By Bose Adebayo
She is a mother of three, a widow and a food seller at the popular Oke-Odo market in Agbado-Oke-odo Local Council Development Area. In spite of her hard work, Madam Kofo, as fondly called by her friends, could not make ends meet and her three children were withdrawn from a private school.
Her routine for three years was to resume work by 5.30 in the morning and close around 8 in the evening. Being an SSCE holder, Madam Kofo would have preferred to work with her certificate but she never had such an opportunity.
But her story has now changed in the neighbourhood. The usual hungry look she has been known with has become a forgotten story as she can now put food on the table for her children who are now back to school. Her journey to success suddenly began two years ago when she was introduced to the call centre business immediately after her 37th birthday.
Mr. and Mrs. David Nwachukwu are another happy couple that had almost taken to the street of Lagos when the husbandâ€™s shop was demolished in Oshodi. But they got a lifelineÂ through the sachet water (pure water) business their pastor introduced them to some couple of months ago. Life is now reasonably good for this family of four as their hope appearsÂ rekindled.
Sachet water and call centre businesses had become lucrative ventures among many Lagosians.
This they do with ease, especially now that demolition of structures is taking its stole among many families. Unlike other businesses that are capital intensive, call centre and pure water businesses could be operated on a low-key basis.
â€œI sell up to 20 bags(of pure water) on daily basis without paying for any rent unlike
before when I paid three years rent on a shop that was later demolished,â€Â said Mrs. Nwachukwu.
The erratic power supply in the country, particularly in Lagos State is now an avenue for most call centre operators to be in possession of power generating sets which now provide Global System of Mobile Communication (GSM) charging service to people.
All one needs to start the business is just a dashboard with many sockets and a generating set. Handset users can now charge their batteries with generating sets at any call centre of their choice and this goes for a token of N50.
Some respondents who spoke with Vanguard Metro said while the call centre business requires about N10,500 to start with, the pure water business requires a start-off capital of N1,000 and above.
In different areas of the state, operators of these businesses are increasing by the day.
While some call centre operators place their dashboard on a stool, some, however, have developed safer cubicles where the phones are charged. The businesses are mostly seen around motor parks and market areas. This is because people throng those places. For instance, when a person comes to the market to buy something, he or she can call for pure water or leave his GSM with a call operator within the period of transacting business and charge it.
They generate income that one would not have thought of. For instance in some parts of the state, operators of these ventures get about N3,500 daily when business booms while in other parts, operators get as much as N5,000.
â€œI started the call centre business with only N2,500 after I begged and got the permission of my land lady to use the space in front of our house. The money could only buy a handset which I recharged with N500, but I thank God that today, I now sell recharge cards and I pray God to provide money for a generator and dash board so that I can combine it with the charging business,â€ said a call centre operator by name Chijioke.
â€œIf one wants to excel in the call centre business, he or she must open around 7 in the morning and close late in the night. We donâ€™t really spend much to recharge our phones these days because a lot of promotions are going on. For instance, you can recharge with N500 and get a bonus of N500 depending on the network one is using,â€ he added.
Commenting on the new ventures, a teacher, Mr Emeka Egwatu, said the idea is better thanÂ engaging in activities that disturb the peace of the street. â€œHonestly, I support this new business. Apart from charging peopleâ€™s phones, it has also provided income for them.
Through this, they would be able to meet their own needs,â€ he said.
â€œThe business is okay because it exposes you to different types of people and you get enough patronage if you are friendly with them. I was formerly into weave-on and attachment business before I started the call centre about six months ago.
Today, I thank God that I am into the right business. I started with N20,000 which I used to buy a phone and some recharge cards. Job seekers should start something rather than combing the streets on daily basis. With a daily recharge of N500, you get N500 bonus,â€ gushed Nike Oludemilade.