Dare Ojo-Bello: Driving enterprise success with innovative ERP solutions
Dare Ojo-Bello, the Managing Director/CEO of Matt O’Bell Limited, an Information and Technology consulting firm that provides applications that helps the performance and profitability of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria is a quintessential business leader. The organisation represents Odoo, a global brand that provides an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution that is targeted at SMEs. As a focused Odoo partner with a youthful team of highly knowledgeable consultants, they bring a deep knowledge of experience in completing several projects successfully. Mr. Ojo-Bello spoke on the Focus of a CEO in this interview with Nnamdi Nwokolo.
What informed your choice of career?
My choice of career in Information Technology could be said to be accidental because I studied Agric Engineering at the University of Ife, and upon graduation, I joined Arthur Anderson and it practically changed the course of my career from Agric Engineering to Accounting. During the period, I was also involved in Auditing but I showed serious interest in information Technology. When I left to join a multinational company in Port Harcourt, my role continued as Financial Controller and later Regional Financial Controller, but my responsibilities included taking care of the soft ware that the company was using to drive its business.
Naturally, when I left the firm, I established Matt O’Bell Limited, a dynamic and forward thinking Business Consultancy firm that offer cutting edge technology solutions that impact on the performance and productivity of SMEs.
What are the basic offerings of Matt O’Bell Limited?
We represent Odoo, a global brand which also is the name of the company based in Belgium. Most traditional softwares for business focus on accounting, while some focus on procurement whereas some will achieve human resources and payroll, but when you have an ERP solution; it then means that you have a software that is fully integrated. In other words, the ERP solution provides fully integrated modules including Accounting, Procurement, Warehousing, Manufacturing, CRM, Human Resources and Payroll as well as Point of Sales etc all in a single software.
The whole idea is to provide information that SMEs need for decision making timely, accurate and relevant. When you consider that SMEs are a strategic sector for economic growth, our contribution is to provide the platform or solution to help their growth as we offer the implementation, support and training for the soft ware.
What has been the impact of the software to the development of SMEs?
We’ve been around for about four years and we’ve been involved in a number of projects for SMEs. What we have done in the last couple of years is to target companies that can afford to pay twenty thousand dollars, that’s about four million naira project when the exchange rate was at 160 Naira to a Dollar. We realized that with the pricing, we have excluded so many SMEs, because how many can really afford to pay that much.
We had to develop a platform called Odoo SME and the whole idea is on how to deploy the solution and make it more affordable for small businesses in Nigeria. So, we come up with a pricing model that allows us to offer the solution for as low as N500.00 per month per user. The plan is that when this is done, no SME will complain of not having access to the same solutions that have helped the success of multinationals.
With your experience over the last four years with SMEs, what are the critical factors for business success in Nigeria? In a thriving economy, there are so many things SMEs might overlook. For example, if they are making a profit of 40%, they may not realise that there’s a technological tool they can apply to increase their profit margin by an extra five to ten per cent. With the way the economy is right now, the focus of SMEs should be how to save money in their business operations and the most efficient tool is to have a robust technological business solution. A good technological tool will help SMEs to know if they are buying at a good price or not. Before, you could buy from anywhere, but now, you have to follow the best business practices as they have been tested over time and SMEs needs to adopt these tools to really be successful. It is important that SMEs should realize that unless they have technology tools, they cannot be as successful as they ought to be.
In the next couple of years, our focus will shift from project based clients as we want to be very relevant in the software that is adoptable by SMEs. The only way to do that is to strategically take a fair share of the SME market in terms of the number that is using our application and it may not happen overnight. Our projection is that if we have forty two million SMEs in the country, it won’t be a bad idea to have a grip of five hundred thousand to one million SMEs using our application.
That means a lot because the infrastructure will have to be very robust, and we have to scale up from wherever we are today to take care of that number. Our support is topnotch and that is why we have a locally developed team. The pricing will still be very friendly and we are taking a risk to make it very low because we have the confidence that the SME market will not disappear in the next couple of years. Our projections are very optimistic and we believe we can get there.
What has been the biggest challenge of running the business in Nigeria?
Initially when we started four years ago, we couldn’t find local people to engage. We couldn’t get the technical people maybe because Odoo is just entering the Nigerian market, so we relied completely on foreign developers. Gradually after about two years, we built our own team to bridge that gap. Beyond that and the challenge of exchange rate, an ERP can be a bit complex, so, what we have done to overcome this complexity is to make sure that what the users will struggle with is fully taken care of. We are taking advantage of cloud computing technology. The assurance we give our clients is that our support is local and with Odoo SME, you have an ERP that is in the cloud, affordable and above all is fully supported.
What drives you?
I’ve made up my mind to make an impact in the society as I’ve seen the values SMEs deploy to grow their business. I believe that if government is serious about what they want to do with SMEs; the least we can do is to provide a solution that will help the SMEs get to a point where they will be invaluable. I see Matt O’Bell as a leading ERP provider for SMEs, so that when they say SMEs needs a business application, let it be said that we are at the forefront of that service. Apart from pricing, our solution is easy to use and the learning curve is not steep.