CHRIS OBASI, the Managing Director of Zeta-Web Nigeria Limited talks about the challenges of internet service providers (ISPs), how the company has been aligning with the post Covid 19 workplace and also brought to the notice a flagship product known as Z-Force that would allow Nigerians have access to a robust broadband and superfast internet connectivity especially those working remotely. Obasi bared his mind in this interview.
Q: As an Internet Service Provider (ISP), do you think that internet services are overpriced in Nigeria?
Chris: The Internet Services space in Nigeria in my opinion is fairly priced, considering the environmental and economic challenges we have to endure – lack of stable electricity, frequent vandalization of fiber-lay path, unstable exchange rate, multiple taxations from Local level to Federal level and so much more.
These challenges are experienced by most businesses in-country and Service Providers are offering to their subscribers to the best of their ability a bouquet of value-add packages that are pocket-friendly. You also need to understand that in this industry, the cost of capacity to Service Providers will always determine the selling price to the end-users if we wish to stay profitable. Internet services can only be fairly-priced to the extent capacity providers push-out and price their bulk capacity to ISPs. Nonetheless, we listened to the market and with the advent of the global pandemic and the remote-working that a lot of businesses have had to adopt since last year, we are fast-tracking on solutions and services that will give businesses peace of mind – one of such is working on a simplified bundled service that allows users (corporate or individual) to enjoy the best of internet, voice-data and video without exhausting their data or paying premium i.e. More Data for Less – thereby ensuring maximum productivity and profitability to businesses in Nigeria.
Q: You have been in business for over 7 years now, started as ISP now diversified into other spheres of IT, how has the journey been?
Chris: The journey has been quite interesting, when I look back at our how we gradually diversified by developing our competencies in IT Solutions, and evolved our business model to foster a great relationship through partnership with industry giants; it gives me a high sense of satisfaction at our accomplishments. We cannot understate the challenges that come with these. Our team worked hand-in-glove with these customers to get quality feedback regarding the different services in their environment that were either not working, poorly implemented or needs to be optimized.
“Our Z-Force service is unique in its design as it came out at a point where users wanted internet services with both speed and data that they can use while working remotely, void of the frequent intermittencies and high-cost associated with such requests.”
These and more gave us a good direction that allowed us to embed our unique touch to IT services and solutions offerings. As a business, we have also been able to contribute our quota to the ongoing digital transformation journey in Nigeria, by ensuring that any business can get what they need from a single provider, which ensures full optimization across their IT infrastructure and is cost-effective. The testament of this success is with our customer base that spans across different industries and sectors in Nigeria that trust us. In as much as we acknowledge that the challenges are enormous and constantly evolving, we are determined to stake our claim in this space.
Q: You recently introduced Z-FORCE service, how has it been and how well has it been accepted in Nigeria?
Chris: Our Zforce service is unique in its design as it came out at a point where users wanted internet services with both speed and data that they can use while working remotely, void of the frequent intermittencies and high-cost associated with such requests. As you would agree with me, the global pandemic brought with it, different challenges and an uncharted path that a lot of businesses where ill-prepared for; but we saw it as an opportunity to change the way we think and operate, and this meant that we had to look at a product that acts as a best-fit to the need of our clients as well as meet the current demand and market trend. In the area of aftersales support which is always a problem in our environment, we continue to run a 24-hour support service and this has also enhanced the acceptability of Zforce in the market. Currently this service is only available in Lagos, but we are increasing our service coverage to cover at least other major cities and the underserved communities across Nigeria.
Q: What are the unique selling points of Z-FORCE as a product?
Chris: Our unique selling point is One product that meets the unique need of every user, Fast installation, High Quality of Service, Fair Pricing and Excellent Customer Turnaround Response Time to mention a few. Z-Force is a hybrid product that serves both the SME market (Home office) and selective mass market – home users, online schooling, ‘entertainment’, etc.
Q: Tell us about your FibreSat solution and the areas of coverage?
Chris: FiberSat is an innovative product that derives its name from a combination of services- Fiber and VSAT, one acts as the primary link while the second is a backup in the instance of service failure. It enables us to provide redundancy/backup with an uptime of 99.98%, compared to the industry uptime of 98%. It means we empower businesses to switch as need be during service disruption without their operations being impacted. FiberSat is available in major cities nationwide.
Q: With Your broadband solution for home use, now that people are working from home, how pricey is it and the speed?
Chris: It is cost effective, as we had to invest and work with our partner ecosystem to provide the hardware at no cost or on free lease to our customers. We provide a solution that will meet every customer’s unique requirement.
Q: How can the government create policies that would enable indigenous ISP firms like yours scale?
