Interview: The man behind Nigeria’s answer to the iPad
BY Dinfin Mulupi | Entrepreneur watch, Feature Articles, ICT, Nigeria | March 15, 2013 at 19:27
Saheed Adepoju, 30, is co-founder of the Encipher Group, a Nigerian technology company famed for producing the country’s first tablet computer, called the ‘Inye’. Adepoju told How we made it in Africa’s Dinfin Mulupi how he stumbled into device manufacturing and the state of Nigeria’s technology sector. Below are excerpts.
Saheed Adepoju How are the Encipher Inye tablets doing in the market?
The Encipher Inye tablet has gained some local and international hold. Inye provides the same Android experience as any other Android tablet. What we do differently is ensure that the applications are developed locally by local developers. This ensures that their applications reach a global audience. We plan to roll out other forms of electronic devices within the year once we complete investment drives. What mistakes have you made in executing your business ideas and what did you learn from them? The process of chasing finance should not be for someone who has solely a technical background. We have transactional managers who ensure we have an evolving business case and a growing potential partnerships base. Tell us about some of the challenges you face. Due to the perception of Africa and Nigeria, investment companies are sceptical that investments can yield proper return on investment. However, this over time has changed and all investors actually need (before financing) is the credibility of the person and the brand penetration. This we have found in our experience to be powerfully needed.
The Encipher Inye-2 tablet. Describe the state of Nigeria’s technology sector. The Nigerian technology sector is growing slowly and its future heavily depends on the local ecosystem and relevant government policies. Sadly the policies haven’t caught up with the accelerated growth of the ecosystem. Nigeria’s aspiration based on my work with the committee should be to ensure that Nigeria attains a high broadband penetration. Once this is achieved, some aspiration in other sectors of the economy can be achieved. What challenges do developers and technology entrepreneurs in Nigeria face? Developers and technology entrepreneurs face two problems, which are slowly fading away; first is credibility and the second is access to structured financing. What advice would you give other entrepreneurs? Build credibility for your brand and yourselves and get transactional managers to manage the finance chasing while you concentrate on building and growing the business. Your future plans? I intend to build other products for the emerging markets. I also intend to set up L’abri centres which are Christian centres that help people handle everyday lives. This was born out of my own personal struggle with entrepreneurship and how I dealt with the lonely strides. Where do you see the African technology sector in the next five years? I see Africa as the next stage where investment opportunities will rise in various sectors including technology. It would also differentiate itself colourfully because of our vast cultural mix as a continent.