Lars Christer Johannisson is the managing director for Tek Experts and elev8, Africa. Tek Experts and elev8 are a part of the YNV Group, an integrated and global portfolio of five separate companies, all sharing a common purpose: to help people around the world thrive and grow in the modern digital world.
Lars has international experience as MD/CEO in Telecommunications/ICT, Renewables, and Professional services in Sub Saharan Africa, Europe, and Latin America. He has been entrusted with leadership positions in large, transformative, high-tech, fast-moving organizations together with qualified peers and teams.
As MD, Lars has led Tek Experts to become a leading provider of technical support and professional services to large technology enterprises in Nigeria. Following the success recorded in Nigeria, Tek Experts launched its second Africa operations center in Rwanda in September 2021.
With a highly specialized technology focus, the company is redefining the industry, making tech support a highly strategic, value-creation engine for today’s digitally transformed enterprises. With 5,000 employees across seven global offices and 1800+ of them in Nigeria, Tek Experts has built a reputation for deep technical expertise and capabilities as a seamless extension of their clients. The company operates a follow-the-sun model that transcends borders, languages, and time zones to deliver exceptional services.
Tek Experts is part of the YNV Group, a global holding company dedicated to helping people around the world thrive and grow in the modern digital world.
In this interview with Peter Oluka, the editor of TechEconomy.ng, Lars described Nigeria as ranking high among the best locations worldwide for accessing a quality talent pool.
As a passionate economic development agent, Lars called for an environment that facilitates startups and makes it easy to start new companies.
Tell us more about Tek Experts in terms of the problems you solve, and opportunities you’ve found in this market
Lars: Both the team and I are particularly proud of the important role the group is playing in this market and beyond. The group consists of several companies; Tek Experts is the oldest one where we give deep technical cloud support. We do that in seven different locations worldwide and Nigeria is one of them.
The latest addition to that is Rwanda, where we set up operations on the 1st of September, 2021. As part of our portfolio of companies, we also have elev8; our training and digital skilling center. Elev8’s main goal is to upskill people who want to become part of what I call ‘the digital economy. By growing in their careers, they become better professionals, improve the quality of their lives, and contribute to the local economy.
YNV Group also develops a talent and career management software platform called Wize.
Wize is a valuable tool that helps companies strategically know, grow, and retain world-class teams.
In this way, companies can assess the skilling needs for certain positions and create a roadmap and upskilling initiatives to help people gain new skills and grow in their careers.
Then we have our property business, which is called Everty. Everty is essentially our insight and understanding that when we have long-term commitments, both to our staff and employees, that we also need the long-term capability to manage our environment, and that’s why we actually manage our own properties today, both in Nigeria and in other locations.
And the fifth and last addition to the group is Monifai which is operating only in Costa Rica for the time being. We are assessing whether we should bring Monifai into the Nigerian market as a microcredit lending platform. We’re exploring the options; firstly, how we can leverage the product for our employees inside the group, and secondly whether it makes sense to launch it to a broader audience in Nigeria.
Looking particularly into Tek Experts, we had a great journey to growth. In 2017, we took a very strategic decision to establish our presence in Nigeria. chose Nigeria because it offers access to a talent pool of skilled young people.
We started on a small scale in 2018. We have now moved beyond this humble beginning, grew our team tremendously, and now employ almost 2000 people in our Nigeria location. This proves that great talent is available here in Nigeria. It also proves that the collaboration with elev8 and Wize allows us to upskill local talent and help them grow their careers.
Today, we’re one of the biggest contributors to what we call “employability”, especially in the tech sector here in Nigeria, and particularly Lagos. That’s something we’re proud of.
A couple of years after our initial investment here, we started looking into other regions in other countries and we decided to expand our operations in Rwanda. We leveraged many of our very talented Nigerian employees to help us kickstart our new office in Rwanda. Some of our people moved down to Kigali to support our Rwanda operations.
And now we’re also building a talent pool in Rwanda together with the official authorities, essentially to do the same thing as we have done successfully in Nigeria.
For a company that is listening to us or is going to read this interview, what are the pain points that Tek Experts is trying to remove from their client’s shoulders? How can Tek Experts support potential clients looking for a technical support partner?
Our role as Tek Experts is to make sure that our clients deliver exceptional customer experiences. We work with enterprises that are looking to grow even further and we’re focused on powering their success. When you have a problem with existing capacity or you need to solve technical problems that occur on your cloud platforms, our role is to make sure that the customer experience is absolutely top-notch.
It’s our job to solve any problems and questions that might occur and guarantee a great experience for our clients’ customers. That is how we add value for our clients.
You’ve been in this industry for some time now and then you’ve seen some gaps in the sub-Saharan African markets in terms of service delivery/service industry. How can these gaps be closed?
Well, we’ve seen a lot of opportunities. We have established a functional business that makes a major contribution to the local economy – both in Nigeria and in Rwanda.
