There’s always hope for change in any situation a person faces in life. Misfortunes or disappointments are never permanent, and also is no glory or fame. Resilience builds the very essence of our achievements, and only those who choose to persist until they succeed, can turnout as remarkable role models for anyone to follow.
This success story is about Nnamdi Ezeigbo, the founder and CEO of Slot Systems Limited, and also the co-founder of the Tecno and Infinix phone brands, which are currently one of the fastest selling mobile phones in Nigeria.
From searching for a job in vain after finishing his youth service to settling as a computer repairer, and finally the business magnate and role model that he is today, Nnamdi Ezeigbo has proven that when opportunity meets preparation, success happens!
Here’s how it all started:
The Early Life And Academic Achievements Of Nnamdi Ezeigbo
Nnamdi Ezeigbo, a native of Umuahia, Anambra state, was born on the 4th of August, 1966, in Delta state, Nigeria. He started his primary school education at Pamol primary school, Sapele, and further had his secondary school education at Ogini grammar school and Ogharefe, in Delta state, between the years 1979 to 1984.
After Nnamdi’s secondary education, he proceeded to the Yaba College of Technology in 1988, where he studied Electrical Electronics Engineering, and got a Higher National Diploma (HND), before serving his country, Nigeria, during his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) year at Guiness Nigeria PLC, in 1996.
Nnamdi Ezeigbo further proceeded to study Computer & Electronics Engineering at the Lagos State University (LASU), between the years 1996 to 2001, and graduated with a Second Class Upper result. He later acquired a Masters degree in Information Technology at the Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso, in the year 2008/2009, and is currently running an entrepreneurship program at the prestigious Harvard university.
Life As An Apprentice
After completing his youth service year, Nnamdi Ezeigbo tried to no avail to secure a job with a company in Nigeria. With no promising signs of any potential employment, he went on to work as an apprentice learning how to repair computers. Six months into his job, he decided to move on from his employer because, they had different values. His boss was more concerned about making money than building great customer relationships, and even went as far as ripping off an ignorant customer once, by selling a cooling fan for 30,000 Naira instead of the right 3,000 Naira price.
Nnamdi examined his stance and decided he couldn’t work with a person who didn’t care about his customers, and so, decided to move on to start a computer repair shop of his. Since he didn’t have any cash at the time, he went on to squat with a friend of his at Ikeja, who owned a book store.
As he independently started fixing computers, his customer base grew, largely because of his honesty and the premium he placed on customer service. He made every customer feel comfortable and happy, and this triggered a growth in his business.
His Big Break
One day, an old customer he knew from his days as an apprentice, came to his little shop to see him. He told him he would love him to continue fixing his computers, but would prefer he operated from a larger and more serene environment. To help him out, the customer brought some printers for Nnamdi to sell, from which he used the proceeds to setup a new shop for himself. He paid for the store at a then price of 180,000 Naira (which he eventually bought out years later for 100 million Naira).
From his new store, he began to sell computers. As his business grew, a lot of customers started to both demand for slot stores in areas close to their vicinities, and to ask if they sold mobile phones. With a keen eye to spot opportunity when it presents itself, Nnamdi Ezeigbo immediately expanded his business to also cover the sale of mobile phones.
With no real knowledge on how to manage a growing business, Nnamdi decided to enrol for an MBA program at the prestigious Lagos Business School, and also attended a lot of workshops focused on building a great entrepreneurial prowess.
During this process, he and his team decided to take a 5 year route to build a strong reputation for their brand. By the time the projection had elapsed, the Slot brand name was the most reputable mobile phone retailer in the whole country.
His goal as the leading mobile phone retailer in Nigeria wasn’t just to be number one, but was to make competition irrelevant; and to a great extent, he achieved it.
The Rise Of Tecno
The rise of telecommunication networks created many opportunities in the Nigerian market. Their poor services caused many Nigerians to purchase more than one mobile phone, so they could try a different network when the other was bad. Nnamdi realised this problem early on, and approached Nokia in a bid to convince them to manufacture dual sim phones for Nigerians, so they would carry only one mobile phone at a time instead of two. They refused to listen because, seeing people carry more of their phones meant more phone sales for them.
