Managing Director, Hewlett Packard Nigeria, Ify Afe, spoke with select journalists on the organisation’s commitment to boost technology development and the need for government to sensitise Nigerians to adopt the right technology solutions in addressing personal and economic needs. Emma Okonji presents the excerpts:
What is HP’s vision for the Nigerian computer and printing market?
HP is strong in the Nigerian market but we are yet to explore the market to its fullest. We have a long term and short term strategies for the Nigerian market and we intend to remain longer in the market, being that we are the oldest original equipment manufacturer (OEM) in the Nigerian PC and print market. Our continued stay in the Nigerian market shows our good intents and purposes for the market.
Being one of the oldest players in the Nigerian PC market, what would you say are the opportunities and challenges of the market?
For us at HP, we see a lot of untapped opportunities in the Nigerian market and there is need for proper education and awareness to tap into the opportunities. I think education is the key because it is the only medium for us to carry along the youths and other categories of people in the country.
For example we have a programme called the HP Life + UNIDO, where we are partnering the schools to provide hands-on training for students. What we do with the programme is to visit schools, understand their interest and challenges in impacting knowledge and we will go back and develop software that will help them overcome their challenges and at the same time enhance the performances of both the teachers and the students.
That is one area we are really focusing on in HP as an organisation.
How will you compare the Nigerian market with other developing markets?
Looking at developing economies in the African continent, you will discover that Nigeria is a growing market with lots of potential and capacities to grow. In Nigeria, we have a lot of tech wizards who are startups and are eager to hit the ground running. A lot of countries in Africa may not be at the same level with Nigeria in terms of technology growth. Nigeria has the population to drive technology growth, which other countries do not have and if that advantage is properly harnessed, Nigeria will come up even stronger in the area of technology growth.
The only thing that Nigeria needs to improve on is in the areas of education and awareness.
In Nigeria, the technology potential is high and untapped and we need to explore these potentials better.
So why are the technology potential still largely untapped in Nigeria?
The reason for this is that there still exists a wide gap in the area of education and awareness and Nigerians need to be exposed to the opportunities in Information Technology (IT).
We have huge population as well as huge challenges in our hands as Nigerians, but very few are aware of the existing solutions to address their daily challenges. They are aware they have challenges but they do not know the means and the how to address those challenges. A lot of Nigerians are not fully aware of the technology solutions that are already on ground that that can be used to address their challenges and we have a lot of those solutions from HP, and I think that is the area the Nigerian government needs to focus more by creating the opportunities for people to understand how to use technology to address their daily challenges.
It is for this reason that HP devotes a lot of time on research and marketing, just to understand the needs of Nigerians and develops software solutions that will address all of those challenges.
Could it be that Nigerians are naïve when it comes to technology opportunities?
It is not that Nigerians are naive of the technology opportunities or that they do not understand that there are challenges before them. But the truth of the matter is that they know that the challenges exist but they do not know that the technology solutions to address those challenges are available and that is why we are particular about education and awareness creation among the Nigerian people.
Again, government must ensure that the right policies are put in place to facilitate all of these, and we are working closely with government to achieve it. Government should insist on the right level of standard for products and solutions in the country and endeavour to come up with policies that will protect organisations operating in the country as well as the Nigerian citizens.
For instance, government must insist that hospitals must use the state-of-the-art technology in order to provide the right treatment to patients.
Why the HP Life + UNIDO partnership and what does HP intends to achieve through it?
HP partnered United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) on a programme called the HP Life + UNIDO partnership, designed to capture Nigerian youths that do not know how to use the right technology solutions to address their personal challenges.
We want to create awareness campaign in this area to make Nigerians better informed because majority of Nigerians have good business ideas, but they do not know how to go about them and how to create opportunities out of them. The HP Life programme will expose them on how to achieve their dreams and that is what is actually driving the HP Life + Programme.
We have come to realise that a lot of young school leavers who tried to start something on their own, were grounded at a particular level of their business, because they lack the skills and exposure, and they do not know how to scale-up their business. This is our sincere reason for the partnership.
There is a recent split in HP’s operations. Why the separation and what will it benefit the organisation?