We observe that the cloud economy is growing both in the region and on a global scale. It grew even during the COVID-19 pandemic when many traditional industries experienced difficulties. Meanwhile, the cloud economy continued to grow here in Nigeria and in the whole sub-Saharan Africa.
Also, we found great local talent – skilled and talented young people who are driven and tech-savvy. Our goal was to give them an opportunity to develop their skills even further while working with the best names in tech.
Last but not least, we collaborated with public administrations, universities to enhance the existing skillsets of young talent so they can continue to learn and play a crucial role in the local cloud economy.
As we now have a new variant of COVID and businesses are beginning to revisit their business continuity plans and other anti-epidemic measures, which they had relaxed because of the vaccines. What do you think is going to happen from next year in terms of the trends companies should look out for?
We are not going back to the past; we’re moving forward and sadly; we have to learn how to live with COVID. Taking care of our people has always been our top priority during these uncertain times.
We’ve worked closely with the Lagos State authorities and fellow governments and we have been fully compliant with all rules and measures in Nigeria.
Also, we were able to quickly transition to more flexible ways of work in a secure and effective manner because we had already invested in the latest technology, security, people management, and training. The pandemic enabled us to prove we are well-positioned to support the needs of tech businesses and our people.
Tek Experts has done a lot investing in digital skilling and employee development, growing a skilled workforce for the ICT industry in Nigeria and now you’re going to Rwanda and possibly to other African countries to serve the ecosystem. Are the opportunities cutting across the board or are you focused on senior or junior level?
There are almost 180 universities in Nigeria. We employ a lot of talented young people who come from IT or telecommunication backgrounds. It’s a chance for them to work in a supportive and multinational environment where they can develop their skills and grow professionally.
But there’s more. We’re also offering opportunities to people who don’t have an IT background but have earned a math or science degree. Also, we’re fully dedicated to upskilling our people and we have launched an additional program where we train them and help them grow from junior to seniors. Then, they can start our more advanced training programs and grow in their careers even further.
We’ve also trained people with a non-IT background to take on very complex IT support roles in our company and drive customer success. This is a great achievement because it allows us to broaden the funnel and offer opportunities to a wider pool of driven people who want to develop their skills and become part of the growing IT segment.
Also, we’re dedicated to upskilling many women who want to work in tech. In Nigeria, we partnered with Microsoft to recruit, develop, and upskill talent for employability into the tech industry as part of their Leap Apprenticeship Program. In the first 2 years of the program, we trained and hired 40 girls as M365 and Power Apps Support Engineers.
Coming back to the issue of skills, Microsoft released a report recently which said that in the next few years there will be a need for 800 million people to change their skills to be able to fit into the digital economy. With what you’ve seen so far in terms of recruitment and what you’ve done so far, do you think universities are turning out graduates with the right skills? You’ve also talked about the curriculum being reshaped to fit into the ecosystem, but are there other things you think the private sector and government can work out to ensure that young people get the relevant skills for the future workplace?
There’s a huge global demand for IT skills. And in many sectors, there’s a shortage of skilled IT professionals. Reskilling and upskilling can help address this problem. At Tek Experts, we invest very heavily in digital skilling and employee development, growing a skilled workforce for the ICT industry. We offer both a place to develop IT skills and a place to leverage those skills with job opportunities supporting some of the most cutting-edge technology for the biggest global brands.
Already, Tek Experts has 1800+ engineers in Nigeria and you’ve gone to Rwanda. So let’s revisit this issue of the launch in Rwanda. What should we expect from Tek Experts from next year? What are the growth trajectory and areas you are looking to improve or enhance? Or would you launch in other markets in Africa or you’d just consolidate in Nigeria and Rwanda? What happens in 2022?
We’re laser-focused on growing the company in line with the business opportunities that present themselves to us. Expanding to new locations depends on two things; our further growth and whether this is aligned with our strategy and goals.
Also, I’d like to mention our sister company elev8 that helps enterprises and governments reskill and upskill their workforces. Elev8 is actively working with various stakeholders in the sector in both Nigeria and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa to make sure that we can train and upskill people across public administrations and enterprises.
During the pandemic even at the point where banks would lay off staff, Tek Experts was recruiting more people and engaging more hands. What was the magic?
We have seen the rapidly accelerating digitalization across industries drive a significant increase in demand for software and technology services. This has put an even stronger focus on support services in the technology space and our customers are asking for more services during the pandemic.
We managed to grow our talent base in Nigeria by more than 40% amidst an economic meltdown (during the Covid-19 pandemic). This was a major success for the local teams who kept achieving great results in times of crisis. Also, our engineering team in Nigeria has grown tremendously (9 times) since the launch of our operations in 2018 – from 200 to 1800 highly skilled engineers.
Is Tek Expert prepared to work with Microsoft on the Leap project if the opportunity presents itself?
Peter: Thank you so much Lars, for your time.
Thank you, Peter and the team, at TechEconomy.ng