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Ade Olabode: 3 Areas That Small Business Owners in Nigeria Need Tech Startups

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It’s tough for small business owners.

We all know that small business owners in Nigeria face some hard but common challenges. These are well documented and range from lack of financial support, poor management, corruption, lack of training and experience, poor infrastructure, insufficient profits, and low demand for product and services*. While the government is rightly expected to play an important role in solving these problems, they actually create a golden opportunity for technology startups to use their unique skill — ability to innovate with technology. So here are the 3 areas that small business owners need startups to step up to the plate, and make an impact:

Access To Finance
Accepted common knowledge is that banks don’t see lending money to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as a priority. This poses a big problem since ‘lack of finance’ is regularly cited as the main obstacle, faced by small businesses to growth. Now I’m no banker (and I’m definitely not an apologist for bankers), but surely one of the reasons why lending to SMEs is so poor, is because it’s so risky. Why is it risky? Lack of data. For instance, where’s the reliable data available to gauge the likelihood that loan recipients will repay? On the other hand, how does it make sense that a trader in Alaba Lagos, who has been in business for the last 15 years, is unable to borrow money for 6 months? There has to be a middle ground where a solution can be found. That’s where startups come in. Areas like invoice financing, inventory/goods financing, personal financing etc targeted to SMEs, are ripe for innovation.

Mind you, I’m not suggesting that startups have to be banks before they can step into this space. You think that’s unbelievable? Well, Aella Credit is tackling this problem by providing affordable loans to individuals and their promise is they can get money to your account in minutes. Fast and hassle free loan, if approved. Few banks are willing to do that. We need more startups to provide the needed access to finance.

Productivity Tools
The average small business owner is still stuck with ancient or no tools. How do you effectively manage a store, employees, suppliers, debtors, customers etc? Depending on the small business, just using ‘pen & paper’ or by ‘I have it all in my head’ process, is likely not sufficient. On the surface, this doesn’t look like a critical problem but once you consider that productivity tools can increase a store’s profit margin by 47%, then you quickly realise that this is a big deal. It’s a no brainer, there has to be better ways of managing a store.

A good example of how to solve this is my startup PrognoStore which is a Point-of-Sale software. It is a 3-in-1 solution as it combines Point-of-Sale, Inventory and Analytics for small business. This is all that’s needed for day-to-day running of a store. PrognoStore is almost ready for you. Make sure you get on the list for an early invite  — it’s just around the corner.

Reach The Market
120 million. In theory, this number represents the potential market for every Nigerian small business. However in practice, a trader in Idumota Lagos can’t even send her goods to a customer in Bodija Oyo successfully. Not without the risk of damages, delays, lost or stolen. This is not surprising in a country where roads are bad, streets have no names, houses are not numbered and trust is always set at default of zero. How do you move goods successfully from point A to point B?

ACE is a startup solving this real need for Nigerian small business to deliver goods safely to their customers. They are currently delivering to 5 cities in Nigeria and aim to be the most convenient way to get goods to your customers. We need more of ACE type startups to serve more cities and different verticals.

Looking at faces of people, one gets the feeling there’s a lot of work to be done. — Wole Soyinka

I didn’t say solving these problems will be easy but that’s exactly why we need tech startups, to start tackling them right now. Do you think these are indeed the top 3 areas or you disagree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Stefan Dahl Langstrup

Papa Olabode is an adviser to small business owners. He's the co-founder & CEO of PrognoStore (www.prognostore.com), the Point-of-Sale Software for small businesses. PrognoStore is a 3-in-1 solution as it combines point-of-Sale, Inventory and Analytics to be all you need to run your store. He's a chartered accountant and has previously worked at Deloitte, Credit Suisse and co-founded HGE Capital. Follow on Twitter @papaolabode

11 Comments

  1. Ndubuisi

    October 19, 2015 at 10:36 am

    Great article I hope this will be of help to so many Nigerian small business owners

  2. diana

    October 19, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Powerful, i think you covered it all. As a new small business owner. This article made my day. I will like to consult you in helping me start-up. Thanks.

    • Ade

      October 19, 2015 at 8:51 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it! Please feel free to reach me [email protected] & I will try to assist.

  3. Nonye

    October 19, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    The links you have provided are great. Please add human resources too. Accounting packages also. By the way I think someone marketed your website to me just yesterday – Joy. Nice tips

  4. Tosin

    October 19, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    a very important article. bears repeating, reworking, repeating, rewording …

    i’m checking out PrognoStore (looks like it’s beta or pre-beta even 😉 ), it’s not easy to do what the businesses actually need, want, and will use, so good luck. may need focus groups for fast feedback . you may actually do better by training users and then deploying them to work in SMEs using your application, because i’m thinking many business people may not actually want to learn to use even the simplest productivity tools.

    in distribution (or publishing or electronic distr, or as you put it getting idea/product to market), i don’t know, would rather even stick with the faraway oyinbo company because of how knotty i perceive the Nigeria and Africa Logistics problems to be – everything from culture and corruption, to weak infrastructure and high costs. at least we can try. good opportunity for people to become billionaires, i guess, from cutting through these issues so we can move 🙂

    • Ade

      October 19, 2015 at 8:48 pm

      I do agree with you that we have infrastructure problems but loads of startups are now tackling them and they need ‘your’ patronage! We’re in this together. And thanks for the kind words regarding PrognoStore. We’re indeed in beta and hopefully you will hear from us soon!

  5. hamisu abu

    October 19, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    Nice piece.outsourcing doesn’t COST much(start up)… u can bargain a percentage cut with partners and achive unimaginable feet in ur business.

  6. Lekan O

    October 19, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    Hi Ade, this is a well thought out and researched writeup. The highlighted challenges are real and endemic. Solutions proferred by you are achievable but kind of restricted to the enlightened and informed. We need to look into how to reach the core market woman in Isale Eko ,the vegetable farmer in Birnin-Kebbi ,the trader in Asaba and other core / remote areas who are averred to new technologies or ideas.
    Like you stated,over reliance on crude business methods is a known hinderance to productivity. How do we get the local trader or business owner to embrace new business ideas which would take their businesses to new levels?
    It is a gradual process like you stated and I believe that we will get there sooner than later with brilliant minds like yours.
    I am a business owner who is super excited about your PrognoStore POS software. I hope it will help me in my Poultry business. Can’t wait…
    Best wishes.

    • Ade

      October 19, 2015 at 11:10 pm

      Very thoughtful comments Lekan O! You really hit the nail on the head about targeting the majority of Nigerians (especially with below quotes). This is an area that startups don’t pay enough attention. I could go ahead and give all the reasons but actually I will do better and write a detailed post about it. Please watch out as I would like to hear your follow up views.

      “We need to look into how to reach the core market woman in Isale Eko ,the vegetable farmer in Birnin-Kebbi ,the trader in Asaba and other core / remote areas who are averred to new technologies or ideas.”

    • Tosin

      October 24, 2015 at 5:43 am

      you skipped over this bit: train YOUR OWN users/workers/evangelists to then carry your ‘productivity tools’ into existing SMEs, embedded workers, something like that.

  7. Ayewo

    October 20, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Well thought out article.

    Well done on PrognoStore. Nigerian retailers will have a tool to help them run their businesses better

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