Most often, when people hear the name Port Harcourt, what first comes to mind is oil and gas. It is true that Port Harcourt city is home to quite a number of multinational oil companies, a good number of construction companies and a few other businesses, (you can find out more about the garden city here) however there is more to the city than that.
The story I’m about to share with you today, is one of distinction, diversity and inspiration. This is the story of Oseni Abiola, CEO Trisat Communications.
My first encounter with Abiola was on Facebook forum where a few individuals including myself were bemoaning the fact that figures and facts about startups in Nigeria was not a true reflection of the ecosystem and that press coverage of startups in the South South was inadequate and a host of other issues, (you can find a summary of that conversation here). In the midst of that, Abiola said to me, “I want to tell my story”.
We finally got to meet at the FocusHub ideation session on Taxation and the Role of Technology and he proceeded to tell his story.
If you considered Abiola a “Southernised” Westerner (if there is such a phrase), you would not be far from the truth as he has spent the past 15 years slowly but steadily changing the Port Harcourt business landscape as you know it. He describes himself as “an entrepreneur passionate about solving challenges with technology”. If you reside in the South-South, South East part of Nigeria, and you run a business that leverages on enterprise solutions, chances are you were once a client of Trisat Communications.
The company was founded nine (9) years ago with the vision of providing first rate customer service, offering 3 major services – network solutions, software development and ICT training. On further enquiry as to why he decided to set up in Rivers State, the CEO had this to say;
“Rivers State has given me a lot. The state is blessed with a lot of skilled persons and i just wanted to prove to people that it was possible to succeed here. I am passionate about solving the problems that exist here and frankly speaking, there are opportunities everywhere”.
Shedding more light on what products his company offered, Abiola talked about the IP telephony system, Microsoft technologies, Huawei collaboration systems and custom sofwares like Nortify– a smart school solution for the education sector that enables provides convenience for users, helps save time, cost and also serves as an examination testing and certification platform. The software is expected to launch in June 2016, so be on the lookout for it.
It is common knowledge that no successful business is without its share of challenges and Abiola was more than willing to share his experiences.
“When we first set-out, the issue of tribal sentiments was quite prominent then but over time so it was quite difficult wading through the waters here initially. Secondly is multiple taxation – it a major issue in this state but i got a tax consultant and over time, i’ve become more acquainted with the way these things work. Thirdly is the erratic power supply and we spent some time tackling time tackling that, looking for cost effective ways to provide power.”
Of course, He was also quick to point out the advantages as well;
“I found out that businesses had limited options, it was a question of positioning my company as being reliable and dependable. In the Niger Delta, word of mouth referral is very effective.”
We also asked him if he thought the government was doing enough to support technology in Nigeria and he emphasized the need for the government “to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs by the reduction of levies and licences to enable more players come into the eco-system”.
Finally, he advised young entrepreneurs to establish businesses around their core strengths, build skills around their passion, improve in their knowledge base, be up-to-date on what happens within the government cycle because policies can affect the political, economic, social and tech aspects of the business but most importantly, to believe in themselves.
He further advised them to skip the bandwagon and chart a course for themselves because “when time and chance come together, it will eventually pay off.”
Image credit: Abiola Oseni