Founder and CEO of Slot Systems Limited, Nnamdi Ezeigbo, is a personification of the tenacious Nigerian spirit.
In 1999 the entrepreneur from Umuahia, Abia, started the technology company that offers smartphones and mobile gadgets and has since become the industry’s leader.
Through his success story of building Slot as Nigeria’s leading tech marketplace, Nnamdi Ezeigbo has proven that in every position in life, there is always the possibility of change.
He epitomises resilience, exemplifying that only those who persevere until they succeed may serve as inspiring role models for others.
Nnamdi Ezeigbo is one of the brains behind the penetration of the Tecno and Infinix phone brands in Nigeria.
The Slot founder, Nnamdi Ezeigbo has demonstrated that when opportunity meets preparation, you achieve success.
From hunting for a job in vain after completing his youth service to settling as a computer repairer and eventually becoming the business magnate and role model that he is today.
The early life of Nnamdi Ezeigbo
Nnamdi Ezeigbo, a resident of Umuahia, Abia state, was born in Delta State, Nigeria, on August 4, 1966.
Between 1979 and 1984, he attended Pamol primary school in Sapele and Ogini grammar school and Ogharefe in Delta state for his high school education.
Following his secondary school, Nnamdi enrolled at the Yaba College of Technology in 1988, where he earned a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Electrical Electronics Engineering before serving his country, Nigeria, during his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) year at Guinness Nigeria PLC in 1996.
Between 1996 through 2001, Nnamdi Ezeigbo studied Computer and Electronics Engineering at the Lagos State University (LASU), graduating with a Second Class Upper score.
In 2009, he earned a master’s degree in information technology from Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso. Following his success in business, he ran an entrepreneurial program at Harvard University.
Life as an apprentice
Nnamdi Ezeigbo struggled unsuccessfully to find work in Nigeria after completing his youth service year. He moved on to work as an apprentice learning how to repair computers after seeing no hopeful signals of employment.
Ezeigbo chose to leave his employer after six months since their ideals were incompatible.
He recounts how his employer was more interested in generating money than in creating strong client relationships. Her narrates how his employer once cheated an unsuspecting customer by selling a cooling fan for N30,000 instead of the correct N3,000 price.
Ezeigbo considered his options and realised that he couldn’t work for someone who didn’t care about his customers, so he left to open his own computer repair shop.
He squatted with a friend who had a book store in Ikeja because he didn’t have any cash at the time.
His customer base grew when he started fixing computers on his own, owing to his honesty and the importance he placed on customer care. He made every customer feel welcome and pleased, which led to an increase in his business.
His big opportunity
One day, an old customer from his apprenticeship came to see him at his small shop.
He informed him that he would love for him to keep servicing computers, but that he would prefer if he did so from a larger, more tranquil space.
The customer came with some printers for Nnamdi to sell, and he utilised the money to open a new shop. He bought the shop for N180,000 at the time which he eventually sold years later for 100 million Naira.
With no experience managing a growing business, Nnamdi enrolled in an MBA program at the prestigious Lagos Business School and attended a number of workshops aimed at developing his entrepreneurial skills.
During this time, he and his team decided to take a 5-year approach to build a strong brand reputation. By the end of the projection, the Slot brand had become the most well-known mobile phone shop in the country.
His goal as Nigeria’s biggest mobile phone merchant wasn’t only to be the best but to make competition unimportant, which he accomplished to a large extent.
The Rise of Tecno in Nigeria
Ezeigbo recognised early that Nigerians needed dual-sim phones. The unreliable network service by telcos fueled the desire to seamlessly switch between networks.
He approached Nokia to produce dual-sim phones for Nigerians, allowing people to carry only one phone at a time rather than two.
They declined probably because having more people carry their phones meant more sales.
This fact motivated Nnamdi Ezeigbo to travel to China in search of someone who could help him realise his dreams.
“So I went to China and got a guy who had worked with a company called Bird then. Bird was into phones but they got choked and lost market share.
I met with the guy and asked him to let us do something. I came up with that name and I registered it here and brought the guy to Nigeria. And that was the high point of our business.
We came together and I designed the first Tecno phone, Tecno T101. We started it but the market did not accept it and we also had a problem with the dual SIM not working together, we had to make corrections and we came with Tecno 201 and that was a bit accepted by the market.
But we were basically giving marketers on credit to sell the phones and then pay us later. And I was funding it all alone.”
He was solely responsible for the Tecno phone’s introduction and sales.
This had an impact on the firm at first because his team had difficulty obtaining the appropriate numbers for sale until the Nigerian market gradually accepted them.
Nnamdi began requesting an advance payment from retailers for the Tecno phones as soon as the market had adjusted and demand for the phones exceeded supply.
This allowed them to produce many more Tecno phones in order to meet the increased demand. It was around 2007 when he introduced the Tecno phone brand to the Nigerian market, and it was a watershed moment in his commercial career.
“Since I was funding it alone, we were finding it difficult to get the right quantity to sell until the market started accepting us. What I now did was to make them pay in advance, I mean the dealers.
So we started using their money to order the products. This was around 2007. The introduction of the Tecno brand was the turning point of our business.”
The success of Tecno and the rise of infinix
In 2008, the Nigerian economy and people’s purchasing power both declined.
As a result, many individuals began to seek cheaper alternatives to their general expenditure, and as a result, many more people began to acquire Tecno phones than many other phones in the country, propelling it to the top selling phone for Nigerians in the ordinary and middle classes.
“Like I said, Tecno is my baby and we kept improving. I knew a day would come when the middle class would accept Tecno. Initially, it was a phone for low-income people but based on improvement and upping our game, the middle class had to accept it and when the economy went down in 2008 that helped Tecno to move to the top.
Since purchasing power had dropped, they had to go for something that have the same capabilities but cheaper. So with N15,000, you could buy a Smartphone and thank God for 3G network.
The advent of 3G network actually helped Tecno to move up. So students who could not afford to buy phones in the range of N30,000 could buy one for N15,000 and enjoy features of smartphones like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and so on.”
Concerning the birth and rise of Infinix, Nnamdi stated, “Tecno now gave birth to Infinix. It is the same company. You can now see how the brand has evolved. So looking at the Nigerian people, you would see that a phone like Tecno will get a point when premium customers will like to use it.”
While Tecno was having a good run in the market, it spun off a subsidiary called Infinix to appeal to all classes of people in the country, not just the middle and lower classes.
Tecno and Infinix are the fastest-selling phones in Nigeria today, and they have a solid reputation that has ensured their long-term success.