Fagbemi: Digitalisation Does Not Lead to Job Losses

Olatokunbo Adenike-Fagbemi

The Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (nahco aviance), Mrs. Olatokunbo Adenike Fagbemi, in this interview says the business transformation project the company embarked on recently is expected to result to a quantum leap in its revenue in the next five years. She also said the plan to digitalise the company’s processes will play a vital role in achieving the target. Fagbemi is expected to drive the strategic transformation plan of NAHCO, which was developed by KPMG, by operationalising a seamless and harmonised group structure. Obinna Chima brings the excerpts:

How has the company fared under your leadership in the past six months?

The NAHCO you are seeing today is a new company. Right now, what we are doing is ensuring that our processing is right and a lot of our processes are governed by treaties signed by the Nigeria Security regulations. We are the first in Nigeria to be certified in three airports. We have facilities for perishable items, so you can ship perishable items out with our facilities here in Lagos, Kano and Abuja. Very soon, our Port Harcourt perishables would be ready. We are investing in everything that would make our cargo business work. We plan on having an export processing centre where we would assist the agents and shippers because a lot of things go out are not properly packaged. Thus, we want to put in a platform that would ensure that we can support exporters as much as possible. Right now, we are on the same page with the shippers. We have a new team – a new Chief Finance Office, Chief Operating Officer, Director for Business Development and Commercial, Director for Corporate Services, Managing Director in charge of our Free Trade Zone. We are very passionate about our Free Trade Zone. We have so much value and data that has been untapped and we are looking for a lot of businesses to come add value to the Free Trade Zone so they can take advantage of the zone. You can take your goods out without worrying about Customs once it is not in their territory. So we do not take this business lightly, we want to fulfil the potential of the business, not just for the shareholders, not just for the staff, but for the economy as a whole. When things run better, the economy would be better. But if we are not meeting our potential, the effect it would have on the economy would remain low compared to what it should be. However, we need support to bring all our great ideas to life.



Since you got into the office in December, can you tell us how things have changed in terms of culture in line with your transformation agenda?


Now, we are on a transformation agenda. We have a clear cut agenda. I believe that if there is a clear cut open plan that we all buy into; it is easier to arrive at a goal than when one person or a group of people are doing it. Speaking on how receptive the staff have been to the transformation, when I came into office there was an ongoing negotiation on the condition of service and one of the things I did when I resumed was to sort it out. I had to go into negotiation and we settled that in March or February, and once it was settled, the things that was raising the temperature the most which was the negotiation was open. Subsequently, we had town hall meetings with our staff. When we were negotiating, I worked out the maths on the value and impact of the negotiation so they can see that this is what it would cost the company to get what they are asking. There was no need to hide anything. I am not saying it is easy, it is a journey of five years and this is just six months but in six months. But we can see a difference. We all work as a team and we have a good rapport with the people because we have gone round the station and we are being as transparent as possible. I am glad to say our transformation agenda is going well. I would like us to have this conversation at the end of the year so we can feel the pulse and know if it is a fluke or reality. I think it would be good for us to test it together. And for our share price, I believe it would go up because even if it is just the value of the asset we are investing in, that shows that our share price would increase. We are putting value into the company; our revenue has gone up by about 10 per cent and we have not reached the peak season. We are hoping that by the end of the year, we would be hitting N12 billion. If we add that value by the time we look at our assets, revenue and other indices, it would reflect. We advise people to buy our stocks now because in the nearest future. it would not be the same price.


Don’t you think there is need to raise additional capital to drive all that you have set out to achieve?

What we are doing right now is to look at the transformation agenda. We have the plan and milestones. So, we are monitoring and we are using this year to build and monitor. We do not want to take a decision that would hurt us. So, this year is our foundation and building year.  When we meet the milestones early next year, we would come up with the things that would be put in place. But raising fresh capital would be based on the result generated this year.


Also, don’t you think your drive towards digitalising your processes will lead to job losses?

Digitalisation does not always lead to job losses. We are working towards expanding our business, so why would we relieve people of their jobs after we have invested our resources on them? We would need them if we are going to expand. We would digitalise gradually over the next five years, but it does not mean it would lead to unemployment. We know it is expensive and that is why we are not rushing it because we cannot afford that now. We are doing it in phases so that we can absorb the cost. In addition, we have a team of 10 men and women in our Information Communication Technology department and one of the things i challenge them is that we cannot be doing basic things everyone else is doing. We must be innovative and solution providers, that would reduce our cost. The internal resources we already have in ICT would do some of the work that would have been done by external consultants, that would have cost more money to do. The other thing we are driving at is that anybody that is coming to do the work would not charge us so much because we are not a government agency. So, we would do all the ground work. We believe we can digitalise at a cheaper cost. We are also creating an innovative team whereby if you have ideas, we encourage people to bring such to us. We believe that a lot of the things we are going to do would come from our 2,200 staff. We intend using our people to their maximum potential. In my first six months I have discovered a lot of people who have what it takes. We are looking at different peoples’ strength so as to utilise them. We do not do everything internally, but we do some based line studies. You would be surprised at the raw talent we have and have been using to carry out our operations. So, we must always remember that it takes a human to run and monitor whatever digital platform that is initiated.

What has the competition been like in your sector?

In terms of competition we have that largest market share. We are not trying to play catch up in terms of IT, we are actually ahead, but Nigeria as a country is behind in the international scope of the industry. There are many airlines that want to establish their hubs in Nigeria, but so many things are not put in place that is where growth can come from. We are not fighting for crumbs; we are looking at building the business so that it would be attractive to investors. We know there is competition in the market, but our focus is not on that, we are building a platform that puts us in the right place such that we can have the right people come here. In aviation, competition is not only local, there is competition coming from the whole of West and Central Africa. Everyone wants to come to Nigeria to make it the hub, but Nigeria is the one standing in the way of itself by not putting some things in place.