VDT Is Trailblazer In Delivering Unbeatable Broadband Communication Service In Nigeria -MD/CEO, Mr. Abiodun Omoniyi
VDT has played a major role in the development of broadband and ICT industry in Nigeria.
In an interview with Kanbi Owolabi and Olumuyiwa Akiboye, the Managing Director/CEO of VDT made it clear that the organization, which started on a small scale has been able to cover several grounds. He emphasizes more in the exclusive interview.
Can you give us a brief background about how VDT was conceived and the main purpose of the reputable company?
We have been in business for quite long in the country. We actually set it up in 2001 and by June this year, we are going to be 16 years in the business that we enjoy doing so much. The business we are engaged in is that of providing broadband communication services. Maybe I need to break it down a bit, it comprises enterprise, connectivity service, businesses with internet services and other SMEs that have more than one branch to be connected together and over time we have grown with more services in over 46 major cities in the country, including the 36 states of the country and the FCT, Abuja. I remember we started with the banks, where we did just five branches in three states and 15 years later, this is where we are and our head office has always been here, the Union Marble House, in Awolowo way, Ikoyi, Lagos. And, our customers are always happy with us because they easily enjoy after activation services because we are always too close to them and we are readily available to attend to their needs at any point in time. We also have a responsive customer care section that attends to any problem, but it only gets to the field operators if the problem warrants their expertise and they are easily resolved from any part of the country. We are also an ISO certified company and what that does is to secure that we standardize our services and operation and we don’t just do things anyhow, we do things that we have designed for our clients and our operation goes out of the designs such that we review, analyse and using the feedback from both the customers and the activities that we have conducted in-house, so we use it to realign the business designs that we put in place for the customers. In preparing for the future growth, we have the ISO 9001 and 2008, which we are upgrading to the latest this year which is the 2015 model. Also, we have the ISO 2000, which is for the IT services and we hope to do more.
With all that you have said and acquired in your field of business, are you saying that you are a trailblazer of broadband provider in Nigeria?
We are actually a leading company in providing such service in the country. Based on what we are doing and what we have achieved so far, if you say we are trailblazers, then I can proudly agree with you.
What are the key impacts and achievements of VDT since its establishment years ago?
The key impacts are very visible and I have already established some of these earlier. We started with just five shops in three cities to 120 shops in 45 cities in Nigeria and if you ask why we decided to expand, it is because the customers that have enjoyed our services want us to be at those different locations and these customers know us for our reliability, they know us for our efficiency and when they require our services, we are there immediately. Also, when they need support we are there for them and we have been growing with our customers, so our business has been expanding tremendously.
One of the impacts and achievement is that when we started we were like 12 staff and right now, we are more than 200 staff. Moreover, we started with just five offices and we are now managing about 120 offices in 45 cities. We are proud of our growing clientele base and we are happy that we are not running the business at a loss or else you would have seen a lot of creditors in our office disturbing our business, but the whole place is peaceful. The key impact is that we are actually delivering our valuable services to the discerning customers.
It seems you have been able to establish the basis for your business in Nigeria. Is there a plan to take it to other West African countries like Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone?
Like I said earlier, we don’t just do things because we like how it sounds, we do things in a planned manner. We strategize and work with our already laid down plans. We have strategy documents that we always implement every five years and we take five year stretch to do the needful, but for now, we have no plan to expand it outside Nigeria because we still have a lot to do in Nigeria. Maybe, after next year and if we believe we have done enough to expand ourselves beyond the Nigerian market, we may be looking at other African countries. But that does not mean that we don’t provide services for people overseas that want to communicate with people in Nigeria. We do consult for companies abroad that only provide services to Nigeria, while we distribute it to the necessary channels in Nigeria. But the best bet is our strategic plan for next year, which would likely give us a room to take our services outside the shores of Nigeria.
However, I still believe that we have not done enough in Nigeria because broadband has not been prevalent as we thought it should be and God willing, we are still going to provide enough efficient and speedy communication link service in Nigeria.
We believe every business has its own challenges, was there any point in time that you felt like backing out of this broadband service?
If I may answer you, there is no time I felt like quitting. Let me tell you, nothing is as good as good planning. Yes, it is good to have a vision and when you berth the vision, you map out how you are going to your destination and you plan it out. Good achievement would not just start today and happen tomorrow, I can tell you now that we have been out here for over 15 years and in those years, I have always been coming out with strategic plans and it doesn’t even mean that, whenever we plan we get to our destination at a g. There is also a power of feedback and ability to double check your proposed plans and see what you did right and what you got wrong. All these ups and downs doesn’t mean you will quit, but it is for you to realize and think about the hard questions you have asked yourself sincerely. There are many obstacles that will bring you down just like we experienced and we weather the storm, but there was no time I felt like quitting because I started small and I was focused and achieved the growth required in a standard way and I was not distracted.
What can be done in the communication service industry to improve what is currently on ground?
When you look at it, the industry is very dynamic, where you have the likes of MTN, Glo, Etisalat, Airtel and the smaller ones like us. We are still small because when I mentioned the big players, they are familiar to you because they play in the consumers and retailers end market. Considering the market where we play, we are a kind of giant in the enterprise market, so if you are not running a large enterprise like the banks, insurance companies, even the big churches you may not have heard about us. We are known basically in the corporate and enterprise world. I think what I would like to say has been implemented by the multinational big players in the industry by introducing latest technology to provide the necessary services the consumers need in Nigeria and Africa as a whole where there services are provided too.
