rlg is creating employment for Nigerians
LATILO TAIWO is the Chief Operating Officer of rlg Nigeria, a company engaged in the production of mobile phones, tablets, laptops and desktops. In this chat with IT Edge News crew of SEGUN ORUAME, MARTIN EKPEKE and ANYHONY NWOSU, TAIWO speaks on the company’s roadmap for local capacity building, the rlg assembly plant scheduled for launch in Osun State, south west Nigeria and why government with industry players must act against the grey market.
Why is rlg brand not that visible now?
Visibility or no visibility has to go with a strategy. We have a strategy that we are running. Our plan has been that by the time we launch our assembly plant, we will have the local source to get products across so we can support the Nigerian people in terms of after sales services. Our plan has also is that by 2014, rlg devices will be very visible across Nigeria and we are already working on that. Our plan is not to open showrooms everywhere in the country but to grow employment by partnering with the locals and then support them with the products as well as technical services. In other words, we are opening up a technical unit with those partners, we would brand the place and it becomes rlg World. We don’t want it to be called showroom but rlg World because you get more than what a showroom can give. By first quarter of 2014, rlg World will be visible in Ilesha and Osogbo. We already have one in Ibadan and as we speak, we have a lot of dealer offices that we are using as showrooms. Those ones are not rlg World but showrooms. You will see rlg World in at least each geopolitical zone in the country. The rlg World offers a unique lifestyle when you get in there, you can relax with your children and be looking at all rlg devices, look at what rlg is planning to come up with in the future like our TV, refrigerators and all other electronic and solar products that we are trying to produce. That is the kind of experiences we want people to have; relax and have fun while you are getting service from rlg.
What is the state of things in Osun State with regards to training and the rlg factory?
Let me start with the training. Remember we signed an agreement with the Osun State government to train 20,000 youths in order for them to be self employed or be employed by other ICT companies, and as well absolve some of them directly into our system. To this end, we have successfully implemented the first batch of the training, and as we speak, about 150 of the first batch have been sent to Ghana for further training. These are the people that we will employ directly into our assembly plant hopefully, when we start our full operation in Osun by next month. Those trained to go into self employment fall under what we called Enterprise Project, we have come up with this project with a good financial plan, and it has been tested to show that these people can make so much money for themselves. The project allows these people to own kiosks where they can repair and sell rlg products. We are set to roll out about a thousand of these projects in Osun State. We are also looking at repeating this in all the states of the country. The assembly plant is about 95% complete. Hopefully, before the end of October, we should have completed the installation of the equipment. Our startup staff members are there already, some of them are undergoing training in Ghana. The assembly managers and our expatriates are on ground. By the end of 2013, we should have created direct employment to about 600 people.
The Nigerian market is flooded with emerging brands from China. What is rlg offering the market that is competitive in terms of affordability and going smart?
Nigerians patronizing grey phones are doing themselves a great disservice because the people bringing these phones are killing our employment in Nigeria and destroying our currency. But what rlg is bringing to Nigeria is employment. One of the competitive advantages which we are selling to people is the sentiment that this is an African product for African people. Secondly, if you are buying rlg product, you are creating employment to a Nigerian because the product will be assembled here and people will be working at the assembly plant. If the products are done here, the prices can be competitive. In terms of quality, we can assure Nigerians 100 percent that if they buy any product that has any technical deficiency, they can return it and we will replace it for them. As of now, the return rate for our products is less 2 percent, so if the standard in the industry is 3-5 percent, it means rlg isn’t doing badly. Nigerians should also be aware that the grey products are creating health issues because of the substandard equipment they use in manufacturing them. Some of them are not tested. We have registered with NCC, and our products have also been tested by the SON. So they are free of all health related issues. Our products are trendy, qualitative and above all have after sales support.
What is Nigerian about rlg products?
Before I will go into defining local content in our products, I will ask, what are the things that go into production of the product? We have men, materials, money and machines: in all of this, the machines and the men are all local; I also have the African money and the materials from China. So if you look at the proportion, you will see that 75 percent is local. It is only 25 percent of the materials that comes from China because we don’t have them here; we only assemble the Special Knock Down (SKD) here. When you also look at local content in terms of management, you will see that the managing director to the lowest position is Nigerians. The only Ghanaian we have is the chairman. So in terms of human resources, we are 100 percent local.
What are the things that frustrate your efforts in Nigeria?
Grey market is the number one enemy of any development. But we are resolved never to be bothered with that. We have done it before in Ghana, I mean when you mention Samsung, you also mention rlg in terms of quality product. That is exactly what we want to do here by flushing out all the grey products, not by direct confrontation but by the strategy we have. We have discovered that Nigerians love cheap ICT devices, they don’t want to know whether it has quality or not as far as it is cheap. So what we offering them to de-emphasize interest in grey market is to give them affordable and qualitative devices. We also want to fight the grey market by creating awareness, sensitizing Nigerians on the health hazard associated with these grey devices. We cannot say we are not getting government’s support but we can do with more. Look at it this way: a company that is trying to create employment for Nigerians, that will reduce social vices; a company that is projecting the image of Nigeria as a nation, that is producing and not importing, that company deserves maximum support from government in terms of relaxing the import duty. If MTN could get it when they came to Nigeria, a local brand like rlg should be able to get much more than that.
rlg seems to get so much support from the Ghanaian government. If you are given opportunity to ask, what are the specific things you ask from the federal government?
Our request will focus on policy of government especially the ones that have to do with taxation for new companies like us. We want to enjoy some tax holiday. We also want patronage from the federal government. If we are saying this is an Africa product that will provide employment for Nigerians as we use it; then government should be able to patronize us by putting up a policy that allows the product to be patronized by all MDAs at every level.