According to his interview with Nairametrics, Nnamdi said;
“So I went to China and got a guy who had worked with a company called Bird then. Bird was into phones but they got choked and lost market share. I met with the guy and asked the guy to let us do something. I came with that name and I registered it here and brought the guy to Nigeria. And that was the high point of our business. We came together and I designed the first Tecno phone, Tecno T101. We started it but the market did not accept it and we also had problem with the dual SIM not working together and we had to make corrections and we came with Tecno 201 and that was a bit accepted by the market. But we were basically giving marketers on credit to sell the phones and then pay us later. And I was funding it all alone.”
As stated in his interview, this reality prompted Nnamdi Ezeigbo to embark on a trip to China to find someone who could make his dreams happen. Upon getting there, he met a person who worked for a mobile phone manufacturer called Bird. Bird was a thriving company, till they lost a large market share, and then struggled.
Nnamdi pitched to this bird employee to come with him to build a mobile phone that would make the lives of Nigerians not just easy, but also more affordable. They came to an agreement, and Nnamdi registered a business in Nigeria called Tecno.
After a while, they finally designed the first Tecno phone called Tecno T101. The market rejected the phone because it had a lot of issues, including the dual sim feature not working properly. This prompted them to go into more research and development, and the result was the Tecno T201. This phone was a lot better than the first, and the market slightly accepted it.
To promote the Tecno phone sales, Nnamdi started distributing the phones to retailers on credit, to sell. According to his interview with Nairametrics, he said;
“Since I was funding it alone, we were finding it difficult to get the right quantity to sell until the market started accepting us. What I now did was to make them pay in advance, I mean the dealers. So we started using their money to order the products. This was around 2007. The introduction of Tecno brand was the turning point of our business.”
As stated in his interview, he was completely funding the Tecno phone introduction and sales himself. This affected the business at first because, his team had difficulties getting the right quantities for sale, until the Nigerian market began to slowly accept them.
As soon as the market had adjusted, and the demand for the phones were exceeding its supply, Nnamdi began to request an advance payment from the retailers for the Tecno phones. This enabled them to manufacture many more Tecno phones that could better satisfy the market surge. This was around 2007, and his introduction of the Tecno phone brand into the Nigerian market was the turning point of his business career.
The Success Of Tecno And The Rise Of Infinix
In his Nairametrics interview, Nnamdi yet again stated;
“Like I said, Tecno is my baby and we kept improving. I knew a day would come when the middle class would accept Tecno. Initially, it was a phone for low income people but based on improvement and upping our game, the middle class had to accept it and when the economy went down in 2008 that helped Tecno to move to the top. Since purchasing power had dropped, they had to go for something that have same capabilities but cheaper. So with N15,000, you could buy a Smartphone and thank God for 3G network. The advent of 3G network actually helped Tecno to move up. So students who could not afford to buy phones in the range of N30,000 could buy one for N15,000 and enjoy features of Smartphone like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and so on.”
According to the interview, as the Nigerian economy dipped in 2008, so did the purchasing power of the people. This forced many people to seek cheaper alternatives to their general expenditure, and as such, a lot of people began to purchase Tecno phones than many other phones in the country, driving it up to the number one selling phone for the average and middle class Nigerians.
Concerning the birth of Infinix, Nnamdi stated;
“Tecno now gave birth to Infinix. It is the same company. You can now see how the brand has evolved. So looking at the Nigerian people, you would see that a phone like Tecno will get a point when premium customers will like to use it.”
While the Tecno was having a great time in the market, it spun off a subsidiary from itself, named Infinix, to cater not just for the middle and lower class, but for all classes of individuals in the country.
Today, Tecno and Infinix are the fastest selling phones in the Nigerian market, and have a rock-solid reputation that has guaranteed their future in the country
To Sum It All Up
Nnamdi Ezeigbo’s success story is that of a man who doesn’t just have a keen eyesight for spotting opportunities many can’t see, but also has the drive and resilience to act on it every single time. He keeps updating his knowledge so he can be better prepared for any new trend or challenge, and just as his ultimate goal became to make competitors feel irrelevant in his line of business, he has achieved it to a great extent in the Nigerian market.