Edwards: Nigeria Needs Data Enabling Products to Create Digital Economy

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Nigel Edwards

The Vice President, Sales for Europe, Middle East, Africa and India at Western Digital, Nigel Edwards, in this interview speaks on the importance of data storage, some of the company’s data enabling products that would enhance digital transformation and economic growth in Nigeria. Emma Okonji presents the excerpts:

How can Nigeria and other African countries take advantage of data that is fast exploding to boost digital transformation?
The challenge for everybody is that people see big data explosion as something that concerns only big organisations like Amazon, Microsoft, Google among others but the truth is that everybody, both big and small organisations, including government, must begin to take advantage of data explosion around them and make effective use of data to address several challenges. I do not know the rate at which data is growing in Nigeria specifically, but we have seen in the last four to five years in some cases at the global level, the growth rate of between 14 to 15 per cent for data storage and data growth. So that alone puts a lot of concern on many organisations to drive capacity growth with data. What we are doing at Western Digital is to ensure that we provide the market with latest technology that will enable companies and consumers to embrace data and to take advantage of data explosion to address the issue of data storage. So we are making storage devices available for everyone to enable people feel comfortable about the data they generate and share.

Your core technology is on storage. How will this help address issues around global data explosion among organisations and individuals?
Yes, our core technology is on storage, but our focus is to position our brand as a data enabler in the age of global technology explosion. So we are enabling the growth of data with our products release that are centred around data storage. We do not see ourselves as just storage device manufacturer because we are much more than producing hardware storage devices, having scaled up our products portfolio.

So what is the specific contribution of Western Digital to global data growth?

We have sold large quantity of storage devices and in the last one year, Western Digital contributed 43 per cent of the total digital storage products that were sold globally. So what I can say about our contribution to global data growth is that everything that was developed from the data storage perspective, largely came from Western Digital and that makes us enabler of global data growth and explosion.

Western Digital has been in operation in Nigeria for quite some time, but Nigerians started noticing your actual aggressive marketing recently. What actually prompted the need for your new marketing strategy?
Yes, we have been in the Nigerian market for quite some time, but three years ago we realised that we have not fully penetrated the Nigerian market and we came up with three-stage approach to deepen our presence in the Nigerian market. The essence is for us as a company to understand what we need to put in place to create a strong marketing foundation and build on that foundation as we take it forward. So we started aggressive marketing in Nigeria about two years ago with our SanDisk brand and our marketing team has done a very good work in that regard. Going forward, Nigerians will be seeing more of Western Digital products in the market.

How can Western Digital help in addressing the high demand for access to data in Nigeria?
Demand for data is growing exponentially across globe and Nigeria is not the only country with high demand for data. To address the growing demand for data in Nigeria, we are expanding our distribution chain for our products and solutions. We have also scaled up our products and made them more flexible to grow with the market demand. So the key thing for us as a company is to work closely with our partners and expand our distribution network in Nigeria and at the same time, increase our local presence in Nigeria.

The Nigerian market is a large, with different market groups and interests. So where lies your target audience in the Nigerian market?
The SanDisk products are consumer-based, addressing several market segments like the oil and gas, manufacturing, telecommunications, health, education, among others and we have been very successful in pushing our products across these target audience. But as Western Digital becomes more established in Nigeria, there will be opportunities for us to develop and grow our business in other sectors of the Nigerian economy because all industries, be it Nollywood, need data and they are creating data by the day. Although our biggest target audience in the Nigerian market is in the consumer space, but our focus is to diversify to every other sector of the Nigerian market.

What are some of the specific areas and sectors of the Nigerian economy that you think is fast driving data that needs the attention of Western Digital?

Some sectors of global economies are actually driving data explosion faster than people actually thought. For instance the autonomous car industry that will produce cars that will be controlled without the physical presence of drivers, is actually driving data, because lots of data are needed to control autonomous cars and we are beginning to see the gradual appearance of autonomous cars in some countries, beginning with the trial-testing on some designated roads. Autonomous cars are built with a lot of sensors and cameras that make use of massive data to operate them. Again the 5G network, which is the latest generation network, comes with a lot of data with increased bandwidth that will also drive data explosion in various sectors of the Nigerian market.

You are in a market where there are competitors and you need marketing strategies to survive competition. Can you share some of the marketing strategies?
We are not scared about competition because we have our clear strategies on competition. We have a clear plan of what we want to achieve and how we want to achieve the plan in the Nigerian market. We will continue to do our best to satisfy our customers and ensure they have stable business, while using our products.

How can your products enhance digital transformation in Nigeria?
Storage of data is key to digital transformation and our business is about data storage devices as well as enabling data growth across regions. Again, the efficiency that we put in place in our new products is geared towards digital transformation, which is all about using available data and the result of data analytics to address specific challenges and grow economies in a more digital way. There is increase in the awareness and use of data among business customers and data is driving digital transformation. So the impact of Western Digital as enabler of data, is key in enhancing digital transformation in Nigeria and other regions where we have presence. We are are enabling companies to realise the need for data storage and we are making it cost effective for them to invest in data business and do more marketing activities around data that they are creating.

How can Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) benefit from some of your listed products?
As we develop our products, we also consider SME business because they are key to national development. From the data we have about Nigerian businesses, SMEs are developing fast and they need our products to consolidate their growth. So we have solutions and products for startups and SMEs at affordable rates.

How do you support your distribution network and what kind of support do you offer to your partners?
We offer timely support through our distribution network from our various support centres in Nigeria. So we have a strong distribution chain that helps us to address customer challenges of any sort. As a company, we have arrangement on how damaged products can be returned to the company through our distribution channel.

What is the level of security built around your products to ensure maximum protection of customer businesses?
All our products have various levels of security built into them, which include our enterprise and hard drive products. They come with encryption modules that protect customer business. Security is critical, especially with the explosion of data and we take security very seriously in all our products design.

How will you describe the mission of Western Digital to the Nigerian market and how important is the market to your company?
The Nigerian market is key to us at Western Digital, just like other markets were we operate. As a company, we have done so much in the data storage market, and our mission is to have up to 40 per cent of the total data storage market in Nigeria, and there is no reason why we cannot achieve it because we have fantastic brand across the global market. If we can effectively support our distribution network, our customers and consumers with great technology, then we can achieve the feat and even surpass it.