–Shitta bey, lady horologist
By Josfyn Uba
Stereotypes have been broken and glass ceilings, shattered, too, by women. While some achieved success by hard work and determination, fate merely smiled on others
For Taiwo Kadiri Shita-bey, the technical know-how of watch repairs runs in her DNA. Her father was proficient watch repairer. She too, has carved out a niche in that same trade stepping into her father’s shoes.
Today, Kadiri depends on her precision and hard work as a horologist for her livelihood
Although, many people did not only doubt her competence to manage her father’s company, but also doubted her ability to flourish as an artisan in a technical, and a male-dominated handiwork but 35 years down the line, her company, Saxine Horological Services has only grown, with customer satisfaction, Ms Shita-bey has proven that success resides in everyone as long as you are focused.
She spoke to Daily Sun recently in Lagos.
We understand that you have been in this craft for more than three decades. Can you take us through your trip down memory lane?
I joined my daddy in 1985. I became interested when I was just 18 years old, and he taught me how to repair watches. After about six months, I then went to Yaba College of Technology for additional training in Horology from 1985 to 1986. From there, I came back to my father’s shop again to continue my training in the craft.
You were the only one out of all your siblings who developed keen interest in the job. Can you give me an insight into that area?
It’s God that directed me to it. Also my father contributed too. As a child, when I go to his shop to visit him, I loved the way he handled the wristwatches, and how he related with people.
My father, Kadiri Sulaiman Shitta-bey was trained as a horologist in France. Then, from Cote d Voire he went to France before he came back to Nigeria to set up his business. So the way he handles watches, and the way customers appreciated him, really encouraged me because he was in his business and dealings with his clients.
Can you still recall people’s attitude when you indicated interest in this craft?
Naturally, many people kept discouraging me. Some told me horology was very hard to learn but I told them that I would try my best. And I am very happy that I learned it well and have made a credible livelihood from its.
In all your years of practice, could you remember the most expensive wristwatch you have ever repaired?
Yes, of course. It is an original 18 carat gold piece of wristwatch
How have you made your craft standout from others, especially male horologists?
I ensure that my workshop is well exposed, and that the setting is neat enough. The way I set up my business here is different from roadside people. Also, because of the caliber of clients I have I make sure my shop is well arranged.
My clients are upscale and I won their confidence by being honest. Those who come here to repair their watches are respectable people and for such caliber to patronize me, I must live up to their standard in honesty and proficiency, so they are relaxed and are rest assured that their wristwatches are in safe hands.
How profitable is this craft? Would you say it’s been worth your while?
It is very rewarding. I trained my two children up to the University level with this job. I am a single mother, and I single-handedly trained both of them with the proceeds from work.
Without sounding immodest, I know several other things that I have achieved in this business. I don’t do other businesses. I don’t sell watches because it is not as lucrative as repairing them.
What would you tell women that do not have the courage to step out into jobs that society captions as men’s jobs?
My advice to them is that they should try and follow their dreams. Anything a man can do, a woman can do better if only they can put in their best. They will surely achieve success.
Most women feel that there are some jobs that should be left for men but with what I am doing, I want them to know that there is no difference, if only they can focus on their dreams.
Are you fulfilled in this field of endeavor and where do you deride satisfaction from?
I am quite fulfilledand nothing compares to my joy when I satisfy my customers. I am happy when they are happy and they also enjoy what I do. When I repair watches and my customers are happy with the job I have done, I get satisfied.
Normally, I give 12 months guarantee on my batteries, and six months guarantee on repairs. I do so because I am sure of my work.
Have you made efforts to encourage youths and even women to come into this trade?
I have tried a lot of times but you know they are lazy. They would tell me that the job is very hard. And that they can’t do it. Some girls and men have come here, and told me that they can’t do the work, so they just run. i know that if they are patient and focused, that they would not only learn but also flourish in the craft. They can do it. But if they don’t make up their minds, they can’t do it.
I have thought of organising trainings, but I haven’t seen people that are interested and serious enough. Our youths are lazy. They want quick money. They don’t want to do something that will require a lot of thinking. They want easy-going work. I want to pass on my knowledge unto another person. That’s what God wants. I don’t want my knowledge to die with me. I wish to see people that are interested in the skill.
What challenges have you faced in this line of work?
You know customers are always right. But you see some people, they accuse me wrongly. They know what they came here with but later, they would tell you, they came with something else. That’s why, if you are coming with new wristwatches, I would check everything and note it down so they don’t come and start saying something else.
Even, one of my customers came one time that she brought two watches for me to repair in 2014 and now came back after five years for the watch. She said she’d collect N2.5m from me for the two wristwatches. She came with card and I do give my customers cards. Some of them do misplace their cards though but based on trust, I would give them the wristwatch because I can’t expect you to leave the watch but if its someone I can’t really trust, I’d ask them to sign at the back.
But sometimes, to tell a gentleman or lady to sign that they have collected the items sounds embarrassing so based on trust, I’d give them. This woman came with card after five years that and wanted to collect the wristwatch, I told her that I wasn’t owing her.
Under the card, you’d see there that watches were not collected after three months, I am not liable for anything again. She started shouting, wanted to create a scene, went to Barracks Police Station, I called my lawyer, and we transferred the case to the police command. I stood on my feet with her. I told her I’d give her N20, 000, she said no way, that she’d collect N2.5m from me. The commissioner there even said that I wasn’t owing her but she felt they were being partial. She later went to the Human Rights office at Alausa, they told her if she goes to court, that she’d lose the case and berated her for leaving the wristwatch for over five years. It was then, that she dropped the case. Those are some of the challenges we face.
What is your last word?
I want to encourage men and women to learn this trade. They will gain a lot. It’s not what you can find anywhere and you should set the business up properly. Make sure that you are different from the road side watch repairer. Set up your business well and do it with honesty, you’d surely achieve success.