By Ebele Orakpo
Mr. Akin Samuel Michael is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Abuja-based MyPC Technologies, an IT solutions firm. A graduate of Computer Science from the University of Ibadan with certifications in information technology and other Microsoft certifications, Akin Samuel said he developed interest in computer in his first year at the university because he enjoys solving problems and the computer has different commands that can give one the same results and that was actually what drew him to the computer. In this chat with Financial Vanguard in Abuja, Samuel speaks on the business and challenges. Excerpts:
“My father once asked me to do something and I could not get it done. He asked me to look for another way of doing it. I went back to look for a solution and failed again. For the third time, he asked me to go back and still look for another way of doing it if others failed. Eventually, I got it done the third time. That experience made me fall in love with the computer because it makes your job easier.”
Establishing my company:
After his youth service at the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSDC) where he worked as a system engineer and network administrator (in their Communications unit), he decided to establish his own outfit to provide specialised/professional solutions to socio-economic problems.
“There are a lot of problems I will like to solve or be a part of the team that will solve them. So I took up entrepreneurship in information technology and decided to focus on my area of specialisation which is web site designing and software development.
“I discovered that a lot of people are at the mercy of web site designers. We do not have a lot of firms that specialise in web site designing in Nigeria. All we have are IT firms. They do a lot of things including web site designing but they are not specialists so I decided to specialize in that. Most of the jobs I do are for people that have already built their web sites and they still come to me. They may just want to edit something on a web page and they call the person that designed it and he is not responding because there is no money attached or probably he is busy or out of town. So I decided to solve that problem by establishing MyPC Technologies to take care of that,” he said.
The company which was registered in 2011 has about 20 professional programmers and designers that can handle clients’ jobs. They build web sites for governments, NGOs, private businesses, musicians, events like weddings, hotel management software, customer care software, marketing software, office management software etc. “We have a customer care unit and a front desk that handles all complaints,” he said.
Thereafter, Samuel came up with a project to assist the government to solve problems. He said; “One of the visions of my company is to solve socio-economic problems using the power of information and I know the power of information is stronger online so it is in line with what I do – web site designing and software development. I then came up with some projects like Corpertion.com, Face of Corpertion, Corpertion Awards Nite, Corpertion Job Fair and Corpertion maqgazine.
“Corpertion.com is a web site for past and present corps members. The purpose is to further help the NYSC achieve its objectives. The truth is that the only thing that unites us in this country is not even football but the NYSC scheme because regardless of whether you have HND or BSc., no matter your tribe, religion or course of study, you can go for NYSC. Also you are posted to any part of the country and that has helped to unite us and so there is need for corpers to keep in touch after the service year. Since inception in January 2013, we have had over 1.6 million visitors to the web site. We have about 1,500 registered members.”
Samuel said the Face of Corpertion is a beauty pageant which brings the winners of Miss NYSC and Macho Man at the camp from all the 36 camps nationwide to a grand finale. Corpertion Awards Nite was instituted to reward corpers and NYSC officials who have excelled during the service year. I noticed that nobody gives awards to corpers. Awards majorly given in Nigeria today are being bought. Let us give awards to people based on the services they have rendered and sacrifices they have made. I heard of a corper that raised millions of naira to facilitate a hospital in her place of primary assignment.
Another one raised millions of naira for a water project in a local government area. So we need to recognise these corpers. “We will also be organising job fairs for them. It should not be a doctor in a lawyer’s chamber which is what we have today. Then there is Oga-worker.com which is meant to bridge the gap between illiteracy and the thirst for professional skilled workers. If for instance you need a plumber, you may not have any plumber’s contact so you ask friends. There is no database for skilled workers in Nigeria who constitute over 60% of the labour force and most are illiterate. We want to create a database for all skilled workers like tailors, plumbers, iron benders; mechanics etc.
Our agents will go round and register them, fill their forms, put them on the web site so the general public can access all the information. If I am in Abuja for instance and need a plumber, all, I need to do is go to the web site, click on Abuja, then on Central Area and plumber. I will click on a plumber to see his contact, experience and people’s comments about him then I can contact him. So even if I am in London, I can help my grandma to get her plumbing job done. We also plan to further train these artisans, introduce computers to them and help them advertise their skills and products.
We want to make skilled work look more professional and appealing to graduates. This will create more entrepreneurs and reduce unemployment. It will give room for people to learn skilled work and not see them as jobs for illiterates. If I read mechanical engineering, there is nothing wrong if I work as a mechanic but most mechanics we have are drop-outs yet, we have a lot of mechanical engineers being graduated every year. We want to let them know that skilled work is not meant for illiterates only.”
On the challenges, Samuel mentioned access to funds, right people to work with, balancing work and life, lack of mentors and support from government and people.
“What we have in Nigeria is not unemployment but unemployable people. You employ people to work with you knowing that you are just a starter, and all they think about is the month end. They don’t think about the service they render. They are not creative, not innovative, not ready to add value. And when they work in an environment where they are given a role to play that their impact has to be felt, they tend to chicken out. They love civil service job where they will have free time to watch movies on their laptops.
“As an entrepreneur, you have a lot of overhead and need to raise money, get the job done well, satisfy your clients, manage the staff and run the office efficiently. At the same time you have a family and other social responsibilities so there is need for balance.
“I did not get mentors on time so I made a lot of financial management mistakes. I got my mentorship from books and my pastor. I advise people to read books,” he said. He regretted that small businesses do not usually get support from government or individuals until they have made it big.
“I believe that by 2020, I should be able to consult for the federal and state governments, international bodies and companies on providing socio-economic solutions.”