Tunji Eleso is the Managing partner, CcHub Growth Capital Limited. He is an experienced business advisory and support professional with keen interest in business innovation. Tunji aims to build an army of entrepreneurs who create solutions to some of Nigeria’s pressing social challenges. He spoke to Vanguard SME recently in Lagos. Excerpt.
In the face of the prevailing economic circumstance, what is the way forward for SMEs and Entrepreneurship in Nigeria?
I think the opportunities are there. As entrepreneurs, one of the basic things is not getting bugged down by challenges. It is important that entrepreneurs continue to look outwards and beyond their immediate environment for the kind of support they are looking for. We are hoping that government would pick up a lot more of this role to make the environment right. But in the absence of that, there are several support entities and organisations available to support SMEs. What I would advise is that SMEs, young entrepreneurs should reach out and continue to ask questions, network, socialise because in those conversations, you get information that you require to develop your business.
Creating more entrepreneurship scope or hubs in different States of the federation, what is your take?
People are doing a lot of things. But the most important thing we are not doing enough is collaboration. Everybody wants it to be ‘me’, ‘I am the one to build everything’, and that is a big challenge. If you don’t collaborate to find some people who are doing something you are not good at, it limits the amount of growth you can have and that is the biggest challenge. ‘I am an entrepreneur, I can do it all’, that is not correct. You would only achieve little. We need this sector to create jobs and make money. It is important we learn from people doing the right thing and find way to collaborate.
Those areas you feel government needs to help SMEs and entrepreneurship?
Infrastructure is critical in development of SME sector. We need power to move forward. And for technology we need internet. For regular businesses we need roads and power to work. If power works, a lot of SMEs would do their businesses and make money without any interference; vulcanisers, hair dressers, small scale manufacturers, for all these type of people it is critical there is power and infrastructure for them to get anything done. For me that is what government should be able to do. And again, if government should be able to invest in talent, it is important that institutions are raising and growing the right talents so that the talents can now work with the organisations and make things better.
The challenges of SMEs’ inability to access credits from banks due to poor record keeping and other factors; what is your take on this?
Banks don’t have to be the only source of credit because banks are set up by private organisations that want to make money and profit. So, they would only consider people that would make them profitable. Looking at the banks for source of providing money for SMEs is the wrong way, because they would not provide it, they have their own systems and processes to do that such that they wouldn’t lose money and that is their mandate. So we need to find other type of organisations, foundations, high network individuals, government to provide the funding, to get that early funding. Once it can demonstrate that it works and show success, and they are growing, it is then you go to the bank and the bank would readily want to support you. But at the early stage of starting, the bank is not your first source. And it shouldn’t be because they wouldn’t do it.
Your advice to youths who want to venture into entrepreneurship for self-reliance and to create jobs?
Just go and do it. Yes, I know friends and family don’t really exist to give you initial capital. That is always a challenge, but in the midst of all that just do it. There are organisations that have been set up that provide funding, try and find them. Also, knowledge is important to SMEs because you can’t sit at a place and be complaining there is no money. You need to go finding and be a pain on the neck until the money comes out or you understand what the terrain is for getting money and once you understand it, hopefully you will get it. Don’t get me wrong, it is not like there is money flowing everywhere that would go for SMEs. They feel it is the job of SME entrepreneurs to figure things out and demonstrate the value in investing in the business. And I think nobody can take that role but the SME entrepreneur.
Absolutely, we need vocational training to happen. People build this hotel you are seeing. Everybody can’t wear suit and tie and sit in the office as CEO, it is not possible. If it’s so, who will do the work? People built this place and people will continue to build infrastructure. So, vocational training is important. For me, the priority and the way we look at vocational training is wrong. Just like the lady from Chile said, we need to have developed vocational institutions. If the goal is to develop vocational training, let it be the goal. People may want to do it, but right now it looked at in a negative way and as long as that is the case, people wouldn’t go into it. And yet we keep getting all this substandard type of things that we do. Vocation training is very important, we need to prioritise it so that people would see it as a way to get jobs.