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Thursday, January 12, 2006

I was inspired to offer call services – Okechi

Interview:

Operating a call centre in a rural community of Awba-Ofemili in Awka-North local government area of Anambra State, may not be ideal for an average Nigerian graduate. Samuel Okechi, in this interview with Senior Reporter, REMMY NWEKE, says he has an inspiration to grow this service only if a help would come.
Excerpts:


How is the reception that you’re able to be making calls from this village? Also are there customers and are you making enough calls per day to sustain the business?
Well, providing a call centre service in a village like Awba-Ofemili, is just managing, because people do not normally make calls. They make calls once in a while, and even if they want to make a call it would be just a minute call, then they would now tell their relations to call them back.
So, they don’t make much calls and atimes before we finish a card, it would take up to two to three days.
How do you manage your customers’ demand to receive calls only, do they pay and if yes, how much?
We offer them such a service by giving them the opportunity to receive calls only, but they pay N10.00 only.
For you to have reception here, how did you go about it?
We’re connected to antenna because there is no service here. It is through this antenna, which boosts service that we now make calls. Without that antenna, we cannot make calls, because there is no base station around; it is far from our place.
Which means if you remove the antenna link from your phone, it would not have service at all?
There would be limited service, coming on and off.
What inspired you to start this business in a rural town like Awba-Ofemili?
Anyway, you know, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a step. I looked at it as something inspired by the spirit of God. I believe it was the spirit of God that moved me to start the business because I know also that people have been doing it, so I know I could make it.
Do you find it encouraging offering a call centre service like this in a community?
Yes, it is encouraging because we have a lot of graduates who are not doing anything for a living.
It is encouraging also because one has to start from somewhere, especially for those who have not gotten any other work to do. And even for the ladies instead of staying idle. As you know an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. So they have to start up with something.
Do you think they’re embracing it, that’s, the youth like yourself embracing this kind of service here in Awba-Ofemili?
No, no, no! Most of the youth here and of today, need quick money. That’s a means that offer them money very fast. They don’t depend on this N10, N10 or N20 of a thing. They see it as waste of time and of somebody wasting his or her own generation.
So, why don’t you think the same way?
Anyway, it depends on individual differences. I believe that through that I can get connection through somebody, who would now help me to better my life from one business to another, maybe, from there I can now migrate.
Do you have any plan to expand this business into full rural communication centre kind of business, so that when people come, you can offer them phone services, typing or computer typesetting services among others?
Actually, if I have money I planned to establish this in a bigger way, thereby reducing the cost of calls in this community; making calls from villages like ours are very, very costly. We make calls here at N40, N30, depending on the network the customer chooses.
So, we plan that maybe, if I have money I would have computer and Internet at least, it would help people and they could come, browse and go. They would also call their relations outside and in the cities. It’s a nice idea of making it in a better way.
Do you have an electronic mail?
No, not yet, but I hope to have one some day.
But do you have any plan to approach any organization based on these plans of yours, so far for the expansion?
No, but if I have any link I would really appreciate it and would approach such people to assist, so that I would boost the chance. It is human beings that would still do it, especially in Nigeria, some day, sometime. So, if I get an organization that would assist me, in fact, I would appreciate it.
What of sending Short Messaging Service (SMS), do you offer it?
Yes, at the cost of N20 per page or N30 for two pages.
How much is a call here?
We charge N30 for Glo-to-Glo and then Glo-to-other network is N40 per minute.
Is it only Glo that you are using to make calls here?
No, I am using also MTN. You know here, we pay monthly Booster N2,500, though it has now been increased for MTN, that is why the price is like that, but we hope to reduce the price as soon as things get better.
How and where did you get the information concerning this call packages by MTN and Glo that you are using now?
Well, I got the information through the Nigerian dailies and television, then I told my elder brother that I have to start this and he gave his blessings. I started it, now I have up to three lines; two Glos and one MTN.
Which of these did you start with and when exactly?
I started with Glo premium and that was last year October (2004). I started with one line, which is the Premium, from there to ProfitMax and from ProfitMax to ProfitMax Plus. You know the operator started changing its packages and we have to change too to remain in business.
So, one year after you began this call service here, how would you rate your life?
As par what you asked, the issue is that the people are getting used to me and I have gained popularity in this type of business. I do also assist the villagers who are not privileged I do help them and it has even helped me because I have opened upto three centres.
There are two at Omo in Anyamelum local government and one here in Awba-Ofemili in Awka-North local government both in Anambra State, known as Better Communication Services.
How do you manage three of them considering the distance?
We are managing three of them and God has been helping us, at least in a month, we take the Booster and spend over N20,000. God has been too kind to us, because here in the rural community like Awba-Ofemili, there is nothing like electricity to charge our phone batteries. We buy fuel to charge our phones through the generating set and despite all the tears and wears, we are encouraged to continue.
What of the ones at Omo and do you have some people working for you there?
Yes, I have some people working there for me.
Do you pay them and how much per month?
Yes, I pay them N5,000 (about $50) per month each.
Do you recover such expenses at the end of the day?
No, I don’t recover them but I hope that one day I would. Just like I said earlier a journey of 1,000 miles starts in a day with a step. You know, when you start a business, you should not expect to make profit immediately, but after some months, people would get known to you, then you would get more customers and by getting more customers, your business would continue to grow and you have to reduce the price, because the lesser the price the more people would be coming.
Is it the same tariff you are charging here in Awba-Ofemili that you charge at Omo?
No, it is not the same. Omo is N20 or N25 now.
Why?
It was due to then, when we started, we were using public power supply.
So you have power supply there?
Yes, we do.
As it is now, what would be your message to other youths; your friends and those you left school the same time with who probably are still unemployed?
If they can, they can start some thing like this or better still, if they have younger ones they can start up this business, instead of them staying idle so that they would be doing it and growing gradually.
How did you learn about the antenna?
Somebody told me about it at Upper Iweka, from Okoh town, because they have a similar problem like ours in Awba-Ofemili.
What sort of antenna are you using?
I am using Yagi antenna 36 DB, although there are also 14 and 24 but 36 can boost the service very well, especially where the mast is very far.
Does it mean that each of your phone sets have an antenna?
Yes, each of them is connected to an antenna and different antennas at that and I use Yagi 36 throughout.
How much did you buy that and from where?
I bought it N12,000, about $100 each at Upper Iweka in Onitsha.
Who mounted them for you?
I mounted them by myself, I am an engineer by profession. I read Mechanical Engineering and in my fourth year we did electrical electronics, so the little knowledge I have in that I applied it. I attended the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) and graduated in 2004.
What is your age?
Right now (December 24, 2005) I am 29 and by January 2006, I would be 30 years.
Congratulations in advance.
Thank you.

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