Inlaks have become dominant IT firm in Africa – MD/CEO, African Operations, Engr. Femi Adeoti
One of the ICT firms that have contributed to the development of the industry is Inlaks. Engr. Femi Adeoti, MD and CEO of the firm spoke on how the company have metamorphosed from a reseller of computer accessories to a leading IT systems integrator in Nigeria and Africa serving over six Central Banks, 18 commercial banks and microfinance banks. Except.
Let’s look at the ICT industry in the last decade. How has it faired?
The world is undoubtedly in a different place today than it was a decade ago, and changes in technology have had an enormous impact on every facet of our lives. We may not have achieved the most remarkable technology feat yet, but there’s no doubt that the past decade brought many exciting technological advancements. The last decade saw a significant advancement in technology including; mobile phone, social media, and cloud. Almost every part of our lives have been deeply transformed by these technologies, as they became so quickly entrenched in our day to day lives; from the way we shop, bank, learn and collaborate.
The advent of mobile technology is one of the biggest moments in IT from the last decade. Even though the original iPhone was released in 2007, smartphone became truly ubiquitous in the 2010s, improving and affecting every areas of our lives. The mobility and flexibility of the mobile phones greatly influenced our day to day activities – from banking, shopping, learning, gaming, entertainment and collaboration with friends and family. Beyond the high rise of eCommerce platforms like Amazon, Alibaba, Jumia and Konga, all types of purchases, from travel arrangements to payment of utility bills can be done anywhere and anytime from the mobile phone.
This technology facilitated the birth of new businesses like platform business models Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, etc. Netflix, for instance, was launched in 2007 but only took off fully within the last decade. Uber launched its mobile app in 2011, disrupting the taxi industry, Airbnb, which also launched in 2008, boomed within this past decade disrupting the hospitality industry. This past decade also saw the rise of mobile banking. Today most people use their mobile apps to carry out all forms of the transaction without the need to visit any bank branch. Social media platforms also became a dominant force in this past decade, with the launch of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc.
All these platforms have redefined the way people connect and collaborate and has greatly influenced the way business reach and interact with their customers, as well as their target audience. The rise of social media has also greatly impacted the media and news industry, as information are readily available and accessible on the internet. Other technological advances of the past decade include Artificial intelligence, internet of things and cloud computing, all of which have radically revolutionized our day-to-day lives. Technology is moving at the speed of light, and I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the next decade.
How would you describe the growth of Inlaks in the last decade?
The past decade has indeed been transformational for our business. We have continued to strive to remain the notable ICT and infrastructure solutions provider in the country through our strategic response to the changes in our business environment. It hasn’t been a seamless process, but we are glad we decided to turn and find our way back to growth and success. Within the past decade, Inlaks has transitioned from being a reseller of computer accessories to become a leading IT systems integrator in Nigeria and Africa serving over six Central Banks, 18 commercial banks and microfinance banks in Nigeria and Africa.
We have become the dominant information technology company in the African region, providing core banking, ATMs, agency banking, fraud management, cybersecurity, cloud, data centre, enterprise risk management and software solutions. Inlaks represents Nautilus Hyosung Inc, a South Korea Original Equipment Manufacturer, as the only authorized partner in West and some other parts of Africa. As at the end of 2012, Inlaks had less than 300 Hyosung ATMs deployed in two Nigeria banks representing 2% market share. However, in 2013, we changed our sales and service strategy for the self-service and ATM line of business by relying on unique business acumen to demonstrate better insight into ATM business issues and industry trends that are relevant to the customers.
Furthermore, over the recent years, we have gained and maximized competitive advantages by effectively and ethically distinguishing Hyosung ATMs and some Value-Added Services from those of competitors. The ATM business has been the promising products for the company in the last decade having sold and deployed more than 6,000 units to 19 commercial banks and numerous Microfinance Banks. The ATM business creates a long-term value to our business, and it’s progressively becoming the cash cow with possible market saturation in years to come. Our strategy is to continually boost this product by appropriate investments to monitor the growth and maintain a position of strength in the ATM market in Nigeria.
