Mr. Lucky Ofuafor shares in this interview the ideas that have kept Rolof Computers alive in the past two decades, making the company to expand into computer education in Delta State and beyond. He also revealed what every entrepreneur needs to succeed in Nigeria. He spoke with ITPulse’s Martin Ekpeke in his Warri office, South-South Nigeria.
How will you rate the performance of Rolof Computers and Academy in 2014-2015. What are the targets in the remaining part of the year?
For 2014, we did very well in the computer industry for Rolof Computers and the Rolof Computer Academy. We have tried to survive in the industry, despite the downward trend of the Nigerian economy. The transition from one government to another has really affected the economy and so there are a lot of cautions by people who want to go into new investment. But at the same time, we have tried to be innovative to be able to survive in the industry. We have been able to introduce new things, especially in the area of software development to enable us to cope with changes in the industry. What we are doing now is to develop our own products that will be unique to enable us to grow the industry and the business. Similarly, we have also tried to give back to the society by training young Nigerians, especially those at the secondary school level to compete favorably with their peers globally. We have programmes for students that are on holiday, we want to occupy them. For some of these programmes, they will have to pay a fee. We want to teach them how to develop mobile applications and games, we want them to appreciate the skills needed to be better people in life. We also want to introduce them to computer based test that is now being used to run JAMB examination. We want them to appreciate that using computers to write the exam is not magic. In the Rolof Academy, we have put all the facilities that are required by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) for us to run national innovation diploma programmes. So, I can say we have done very well, we are very strong in the industry and I believe that the future of the industry is very bright for us and others that want to come in.
In other word, you have a vision to develop capacity in the industry?
Yes! We have a vision to develop capacity not only for ourselves, but also for younger Nigerians because they need the skill to be able to compete and take it as a profession. Nigeria has a lot of brilliant people; our goal is to start from the primary school, take it to the secondary school and to the undergraduate level. But what we are doing now is to start with the secondary schools and then extend it to the undergraduate and primary level in subsequent ones. Apart from the one we have in this holiday period, we will invite schools to come participate and benefit from the programme.
As a reseller of computers and other IT devices, how will you describe your relationship with major OEMs like HP, Dell and others?
Our relationship has been cordial and mutual. They want to sell their products and we want to sell also. We have been able to sustain that relationship over time, especially with HP, with whom we are a Silver Partner; their products have been doing very well too. In fact, 80 percent of our hardware business is more of HP compare to the other OEMs. We are also Gold Partner for Intel, but in this environment HP is more popular, it is the most dominant in the industry in the sense that they give a lot of support for their products unlike the other OEMs whose support is very limited. Every month, HP sends their engineers from Lagos to come and attend to products that have problems. That has encouraged us to focus more on HP than the products from the other OEMs.
Does that mean a customer should wait for a month before his product can be fixed. Don’t you think there is need to develop an in-house capacity to sort out after sales issues?
We have in-house trained engineers that handle everything that a customer buys, but the one that required parts that we cannot handle; we refer them to HP to handle.
What are the success stories from the Rolof Academy so far? Secondly, are you looking at developing mobile applications and games as part of your business?
We have done a lot with the academy. We have a consultant that is guiding us and he has been here to look at the areas where we need to perfect. What we have done so far surpassed our expectations because of the facilities that we have put in place. When Mr. Charles Emetulu, the former Commissioner for Higher Education in Delta State visited us in March this year, he went round the academy and was very impressed with the facilities that he saw. For him to visit because of the feedback that he got outside goes to show we have standard in this place. Secondly, we have been able to improve on our studio technology because one of the courses we want to run is Multimedia technology. In the area of software development, we have introduced courses to train people, so that they can take software and mobile apps development either as a hobby or as a profession. We also have a full department of ICT, where we have workers who are developing software that we are using internally. But we want to introduce some of our software like the Point of Sales (POS) and the school management software to the market so that they can solve problems in the society.
Do you have an E-commerce platform to sell your products?
We have introduced our E-commerce platform since last year and have been selling online. What we did was to hook our website to GTBank market hub, a place where you can sell your products and people buy making payment with their card. The payment goes into our GTBank account and then we can deliver to you or you come to pick from our office. It’s managed and secured by GTBank, so there is no fear that your data will be hacked. GTBank has also helped us to do advertisement, so it has been very successful. The other one we are developing now is the school management software, where the students will be able to do everything online, including payment, registration and checking of result.
What government’s policy do you think should be sustained and improved in the ICT industry?
We are still expecting the policy direction of the present government, but we don’t expect any policy change soon in the ICT industry. It’s important to say that the industry is a very big industry for employment generation, so if the government can collaborate with us, a lot of employment opportunities can be created in the industry and that will reduce unemployment generally, especially among the youths. We expect that the government will move in that direction and continue to improve on the policies that were there before. The government should also introduce new policies that will expand the industry, especially in the area of broadband because without reliable Internet services, we cannot do much in the industry. If the broadband can be extended beyond the major city of Lagos and Abuja and make it affordable, then a lot of people will be able to do a lot of things.
What are the things that keep you going as an entrepreneur?
I have faith in God and get all my inspirations from God. I put God first in everything that I do. Secondly, I believe that I will succeed in everything that I lay my hand on; failure is never an option. There is also passion in all things that I am doing because without passion, no entrepreneur can do much. As long as you have passion and your interest is there, you will always succeed. The strive for excellence is very important for an entrepreneur because if you are not focusing on what you are doing, then you are about to fail. An entrepreneur must be able to understand the policy of the government and the economy, and then be able to adjust to it.