The rise and rise of Slot: From corner shop to the top – Toni Kan
OnSaturday Novembr 9, 2019 at the tail end of the 2019 edition of the Lagos Arts and Books festival , two books will be under consideration at a colloquim scheduled for Kongi’s Harvest at 3.30pm. The two books are “Entrepreneurship The SLOT Way: Succeeding in a tough business environment” by Nnamdi Ezeigbo founder of Slot and Start up Nation, by Dan Senor & Saul Singer. Toni Kan in anticipation of the colloquim presents a review of Entrepreneurship The SLOT Way.
Nations and civilisations develop through the codification of knowledge and transfer of know-how.
The lack of
consideration of this salient point has been the bane of African creatives and
thinkers who have always favoured a hermeneutic approach rather than a more accessible
The problem lies
in the age long African belief that knowledge and know-how should be the
exclusive preserve of the initiate. Such knowledge be it of herbs and healing,
art and craft, music and dance were seen as the preserve of members of a sacred
guild or society.
A case in point
would be the Ekpe society who as originators of nsibidi art transmitted the
knowledge only to initiates. The same can also be said of black smiths and
workers in wood.
approach severely limited the sphere and transmission of knowledge and sadly
has persisted into modern times.
in writing “Entrepreneurship The SLOT
Way: Succeeding in a tough business environment” has bucked the trend. His
action is contrarian, a point he makes without equivocation. “As I grew in
business and evolved into an entrepreneur, I gradually began to develop a sense
of responsibility to share my business and entrepreneurial experiences with the
hope that others would learn and acquire the power to surge ahead in their own
endeavours and overcome the obstacles that come their way.” (p.xxii)
His book which is part-autobiography, part-memoir and part-business primer is an incisive and insightful addition to what is now a growing corpus of books by Nigerian businessmen chronicling and sharing their entrée and rise to prominence in the tough and uncertain business climate of Nigeria.
By putting pen
to paper and detailing his humble beginnings as well as ascent, Nnamdi Ezeigbo
who founded SLOT, the most recognizable name in the Nigerian ICT space, is
killing two birds with one stone; he is laying his cards on the table and
telling his rag to riches stories in a way that shows that unlike many others there
was nothing untoward in his journey to wealth but most importantly, he is
saying to everyone who reads his book that a cocktail of persistence, belief,
tenacity and innovative thinking can make you another SLOT.
His thesis is a simple
one; we need entrepreneurs because without them societies cannot “thrive either
economically or in developmental terms.” (p.3)
Divided into 3
broad sections – Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship the SLOT way and
Sustainability, Nnamdi Ezeigbo presents a book filled with inspiring case
studies detailing his belief that innovation, which he describes as the
“addition of value to an already existing product or service” (p.9) is the key
Entrepreneurship The SLOT Way opens with a quick excursion into Nnamdi Ezeigbo’s
humble provenance, his family’s indigent situation which found him working for
four years in order to raise money to go to university.
his dabbling into business and building the SLOT brand from a shared space in a
cramped bookshop where he paid N25,000 rent per annum.
The coming of
the GSM era marked the turning point for SLOT and taking advantage of the
telecom revolution, SLOT applied innovative thinking and problem solving skills
to build a multi-billion African success story.
transformation of SLOT would never have happened if there was no paradigm shift
in Nnamdi Ezeigbo’s approach to business and that is the major take-away from
the first section where he opines that to achieve scale in business one must
move from being a businessman focused on making a quick buck to becoming an
entrepreneur. And an entrepreneur in his own estimation is a business man whose
focus is on creating value, jobs and wealth in a sustainable manner.
How did SLOT’s
approach to entrepreneurship yield results? That is the focus of the second
section and Nnamdi Ezeigbo presents examples of what it means to be an
entrepreneur. For him, the first mandate is to solve problems, create value,
provide jobs and then create wealth. Using the acronym SLOT as fulcrum, he
breaks down what it means to do business the SLOT way.
providing SOLUTIONS. The entrepreneur he says must be “Sensitive to identifying
problems and creative in solving them” (p.51) which is where creativity and
innovation come into play.
breaks have come from providing innovative solutions and Nnamdi details a few
Nigerian knows about Tecno phones but only a few realise that they were
introduced into the Nigerian market by SLOT and it wasn’t because he wanted to
make money. The driving motivation was to solve the problem of Nigerians who “carry
at least two phones around due to unreliable networks…”(pp.92-93)
The need to
solve that problem led SLOT to initiate the production of dual SIM phones but while
most of us will now focus on the success of the Tecno brand, many will not
realise that the initial foray ended in disaster and the loss of over 5million
The first Tecno
phone, the T201, provided dual SIM phones alright but as Nnamdi Ezeigbo writes
“the cards could not work simultaneously. You needed to switch one off for the
other to work and that defeated the objective of having two functioning lines
on one phone. It took about six months before we finally got the design right.
We did lose a lot of money in the process.” (p.93)
So, back to the
drawing board they went until a more efficient product was made.
innovations include “Screen Insurance” offered in-shop and SLOT’s unique “Trade
The second core
attribute in the SLOT acronym is LEADERSHIP & LEARNING. According to
Nnamdi, “leadership determines success and failure in any organization,
enterprise, venture, team or project.”(p.66)
Learning is also
as important because as Nnamdi writes “the entrepreneur who succeeds is a learner
and a leader.” (p.73) And learning can be from books, from observing mentors
and learning from the mistake of others and your own.
attribute is OPPORTUNITIES. A successful entrepreneur, writes Nnamdi must be
able to spot and exploit opportunities and they do this by “looking at existing
solutions or by looking at problems.” (p.95)
Tecno story, he writes that “when you identify an opportunity to offer value to
people and you create products or services to exploit the opportunity, then you
will increase your chances of making money as well.” P.95.
The final leg is
TECHNOLOGY which Nnamdi describes as a key business enabler and driver.
Technology is not only key in driving business it is the foundation on which
innovation and value creation rest upon. “Technology,” he writes “provides
leverage for entrepreneurs to be effective, create value and be profitable.”
section focuses on Sustainability and building a business that endures, one
established on a sure foundation. Here Nnamdi says it is “one thing to grow and
another thing to sustain growth” (p.134) and to sustain growth one must focus
on Financial, Human, Emotional and Relationship capital.
Writing as one
who has founded, run and sustained a profitable business, Nnamdi avers that
succession planning is key to sustainability but then quickly warns that there
must be a separation of responsibilities. “It is usually good to keep power,
control and ownership. If you have someone who is the general manager of the
company with operational knowledge of the business and you give him power and
control, it is smart to maintain ownership. No one person should be given
power, control and ownership.” (pp.153 – 154.)
Nnamdi asks a
perspicacious question half way through the book: “who should be teaching
others how to start and run a business. Should it be business practitioners or
PhD holders in business, professors in management or motivational speakers with
oratory skills?” (p.74)
“Entrepreneurship The SLOT Way: Succeeding in
a tough business environment” provides a robust answer to that question because
it is chockful of insights and fresh perspectives to doing business in a
peculiar environment like Nigeria and that is Nnamdi Ezeigbo’s major triumph.
He has provided those in business and those aspiring to with an exhaustive road
map that details all the fault lines.
book, which is in its first edition, will do with the services of a competent
editor before the second edition. References to the SLOT Academy and Foundation
present three different numbers of beneficiaries of its apprenticeship
programme; 1,500 on page 139, 1,000 on page 145 and ‘hundreds of graduates’ on