Inlaks also represent Temenos, one of the leading Fintech solution in the Nigerian banking sector. Within this past decade, Inlaks partnered with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to deploy the Temenos’ core and agent banking solution for almost 1000 Microfinance Banks (MFBs) in Nigeria. This landmark project was implemented under the auspices of the National Association of Microfinance Banks Unified IT Platform (NAMBUIT) in July 2017. Over the past decade Inlaks has remained committed to designing and deploying solutions that will deepen financial inclusion. We will continue work towards driving the financial inclusion in Nigeria using our expertise and the latest technology.
The ICT industry has performed well in spite of the Covid-19 Pandemic, especially in the financial and non-financial sectors. What trigger this phenomenon spike and how can this be sustained?
The COVID-19 didn’t just disrupt the normal way of life for people all over the world, but has also transformed the way we interact with loved ones, do business, shop, travel, get medical care, and conduct many of the routine transactions of life. These changes have accelerated the adoption of digital technologies at an alarming scale and speed across the different sectors of the economy. The COVID-19 necessitated the isolation and social distancing as the most effective way to slow the spread of the virus until a vaccine is found. As a result, businesses that rely on human-to-human contact to operate are now at risk.
Digitization has stepped in to bridge the gaps left by mandated shutdowns and social distancing measures. Without digital tools and technologies, we would have no way to work, shop, and learn. To deal with the crisis and its outcome, some companies that are yet to fully adopt digital needed to quickly adapt their organizations to new operating models and deliver their services to customers and employees at scale. The rapid adoption of digital can be attributed to the fact we now live in a contactless world, brought about by this pandemic. What this means is that the interactions with customers and employees must occur virtually and businesses will have to find ways to operate remotely, while providing value to their customers. Companies that would usually require physical presence and interaction would have to operate digitally to stay in business. Today’s businesses have only two options; to either go digital or die. Digital is the new normal.
While certain industry suffered and has continued to suffer during this Pandemic, the ICT industry continues to thrive. Companies such as Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft and other tech giants continued to thrive amid the pandemic. This has established the fact that business must adopt technology at the core to survive in today’s business environment.This pandemic sparked creativity in doing business and various innovation across all sectors of the economy. It is, therefore, a chance for businesses to rethink how they operate and use this opportunity to transform, while adopting to new realities. There is no doubt that business leaders will face some fundamental challenges, one of which is the change in consumer behavior and patterns. The only way for businesses to survive in this times would be to analyze their customer demands and refocus their digital efforts to reflect changing customer expectations.
What role did the Artificial Intelligence, digital banking, Internet of things, cybersecurity play during the five-month lockdown, which was occasioned by the coronavirus?
Several technologies have played and will continue to play a significant role during the Covid-19 pandemic. AI technology, for instance, was used in the areas of sharing useful information about the pandemic, tracking and prediction of current and future patients. The AI technology has also been beneficial in sharing information about clinical trials, new insights on the virus, early detection and diagnosis of the infection. The IoT technology greatly enabled Remote Patient monitoring, whereby patients are diagnosed and treated remotely. This is made possible through the connectedness of medical devices and appliances through multiple networks, enabling remote diagnostics, treatment and monitoring.
IoT also facilitated the delivery of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), vital supplies, sample collection and result deliveries and supply of other medical supplies through IoT enabled drone. For instance, Zipline used the IoT drones to deliver vital medical supplies to rural health centres in Rwanda and Ghana. Digital Banking – Even though online services had been in existence with greater adoption from the customers, the coronavirus pandemic further accelerated the digital banking trend, as banks and other financial institutions were forced to shut down during the lockdown period. Banks with digital banking platforms stepped up to accommodate financial needs and payment platforms as people shop, pay utility bills, and subscribe for entertainment while working from home.
