The Chief Executive Officer, INACEptsus Technos, an ICT firm, Mr. Josef Kolawole, 29, tells OYETUNJI ABIOYE how he defied all odds to start his company
What do you do at INACEptsus Technos?
INACEptsus Technos is an Information and Communication Technology company which is also into consultancy, procurement and service delivery.
Our services include but not limited to server installations and configuration; networking-in-enterprise infrastructure; microwave and VSAT internetwork wireless solutions; digital and analogue close circuit television surveillance system.
Others are fibre-to-home and network solution; fire alarm system design and installation for all buildings; digital multimedia interactive and systems engineering; and accounting solutions deployment for local and remote access.
When did you establish the firm?
The company started operations in 2001 but it was registered in 2003. Our first office was on the Mainland before we moved to Ikeja, the capital of Lagos and ICT.
We are also a Microsoft-certified partner firm in affiliation with network accessories producer, R&M Switzerland and Egypt.
How did you develop interest in the ICT?
After leaving school, I went for further professional studies and I became a Microsoft — certified systems engineer. I applied to some organisations for employment. But asides the qualifications, these organisations’ main interest was one’s years of experience which then must be at least three years on the field. I did not have up to that. So, it was an uphill task getting a job. I then decided to start up on my own company. I started by fixing my friends’ computers and running Windows 95. Later, some other individuals and business centres stated inviting me to fix their computers running Windows 98, Millennium and Windows 2000. I moved to installing a computer networking system for cyber cafes (It was the era of the cybercafes then).
Then the vision was not really clear because I still wanted a bite of the mainstream corporate world which was far-fetched. So one day, I had a Sunday afternoon appointment to trouble-shoot a small network computer system for a small newspaper media outfit that had been experiencing problem with its network. The media house was located in a residential estate having similar structures. As a result of the semblance of the homes, I missed the house address of my destination and went to another house in the neighbourhood. I knocked and behold, they also had stand-alone PCs that were malfunctioning. Then, it occurred to me that about one in every two homes would have at least a PC. So if I fixed their computers to satisfaction, I would have a greater chance of getting to manage their office computers and network. That was exactly what happened. As I fixed the home computers, I began to get referrals to corporate clients. I rode on the home advantage, taking my risks. This was how corporate clients started engaging us.
Did you bother to look for job again since you started having corporate clients?
Whether I was going to make it was not too clear to me until the episode where I went to another house by mistake and I had a computer waiting for me to fix there. From then on, I knew I had a better chance of making it working for myself than getting a paid employment.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
As a young entrepreneur, one of the challenges I faced initially was with the start-up capital. After registering my company with what I made from my first corporate job, I applied to a business initiative that grants loans to start-ups with very low interest rate. I was not given the loan though I scored the highest in the interview, reason being that my name, Josef, was spelt ending with an ‘f’ and not the usual ‘ph’. Whereas my certificates and other papers bear Josef, they were not comfortable with the style.
How did you come about the Josef style?
When I was much younger, I wasn’t very conventional. I questioned my Joseph name ending with a ‘ph’ and I tinkered with it, and switched the f to the Josef. Then I used to see myself as a restless person. I would fix a faulty radio, gramophone, convert a walkie talkie to a transistor radio with a tuning capacitor, convert a steam iron water container to a speed boat and make a satellite radio and TV receivers from fairly large radio or damaged loud speakers.
Having failed to secure your first start-up loan, how did you get money to run the business?
After failing to secure the loan, I began to turn over the profits of my business from my home-service delivery and the business started growing.
The other challenges I faced had to do with getting more clients. For companies that already had consultants or contractors, it was very difficult winning such organisations over. For some other organisations operating the open system of job contracting, one could win them with very convincing presentation technique. I think I had about three of such organisations. However, it took me about three years of persistence approach to get them.
The other challenge was the ‘teething period’ of start-ups. Within the first two years, I had only one regular client with an expected income of N24,000 per annum. Also, you might not find support from most people you know. In my own case, I had people telling me they had MBA and they were not starting a company. I was urged to drop the idea, especially in the early years. But I persevered and I am better off today.
Looking back where I was some years ago and now, I really enjoy what I do especially when my company helped to solve problems others couldn’t tackle. My profession is my life; I dreamt about it; I’m living it and I still look forward to achieving more successes.
Where do you see your company in the next five years?
Every five years, I come up with an updated business plan with a better drive to gain new ground. And this year happens to be the beginning of another five-year plan and I must confess to you, I already gained two major corporate client accounts and that’s a big achievement.
What are the major problems facing ICT companies like yours?
This has to do with the challenge in getting clients, who are really willing to pay for professional service. There is also the challenge of efficient service delivery which relies on more skill acquisition from research and training. As new devices and techs come into the market, additional trainings are needed for the ICT personnel and often times, this requires relatively huge amount.
What is the solution to youth unemployment in Nigeria?
The solution to youth unemployment varies among disciplines and professions. Self-employment would work for some and not for others because we all don’t have the same driving force and same skills. The government has roles to play in creating the enabling environment and bringing other untapped and defunct sectors alive. Like the solid minerals and agriculture, they should support research centres so we can move from being a consumer to a manufacturing nation. This move will help in generating employment, reduce individual spending, improve individual purchasing power and also curb inflation.
What advice do you have for young people that are interested in your kind of business?
For people with interest in the ICT and any other related field, with your degree or higher diploma qualification, endeavour to get professional certification and training as a plus to boost your confidence and efficiency in service delivery. Never stop doing online research and also use Twitter network to follow the companies that manufacture the ICT devices you deploy for your service delivery to keep you updated and equipped to take on challenges in the industry.
What are the qualities needed to succeed in the ICT business?
Making it in life in our time requires innovation and persistence. if you observe well, there is always the gap that you can fill. Be patient, be quick, persevere, start small, start somehow as you go along and you will be better defined. Then re-define yourself with changing times and trends.
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