From your pay off ‘Delivering Value,’ what is value to you in your own word?
When you talk about value, it appears to be vague, but to us, it is not as vague as that because the people were communicating to our customers and now that you have asked me what is value, I would have said you should ask our customers because we listen to them and we simply ask what is of value to them, and whatever is of value to them is what we capture and engineer to them and when we ask them if they got the value, they responded that they got loads of values. And, one of the values they keep talking about is highly reliable value, and at that point, values keep changing because we have to deliver all that are valuable to them at that point in time, like highly reliable links, efficient and effective, speedy links, good support and wide coverage and so on. When we provide these values, they are happy and they do more business with us and that was how our slogan became “Delivering Values.”
Talking about recession in the country at the moment, has it affected the kind of values you provide for your customers?
Our company operates in Nigeria and we also have foreign companies that we do business with. Like most of the equipments that we use in servicing our numerous customers are being sourced overseas, and we don’t manufacture anything here, even the people that are selling rice are not too happy because we don’t even grow sufficient quantity in Nigeria.
We actually source most of the components we use abroad and getting the FX is not something so easy lately, and we all know the issue of power supply in Nigeria and all our offices have to be powered to be functional in delivering values and we are talking about uninterrupted power supply for 24 hours in a day.
Just like it happens in ATM, we make sure there is power supply for the communication link because if there is no supply, there won’t be any way for people that would need more at any point in time to cash money at an ATM.
We are not DISCO or PHCN that has the capability to deliver power supply 24 hours and all these cost money and for us to maintain that we need to buy enough diesel, we need to replace old generators and the staffers have their own expectations from the company and to be frank with you, the last one year has been very hash in the country. Aside all these adversity, we are a proud Nigerian company. We have been able to cope and looking more inward to survive, but we are very lean at the moment because of the economic situation, which has affected us from the top line, middle line and even the bottom line (laughs).
Are you fulfilled with your achievements since the last 15 years?
I give thanks to God the Almighty for His grace. In terms of fulfillment, I would say I am contented because I am not retired yet or maybe when I retire, then we can talk about my fulfillment because if I am fulfilled I am not supposed to be here (laughs). So far, I am contented with the progress that has been made, and we are having more than just pass marks at the end of every year for what we were able to achieve. We have been meeting our goals and expectations substantially by God’s grace.
What would you like to be remembered for, when you eventually retire?
We want to be remembered as the shining light that brought effective broadband services to the generality of Nigeria.
Any word of advice for young entrepreneurs that now look up to you
I think I have addressed that earlier in my statements. But I will still emphasize that every young entrepreneur should look at his or her strength. Once you have the key to what you want to do, which is that vision, then seek a mentor, like you said, they are young people and they will look up to such mentor in the area of business for advice and guideline to follow and listen to for them to be successful in life and their chosen businesses.
They need to be focused and dedicated to whatever they are doing, never rush to make it in life. I believe that slow and steady wins the race and they need to keep setting new goals for themselves till they conquer the world. Even at VDT, we are still working everyday to conquer the industry in Nigeria and we are still doing our best to get to the top of our game to make sure that we keep delivering values for our customers everywhere in the country to make a big difference in what we know how to do best.
What determines the caliber of customers you work for?
If you had asked me this question years ago, I would have had a simple straight answer(s) because about six to seven years ago, we used to basically deal with corporate and enterprise companies with so many branches, but when we went into internet services, we discovered other small, but rewarding opportunities because technology also changed that. We now even provide services for SMEs and other firms like shops of barbers, architectural and legal firms that make use of the internet these days. Two years ago, we have started a retail arm that is positioned to serve you as an individual once you require our service and you have the money to pay for our services. We are ready to make broadband service ubiquitous all over the necessary nooks and crannies of Nigeria as part of our new vision and we do not discriminate in determining, who would enjoy our valuable services. We now have a license for our own mobile service, which we are building and we are not in a rush but we will surely achieve our strategic mission for the mobile service that are meant for our retail customers.
How did you come about your the name, VDT?
It is a simple acronym of the words- Video, Data, Telephoning (VDT), which are synonymous with the communication services we provide alongside the bigger players in the industry. We are the leading source of the data links that are used for the video and telephone services by the mobile and internet companies in Nigeria.
On a lighter mood, as Nigerian African, how stylish are you in the area of dressing
Laughs…We are Africans and proudly Nigerians and so, we promote African attires just like on a Friday like this that we usually dress down wearing different kinds of colourful Nigerian and African attires to promote our different culture and values amongst the staff and you can see that all the VDT staff are looking good in their various stylish and smart native wears.
What is culture to you
Culture to me is a kind of behavior group of people exhibit over time. Since we now operate a global village, there are different cultures we all borrow among Nigerians and Africans as a whole and we live by culture everyday because culture itself is not stagnant and it evolves over time. And, we can see that the advent of technology has played a role on our culture. Like what the DSTV is doing now, we are able to visualize how other culture look like in different rural and urban areas. They say culture is about survival and survival is about adaptability to stand the test of time. And, I would like to conclude that culture is about what you wear, what you say, your environment and your attitude.