Cybersecurity – The Covid-19 pandemic forced organizations to work remotely, and individuals embrace new practices such as massive online shopping and increased usage of various payment platforms to meet their needs while working remotely. While businesses and individuals are adapting to the new normal, cyber criminals around the world took advantage of crisis through phishing and malware attacks. With many employees working from home and students learning virtually, virtual private network (VPN) servers have now become a means for collaborating for businesses, thereby predisposing businesses and individuals to malicious attacks. While the pandemic has led to increased digital acceleration and adoption of technology in the workplace, organizations must also prioritize the safety of their customers and employee, so as to harness the opportunity to create an organization that can compete in the future.
For a West Africa based company like Inlaks are you working with other Central Banks outside of the initial six?
Apart from the initial six central banks that Inlaks has been operating with, we have had the unique opportunity to engage with two Central Banks in Eastern and Southern Africa, notably Central Bank of Kenya and Central Bank of Zambia. Central Bank of Kenya; Inlaks was selected to conduct Technical and Functional training for almost seven weeks in 2016. The feedback from the training was very positive because resources deployed to handle the training were high skilled resources with Temenos (T-24) Implementation experience of over ten years in the Financial Service Industry, which included six central banks within Africa. Also in Central Bank of Zambia; Inlaks was chosen by the Bank to upgrade their Core Banking Software to the latest version of Temenos (T-24).
This was based on the expertise Inlaks have acquired over the years in Africa in similar projects. Currently, the Bank is quite impressed with the level of professionalism, experience and customer service received thus far. Central Bank of Zambia is looking forward to Go-Live at the end of this year that will enable to offer its customers the best in class services.
In the next 10 years, how would you position Inlaks in order to compete globally and serve clients better?
Consumer behaviours are changing, and that is evident in the adoption of digital channels in the financial services, especially during this pandemic, where banks experience a surge in all their digital channels. Our number one priority will therefore be to align our strategy to changing customer behaviour. For instance, we are already working towards a contactless solution in response to the change in consumer behaviours. Our target within the next 10 years will be to provide numerous solutions for consumers to do a seamless and contactless money transaction that reduces the risk of spreading the virus. Secondly, we are rethinking our business models and operations. Due to the dramatic shifts in customer expectations, and demand patterns, we would be reinventing the operational models that would allow us to respond swiftly to customer demands, create new value customer propositions while maintaining a competitive edge over our competitors.
As technology is increasing the rate of change of business, we will build the workforce capability needed to thrive in this ever-changing business environment. We will invest heavily on the skills and talents that are required to accelerate the development of intelligent and innovative solutions that will enable us to scale effectively.
Globally competitive Fintech firms are stepping into the game in Nigeria. How prepared is Inlaks for the foreign onslaught?
During this pandemic, our businesses have worked faster and better than they dreamed possible just a few months ago. Productivity has greatly improved, even though 80% percent of our employees work from home. We operate lean and have groomed a team of the agile workforce needed to adapt to the ever-changing business environment. Finally, we have accelerated our product development capabilities to launch new products to market swiftly. We have been in the industry for over 36 years, and we have gradually built the industry knowledge and expertise required to understand and bring the solution to our clients’ pain points. We will continue to focus on delighting our customers through excellent customer service.
When will Inlaks be quoted on the market and how would that action boost Inlaks’ growth?
We have been engaging with the Nigeria Stock Exchange and have been sharing some information on our progress and business. The decision on being quoted would be taken at the appropriate time, based on our organizational plan.
Should we expect a ground-breaking announcement, solution or product from Inlaks in the next decade and what would it be?
Yes, and we will keep you updated on our new and future solutions.
As the CEO of Inlaks you have been selected by the industry and ICT Watch Intelligence unit as one of the Top 20 CEOs of the decade and we have also nominated you and Inlaks for an award by the Africa Digital Awards coming up this November. How would you respond to this remarkable feat?
I am deeply pleased and honoured to be nominated for this award. My sincere gratitude to all the people who made this happen. Being recognized for our contributions to the IT industry is a great honour. We will continue to go the extra miles and do whatever it takes to make a greater impact in the IT industry.