, today I received award with them as an independent company. The reward for good job is more jobs. Since I have started doing well and there is hardly a day that passes that I don’t get one job. I am not talking about cheap jobs. I am talking life changing jobs. I don’t give excuses for a job.
So what is the secret?
I don’t quarrel with my customer; I treat all of them equal and like a family. I have said it before, I am a very hardworking man, once you are a hard working person the sky is your limit. As the country is shouting recession, my company remains afloat. My branches are working perfectly.
How do you manage staff?
My staff are part of the family. Let them know that the business can be theirs tomorrow and they will work well. You have to have a capable person before trusting the person.
Many say that your recent award was fake, that you are not well known in Ikeja?
The award is a mystery because I was sitting my office when Silverbird Television came in and said they wanted to interview me. Then NTA picked it up from there.