By AYO ALONGE
Ali Williams is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Pro-Hygienitech International Limited, a technology and science-driven sanitation company in Nigeria with headquarters in the United States of America.
In this interview, this US-trained businessman told Sunday Sun that his company has tentacles in 18 countries in West Africa as well as commented on the Nigerian economy and more.
As a company, could you tell us about your influence in the country?
As the Managing Director of the company, I can say we represent the company in Nigeria and West Africa. We are currently in Nigeria, because Nigeria is like Africa. Our novel contribution to the market is mattress cleaning and sanitation. We work for homes, hospitals, hotels, schools and anywhere else. We often conduct what we call mattress contamination tests.
How long have you been in Nigeria?
We started operations fully in October 2015 but we have been on ground long before then. We have done a couple of projects for schools, hotels and private homes.
What’s your company’s marketing strategy?
We have a couple of strategies for reaching the market .We solicit potential clients and call on them to hire us for test-running and it is non-obligatory and at no cost to them. We allow them see the results through a microscope and through a mini laboratory test .We also have a couple of sales representatives out there who go to people. You know it’s always difficult to convince people. In fact, our slogan is ‘are you sleeping with the enemy?’
Would you say your company is science-driven or technology-driven?
It’s both. It’s technology driven in the sense that we have the best technology in mattress cleaning worldwide at the moment. The company is both science and technology driven.
Since you started business, what major challenge have you faced in the area of sales and marketing?
The challenges we face are common. Persuading people appears very difficult as they don’t know the dangers in unhygienic mattresses. It sounds very unreasonable to ask if you have sanitized your mattress recently. The level of awareness is quite low but even when your mattress is covered with a mackintosh, it’s still contaminated.
Could you tell us about your parent company?
The head office is in Florida, USA and it has been existing for 15 years. The company has been on Fox News, CNN and the rest. Our major achievement is that the US government is our client. For instance, we work for the US Navy and of course so many other companies patronize us. I was trained in Florida and that motivated the idea to start the business in Nigeria. My first trip to South Africa revealed to me that South Africans started sanitizing their mattresses before us here. In Nigeria here, I discovered that some two other companies are into a similar thing with us, although I have not met them.
One can say the success of the company in the US is due to high level of literacy and awareness over there. What’s your company doing to have as much patronage as you do in the US in Africa?
We want to explore all possible avenues to reach out to the people. We also want to show we can partner with government. During the Lassa fever epidemic, we wrote to so many state governors through their commissioners for health and permanent secretaries, telling them that we can partner with them as our way of fostering hygiene. We want to tell people that it is possible you visit a hospital and go back home with a worse ailment. State governments are taking their time to look into it. When you go to the media and declare that you run a free contamination test, you can be sure you may not have any space left in our office here, the way people would rush in. We do our free contamination test as a business. Sanitizing is profitable.
Would you like to partner with the Ministry of Environment or the Ministry of Health, if you have your way?
Yes, that is why we have written to them. Lagos is big and that is why we have written to Lagos State government and even the Oba of Lagos. We have also gone to his palace for presentation. So, we are already contacting governments, companies and individuals that can move sanitary hygiene to the next level.
Now that you hardly have a competitor, what niche do you have in the entire cosmology of business in Nigeria?
From my findings, the other two companies I told you are into a similar thing are working with old technology. Our niche is excellent service delivery, because we do not expect to be a monopolistic company forever and that is why we have partners and finders. We also organize training for those who want to go into the business. We put them through and make them buy the needed equipment from us.
How expensive are these equipment?
The equipment are very expensive now because of the exchange rates. Way back in 2014, things were very good and cheap but they’re now expensive. One unit of equipment now would cost about N3.5 million. The equipment come with accessories that would help you kick-start your job. As a company, we are open to partnership to help you get your job going.
In what area is the recession affecting you?
The recession has crippled virtually every business unit now and if you are not strong enough, you may be out of business. If we were not established on a solid foundation, we would have packed out. Our parent company in the US sends us equipment. Yes, the recession is impacting business negatively but we hope it won’t be too long before it abates. The exchange rates are the issue.
Do expatriates work with you?
Currently, we have none. I trained in the US and I am a certified specialist. I have also trained many Nigerians who are now doing very well. We are doing very well, so we don’t need to bring in expatriates. We attend international trainings twice annually just to keep fit in the business. As we grow, we hope to import the technology, rather than bring in expatriates. We just send our staff to the US for training.
What do you do in the area of employment opportunities for young people?
The company has a very unique model for empowering the youth. We have people working for us with the opportunity to make ends meet. We have a platform where graduates can make use of their networks to get jobs for us and they are paid commissions. We also have people on our payroll. We also have people who do jobs and get abnormal pay. For a single job, you can earn N200,000 from a contract of N1,000,000 for us. We can always engage more people to do that.
What can government, at all levels, do in the area of entrepreneurial development, employment generation and skills acquisition?
The government can help. Nigerians are very hardworking and our dexterity can be attested to worldwide. Government programmes are not working here and if they are, it’s negligible. Government should have genuine grounds where people can go.
You mean financial institutions are not helping Nigeria’s economy?
Yes, they are not. I was a banker for nine years. Nigerian banks would give you a short-term loan to run a long-term business and that is why everybody starts cutting corners. How can you give me a loan and expect me to pay back in six months? How do I achieve that when we are still working on acceptance? There should be both short, middle and long term loans like in other countries. This is our country and nobody is running away. Even pepper sellers are running away from loans, because they keep chasing them to pay up on a short-term basis. It is wrong on the basis of workability, because people who borrow are worse off. We haven’t taken any loan from anybody anyway. Our business is very lucrative, because we have potential. We have 18 countries in West Africa to cover. How can you be sleeping on a mattress without sanitizing forever? It’s crazy. When I made a presentation to Sheraton Hotel in Abuja, I discovered they virtually burn any mattress they considered bad but that is wastage. With just a simple treatment you can use your mattress for as many years as you want. We need people to buy into this idea and everything becomes hygienic for us.