I am happy to announce that the separation was good for HP as an organisation. If after the separation, nothing good came out of it, then there could have been no reason for the separation in the first place. The essence of the separation is to ensure that HP’s focus is more streamlined. We are faster in our operations and we are more agile with renewed focus after the separation. When we talk of agility, we are not talking of just been smart about doing business, but also being innovative in business. HP had to split into HP Enterprise and HP Incorporated. HP Incorporated is focused on computing, printing, mobile devices and the solutions that drive each of them. The HP Incorporated will be coming with different business solutions in printing technology and computing technology. For example HP has come up with the design of the world thinnest PC in the market, courtesy of HP Incorporated. Apart from the size and weight, which make it the thinnest, HP Incorporation has been able to improve on the quality of HP products for better customer experience. We now have desktop computers with diverse functionalities, using the 3D ability. The HP Enterprise Department is in charge of idea development that will drive the growth of the company.
What is HP doing about local content development and support for local Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in Nigeria?
We are concerned about local content development in all our production and support for local OEMs in the country. This is true because it is inimical for any business to work in silos. There are policies for these and HP has been guided in everything we do in our business to promote local content and support for local OEMs.
For example, our Go-to-Market strategy, which was borne out of policy formulation, is one thing that we adhered strictly to. So the policy does not allow us to sell directly to customers, and this is to enable our channel partners who are local firms to have proper grip of the market. This is one of the several ways that we encourage OEMs, and it helps us to avoid having any form of competition with them on a retail basis. So we do wholesale marketing through our partners and distributors, who then sell directly to customers. So the total volume of sales that HP turns out every day, depends on the efforts put in by our local partners and distributors in driving the business. HP as an organisation, stands tall in the business today because our partners and distributions have been empowered to do the business, and this is a sure way of localising our kind of business and to also drive local content development.
Through our partnership programmes, we have been able to support other organisations, especially the technology start-ups. HP has been in Nigeria for quite a long time, providing the best of services to our clients and customers. Our continued stay in business is a testament to the fact that HP is here to stay and will continue to expand the Nigeria’s PC market.
We are local and we truly want to be local.
The Nigerian economy appears not to be favourable to business, in terms of the forex exchange. How is this affecting the production line of HP?
With the forex situation in the country, we do know that it is affecting many businesses, but we will continue to create solution that will address the imbalance in the market place. In providing solutions to challenges, we stick to the rules and ensure we do not go beyond the set of guidelines. In trying to walk our way out of the difficult economic situation in the country, we have been able to do things a bit differently.
HP is in the market of competition. How do you intend to remain over and above competition in the market?
Competition is the backbone of any business and the ability of any organisation to survive competition, determines the strength of such organisation. We have always faced competition and healthy competition drives the market. One thing that is key to surviving competition, is to set your business away from others. For HP we have continued to research on market demands to know what the market wants from us and this has helped us to come up with ideas and solutions to address challenges and needs of customers. In the enterprise space, we do ensure that we give to consumers, what they exactly want.
What is HP’s stand in PC adoption initiative?
The PC adoption initiative is very broad and it cuts across a number of activities. We have been working with a number of OEMs on how to kick-start some of our initiatives in line with the PC adoption initiative. The whole essence of PC adoption initiative is to make PCs available and affordable to consumers and we are playing big in that area. People need PC, but they do not have the financial capacity to purchase them, as a result of some financial challenges they are faced with. We are currently working with our partners and some OEMs to ensure that people have access to PCs in the most affordable ways.
As managing director, what are your priorities in driving the HP business in Nigeria?
The role of a managing director in an organisation like HP, is tasking but my priority is to maintain policies and structures that will enable me do what I had always loved doing in the technology sector that will see me grow the HP business in Nigeria and make our product the first choice for customers. My priority is to come up with workable ideas to further drive the company’s activities. I have a need to give back to Nigeria and the fact that HP as a global company, believes in Nigerians and can put their business in the hands of a Nigerian like me to manage, gives me that courage to say that HP meant to do long term business in Nigeria and to grow the Nigerian market in a more profitable way.
So my priority is to ensure that I use the HP technology to address issues that will change the individual and collective lives of Nigerians.