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Nigeria is well positioned to be a telephone manufacturing hub —Oke Umurhoho, itel mo


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Oke Umurhoho is the marketing communication manager of itel mobile. In this interview with GBENGA ADERANTI, he talks about the competitive communications industry, the issue of substandard phones, the future of telephone manufacturing in Nigeria, among others.

HOW would you describe the telecommunication industry in Nigeria?
The telecommunications industry in Nigeria is one that can currently be described as self-aware and steadily adapting to the stark realities of business – changing trends, intense rivalry, regulatory uncertainties etc. It’s a growing industry which potentials have not been fully tapped. Lots of opportunities exist for better and improved services. There is a general understanding that to remain sustainable in the current industry, there is a need to improve on general business processes and navigate through the regulatory landscape. The telecommunication story of Nigeria cannot be complete without the mention of smartphones and the important role they play in our world today.

How has your company been fairing, especially with the existence of substandard phones?
We have been fairing well despite the economic challenges and the issues of substandard phones. We do believe consumer awareness is key. So at itel mobile, we engage in creating extensive awareness about the benefits of having a genuine phone.

What have you been doing to stem the tide of fake phones in Nigeria?
A lot is for the regulation bodies to attend to. We however sensitize the general public about the dangers of fake phones both health wise and economically. We also advise our customers to buy phones from authorized retail partners. Furthermore, we have a special website where consumers can input their IMEI number and verify if the phone they are buying is genuine or not.

What has been the contributions of communication outfits to the development of the economy?
According to the NBS, the telecoms industry contributed N1.54 trillion to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the second quarter of 2017. This figure represents a 6.68 per cent increase from the first quarter’s contribution of N1.45 trillion.  Even in recent times when the whole economy was facing challenges, the sector has remained resilient and stable. Growth in the telecommunications sector remained positive, in contrast with the economy as a whole.
So aside providing revenue to the government, communications outfits provide jobs too.

When you look at the traffic on your social media, you see different opinions, array of questions, what do you perceive from such comments?
That the social network of itel Nigeria has exceeded 150% growth during the last 6 months is an important indicator about the strong customer relationship and brand strengths. Like all successful brands, itel recognizes the power of communities in influencing personal choices, behaviours and trends. It goes without saying that social media today has an unstoppable, magnetic and limitless power as a new channel to drive whatever message one wishes. With an unquestionable focus on customer engagement, itel looks at this medium as a crucial one. Social media provides a platform for 360° engagements with customers as it provides an opportunity for two-way feedback. It is for this reason that itel mobile has a dedicated team that focuses on ensuring that this important segment of its customer base is provided with real time responses to their concerns and queries.

Apart from promos, are there any other ways which you give back to the society?
Yes, we do CSR, through our ‘Love Always On’ initiative. I have always been quite good at CSR, and I think it is an important way to connect with the community. Giving back to the community is at the core of itel Mobile’s philosophy. This has made the brand develop a robust CSR policy via the ‘Love Always On’ initiative.
Through the ‘Love Always On’ campaign, various life-touching projects geared towards empowering pupils and students in different schools were carried out. As at October 2017, over 1,300 students have benefited directly from itel mobile education support initiative.

Do you see Nigeria becoming the hub of telephone manufacturing considering the array of technicians that are in existence?
This is a tricky question. However, I believe with our large population and with the industry still growing, Nigeria is well positioned to be a telephone manufacturing hub. However, this will only be possible with good plans and sustainable business environment. If these things are in place, then I believe we will get there sooner than expected. The business environment just has to be right.

What are the challenges your organization is facing doing business in Nigeria?
Our operating environment remained challenging as we continued to experience highly competitive mobile markets. We are however confident that our substantial investment in different parts of the production, supply and marketing chains will ensure that we continue to deliver sustainable growth.

What is your take on competitors?
Competition helps create a vibrant market place and we welcome it. However, while we will remain competitive on price, we strongly believe that we should rather compete on value to ensure that consumers get value for money.

Why did you take up a challenging job like this considering the stiff competition that exists in the industry?
A challenging job builds one up. I loved the idea of contributing my part to the development of the industry especially at this stage where it is.

How have you been coping in a female dominated industry?
Is the telecoms industry a female dominated industry? I am not too sure about that; but coping in a female dominated industry is not a challenge at all. One just has to be professional and go about his work diligently.

What does it is take to excel in the industry?
Excelling in the telecommunication industry is similar to anywhere else. Creativity and professionalism, with a lot of hard work is the key to excelling. Furthermore, be a good team player as most of the projects require teamwork and be bold enough to take initiatives.

What were you doing before now?
I was the Communications Manager for Ignite Ideas project, which was a special Public Private Partnership project of the Lagos State government and After School Graduate Development Center

At what point did you take up this appointment?
That should be early last year, February 2016 precisely.