Ogbuagu Chibueze, a biometric system specialist and Managing Director of Automated Access Technologies and Investment Limited, recently threw the doors open for business when he officially lunched a showroom at Satellite Town, Lagos. In this interview with Mary Ekah, he talks about the beauty of being an entrepreneur
Can you tell us about your background?
I am from Abia State but schooled in Enugu State University of Science and Technology, where I obtained a Bachelor degree in Engineering. I studied Computer Science Engineering. I graduated in 2000 and from that time to now, I have put in 15 years of my life in engineering practice. Where I worked last, was a Biometrics Consulting company and I was the head of IT and Operations. Automated Access is the realisation of my dreams, aspirations and the totality of my engineering practice so far. I have also had training in welding. And today, I am the managing director of Automated Access Technologies and Investment Limited. I also had training in welding.
Why did you study engineering in the first place?
From JSS 3 you need to choose what you want to study and from that stage, I have always been a science student. I actually wanted to study cardiology initially because my father died of heart failure. But then when I realised what it will take for me to become a cardiologist – that I needed to first of all get my MBBS and then probably travel abroad for further specialised studies, I felt it was going to take too long and then I also thought of Pharmacy but I eventually settled for Engineering because I am a typical person and very gentle and so I chose to study engineering because that was what suit my personality and passion. I graduated in 2000 and served in 2001, I have never worked in any sector other than engineering. Even when I was under paid and even when I didn’t like the job I was doing at a point due to poor remuneration, but the best job I ever had in my life is when I was a software developer for a software-developing firm in Anthony, Lagos. Then, my salary was N25,000 then that was in 2006. It was actually the most fulfilling job I ever did because I was developing software and writing programmes, I really enjoyed the job but the salary was bad. In fact my wife was earning four times of my salary then and so I had to quit even though I loved the job. When I left the company, I found myself in the area of biometric. I thank God that I took the decision that time. I went looking for jobs that would fetch me better pay and in course of doing that, I found a new way to establish something I know can sustain me for the rest of my life. I found myself in biometric in consulting and we have done a lot for job so far with both individuals, private and government organisations. My company Access Technologies and Investment Limited, is a startup, it is the totality of my work experience that has culminated in Automated Access.
Talking about biometric, what do you think that would do to the economy?
In 2008 we implemented a concept for First Bank. It was the first ever-biometric ATM in Nigeria and the reason for that project then was because the level of fraud in the banking industry in terms of stolen identity was alarming. First Bank was looking for a way that when you wanted to collect money, you would also authenticate that you were truly the person. So that started from that time. Most frauds have to do with identity. When a country cannot identify her citizens either through certain security number or alternatively through technology like biometric, there is a big problem because if anything happens or any one commits crime, it would be difficult to identify who the person is. So biometric helps you pinpoint people one-on-one. At other places like private homes and companies, you can use biometric to protect your properties.
Now what is the focus of your company?
We facilitate Access Control/Time and Attendance. These include facial, fingerprint, card, PIN authentication or mix, integrated with door closers, electromagnetic locks, electric strike locks, dead bolts, turnstile systems, etc. Network or stand-alone, up to 2000 terminals, 100,000 users, audit trail, system log, digital photos of events, voice prompts, reports, export data, technical support. We also deal in automated gates and doors like the sliding, swinging, collapsible, remote sensor or mobile phone open/close, safe installation, retrofit to existing or fabricate from scratch. Battery backup, can integrate NEPA, generator, solar and inverter systems; framed or frameless glass and low power design.
Then the biometric applications which entails facial or fingerprint authentication applications, linked databases, interfaces to payment platforms through NIBSS, biometric enrollment and verification, field exercises, pensioners’ verification, staff audit, biometric administration systems, document capture. Conceptualisation, generating user requirements and specifications, design, coding, user acceptance testing, deployment and training, including supporting field biometric enrollment and verification exercises.
Other services include CCTV – Digital or IP based; dome, PTZ or hemispheric cameras as well as steel fabrication and aluminum joinery like doors, windows, gates, canopies, railings, roofing, cladding, partitioning, etc. materials applied include Steel (mild or stainless), aluminum, wrought Iron, glass (framed or frameless) or mix.
We have established a steel fabrication workshop. We fabricate steels and aluminum. We have our website where you can find our catalogues and there you would find the kinds of job we do from railings to door, access control, time and attendance and then for the bigger clients like the state governments, pension offices, we can help them to identify their customers, staff and pensioners against ghost workers and the likes. At our workshop, we can fabricate from scratch and with our mobile equipment, we can also undertake on-site fabrication, repairs, fortifications or reuse of existing gates/doors where possible, thereby making our offer more cost-effective and logistics-friendly. Our mission is to make automated gates affordable to middle class people.
How affordable are your works?
Part of the cost of running an automated gate is providing power, not necessarily steady power but at least you should be able to provide five to six hours power within 48 hours so that the systems keep running. Now because of that challenge, we need to provide back up power to ensure that it stays on. Now there is a battery that keeps it running and you need to charge that battery. But if we could eliminate some of these overheads, it will be cheaper. Another factor is that Nigerians like bogus things and so it cost more to buy the materials but you can actually fabricate a simple gate and automate it for an average of N500, 000 but if you have an existing gate which only need to be automated, it will cost you half of that.
Can you share one of your memorable moments?
That was when I met the woman I am marrying. My friends and I had one or two issues with girls while we were in the university and so we made a standing rule that whenever a girl enters our room for the first time, the first person that approaches the girl, owns her. And so it was one of those days that the woman I am marrying today walked into our room I quickly said, ‘na me go marry this girl’, before any one could say anything to her and that was how it started. And today I do not have any regret that I took that step, which appeared so silly then. Today, I have a strong family background, I am close to my wife. We are friends and so she knows me a lot. There is nowhere I go that she does not know about or that I don’t take her to. She knows my friends. So to some extent that helps to build more trust. And then, I don’t really give her reasons to worry and she knows I need to work hard. I work extra hard but I have a strong family background that keeps me going. I have two kids of ages two and seven.
Do you have plans to mentor your people in this line of your job?
You see, having located this kind of business in a residential neighborhood, of course there are a lot of corporate social responsibilities that we could engage in, and I have not had it so good in life in the sense that we lost our father at a very early age in our lives and our mother as a widow had to singlehandedly raise the six graduates out of seven of us. Her seventh child went to nursing school and today she is a Nurse. So life has not been rosy and I know the value of hard work because I have start from the grassroots and today they are up there. So I believe that the portfolio that we want to go into business with is viable and we are wiling to work hard to make it happen.
What was your childhood days like?
Life wasn’t rosy at all like I said. During my school days, I was sent away from school over nonpayment of school fees. At a point in my life, relatives had to take us to live with them when they saw that my mother was going through so much hardship to train us. It is not that life has been so bad though but if a widow raises you, you will know that you don’t need to finish the last food in the pot, you just have to remain small, no matter what, so that the next person can find something there.
Are there people you look up to as mentors?
My mentor as far as Nigeria entrepreneurship is concerned is, the Chief Executive Officer of Slot Limited, Dr. Nnamdi Ezeigbo. We are from the same locality and I saw when he started Slot and I know what slot has become today. In a my siblings only two of us live here in Nigeria, the rest stay abroad and the have been talking to me about coming overseas with them but I have never for one day wanted to live overseas because I believe there are bigger opportunities here in Nigeria.