Chris: We need the government to create a sustainable and predictable spectrum allocation regime that makes useful frequency spectrum available at a fair price. They should also properly differentiate the market so that Telcos and ISPs do not overlap, by enacting laws that separate what markets can be serviced by each category of provider. Internet access should be treated as a right of all citizens and as such ISPs should be given tax incentives accordingly – eliminate multiple taxation and include tax reduction on OEMs equipment manufacturing and importation to encourage investors. Protection of our infrastructure and also support us more by ensuring the industry has access to foreign exchange at the official rate. Finally, provision of long-term loans with very minimal interest rates to new and existing ISPs to support their overall operation.
Q: Tell us more about ZETA Business solutions and what segment of market it is designed for?
Chris: Zeta-Web Business Solutions (ZBS) is a 21st century IT-savvy solutions competency provider, with a team of highly-dedicated and knowledge-based professionals that offer premium service to a varied clientele base that spans across, Financial, Oil and Gas, Government & their Parastatals, Education, Telecommunication and Manufacturing. We cater to the needs of SMEs and large organisations and able to deploy our services by working with select OEMs’ product offerings tailored to meet the ever-changing demands of our customers-partners environment that will help every business to be agile in order to meet their desired goals. Our aim is to fill the gap of quality ICT Service Integration and Services by designing, implementing, operating and managing high-end enterprise networks, data center technologies and applications for our customers’ specific needs.
Q: As an ICT Solutions Provider, you have various solutions like Data Centre services, structured cabling and switching services etc. how has the market accepted these solutions and what are your unique selling points?
Chris: Our unique selling point is that we listen to our customers before designing the desired product that meets their specific needs; as we know that the world is evolving and it is no more one product fits all. Secondly, the market’s methodology about Data Centres and WAN has gone in the Software-defined direction and our portfolio has been robust enough to accommodate this shift in demand. Our range of Structured Cabling and Switching solutions deliver quality throughputs and serve as a solid foundation for data centre services of all kinds. Our flexibility, in-depth professional knowledge and customer-centric approach stands us out in the market.
Q: This is a new year, what are the solutions that Nigerians should expect from you?
Chris: COVID 19 and the local impacting socio-political upheavals that affected the business landscape have also opened-up unique opportunities such as the importance of Remote Working.
We are enhancing our solutions around Virtualization and IT Security Solutions for enterprises. We also provide IT/Cyber Security trainings for IT administrators as well as regular users that utilise enterprise systems. Aside all these, we will also be positioning our Cloud infrastructure (both private and public) as well as digital transformation to the market. The post-pandemic reality is that the new normal has come to stay, and our current product suites are being aligned to meet the new-normal and ensure our solutions help improve our customers’ IT environment, support their digital transformation journey, enhance their overall experience & processes and facilitate business growth. As we continue to understand the enterprise business landscape, we will keep designing solutions that fit into the market needs.
Q: Tell us about your Collaboration Services and your Contact Centre Solutions. Are you open to mid-market players?
Chris: In the past, Collaboration was assumed to be within an office or one organization. Now, Collaboration has broken boundaries of the typical office network and has reached across all of the Internet and Cloud Infrastructure. Cloud-based collaboration solutions in the form of software as a service (SaaS) is readily available for a wide range of customer type including mid-sized firms. The advantage is that these solutions are scalable and so you can start small and scale up as you grow.
“Our unique selling point is that we listen to our customers before designing the desired product that meets their specific needs; as we know that the world is evolving and it is no more one product fits all”
Our Call Centre Solutions are robust and have crossed the boundaries of the basic voice-based call centre and IVRs, to multichannel contact centres that have multiple touchpoints including Social Media and Chat Bots. The need to constantly engage and have successful dialogues with customers and employees as well as putting information on products and services out there without increasing operating cost is one aspect, we are mindful of.
Q: As an IT stakeholder, what is your take on Nigerians hosting and having their data hosted locally, do you think that there are advantages to this?
Chris: Nigeria has come a long way from when there were no standard tiered data centres in-country and 100% of Internet content was outside our shores. Now we have a lot of content developers, Intellectual property owners and organisations with content and Internet-based products meant for consumption by the Nigerian market. A good example is the different payment gateways we have now, make room for all of these contents to remain in-country to ensure good application response time and overall better performance of products and services.
Also, the content remaining in-country improves the economy, as fees that would otherwise be paid to ferry the traffic outside our shores and host it outside our shores is now paid to local providers; thereby boosting our economy. The main challenge for now is in generating alternative source of energy which is not cost-effective and is currently being used to manage downtime and availability, which is an essential and critical aspect of data hosting.