The most impressive business I’ve studied during the past couple of weeks is SystemSpecs, and there’s a good reason for that.
One is SystemSpecs reminds me so much of Microsoft, which in my opinion is really the model for how a great business should be built; a well-diversified portfolio, a large focus on the B2B market segment, and an organic growth strategy that allows the business to grow without a serious need for outside capital. Microsoft only went public in 1986 because according to US laws, any private company with more than 500 shareholders must be public (and apparently all Microsoft’s employees at that time were shareholders).
Here are my notes from that case study.
There are three primary business segment you can operate in; B2C (Business to Customer), B2B (Business to Business), and B2G (Business to Government).
I personally believe that the most profitable segment to innovate for in Nigeria is the B2B and B2G segment, and here’s why;
The major selling point of investing in Nigeria is market size. One of the key points (I believe) Jumia highlights when it pitches to investors is its market size (Jumia operates in 11 countries with a combined market size of 600 million people), and 600 million people will always look attractive on paper, what most investors fail to realize is that for any product that isn’t food, shelter, essential or has an extremely unique business model where people don’t pay directly for the product (think payment processors and social media sites) in Africa, (TAM) Total Addressable Market is way smaller than you think. Amazon USA has a market size of about 300 million people, and has a TAM of more than 50%, Jumia on the other hand has a market size of around 600 million people, and has presently been able to capture only 1% of that market (and with their present focus on restructuring, and trying to make a profit, I doubt if they’ll be able to capture any more).
Don’t let anyone deceive you, the majority of Nigerians and by extension Africans have very weak spending power. Is eCommerce a viable business? Yes, but only as a niche product, and definitely not as a mass market product, or at least not yet.
I read an analysis by McKinsey not too long ago where they analyzed Nigeria into market segments and tried to make examples and “assumptions” on spending and behavioral tendencies. One of the areas they made reference to was clothes and apparel shopping, and as much as most of their analysis was correct, I can’t help but highlight that they missed out on some key indicators.
A good number (and when I say a good number, I’m politely trying not to say a majority) of Nigerians buy their clothes in second hand markets (Okrika). The second hand clothes market is probably several times the size of the new clothes market, partly because most people can’t fathom themselves spending N6,000 on a pair of jeans, when “First Grade” second hand jeans costs around N1500 or so, and partly because even the guys selling in boutique’s really just buy them second hand too, rebrand them and sell them at outrageous markups (a good number of Nigerians needs deliverance), but I digress.
If you’re going to make any serious money innovating in the Nigerian market, one of the most powerful segments to innovate for is the B2B and B2G segments.
Businesses can afford what people cannot. Do individuals use Spectranet? Yes does most of Spectranet’s business come from individuals? I don’t think so. Anyone who can afford to setup Spectranet in his residential apartment isn’t an average Nigerian. Any business that can’t AFFORD to give its employee’s access to free WiFi isn’t a serious business yet.
SystemSpecs operates in the B2B segment, with both its HumanManager software (which I’m guessing you’ve probably never heard of), and Remita (the mother of all platforms).
B2B is legit for two reasons; one is you spend less on marketing because you’re not trying to reach 2 million people who will (or may) pay you N1000 for your product, but 2,000 suit wearing executives who can afford to pay you US$3,000 for your product, and two is that with B2B you can basically be making money and remain low key. How many of you reading this knew SystemSpecs before Remita? How many of you reading this have even heard of SystemSpecs before this article?
Because the Nigerian Senate approved a US$23 billion debt facility some months back, and they need someone to help them spend it (I know this is extremely unpatriotic, but we really need to do something about government borrowing. Nigeria now owes around US$80 billion, that’s more than Ghana’s GDP!!).
On a serious note, governments rarely fail. Why do you think people buy Treasury Bonds? And governments can pay you, they can pay you a lot more than you think.
SystemSpecs developed IPPIS (Integrated Personnel & Payroll Information System) for the Nigerian Government, the system that puts a check on ghost workers in the public sector workforce, and Remita, oh my God Remita, we’re getting there.
Governments can afford to pay you a lot.
When you’re building in Nigeria, think about low volume, high margin markets, because they can pay you a lot. Think about this;
Nigeria’s GDP has increased over the years, but more Nigerians live in poverty today than at any time in our nation’s history. Why? Because the wealth isn’t spread equally, its spread amongst a select few. This select few can afford your high margin luxury product if you can find a way to both get it in their face, and convince them to buy.
The Drug called Venture Capital
Drug abuse isn’t just about using hard drugs; it’s about overdosing on anything that’s meant to be medicinal.
Are drugs good? Yes, the problem only comes when you take in more than is necessary or required.
Is Venture Capital good? Absolutely, the problem comes when you overdose on it so much that you’re more likely to raise a new funding round, than you are to make a profit.
Jumia is a VC junkie (raised more than US$821 million pre-IPO) that went sober after getting hit on the head by the golden bull outside Wall Street. SystemSpecs is the responsible citizen that doesn’t take drugs, pays his taxes, and even returns money he made working for the government when they say it’s too much.
SystemSpecs in my opinion is such a stable business, that the only reason John Obaro would want to take outside capital is if he gets tired of flying British Airways and Qatar, and wants to fly private (that’s if he doesn’t own his own private jet already).
Remita is the mother of all products. Forget all the VC and we’re building the future of finance and digitizing Nigeria hype, Remita is the real MVP.
Flutterwave, one of the biggest payment processors in Nigeria processed 107 million transactions valued at US$5.7 billion in 2019.
Remita was processing US$1.8 billion in transaction volume a month in 2018. Remita is not a product; Remita is a beast, a hungry 7 feet Oniru Victoria Island money making beast.
Remita was making so much money from its TSA (Treasury Single Account) contract with the government that even Dino Melaye (that has a Lamborghini and a Rolls-Royce) had to raise an alarm.
SystemSpecs is presently making inroads into the B2C market segment with its new PayLink product.
Paylink helps you collect money and receive payments by sending a unique link to your payer without revealing your bank details.
I think Paylink is one of the few truly innovative products in the Nigerian fintech space (I’m already tired of all the fintech apps that want to help me transfer money, buy airtime, and pay bills, as though my bank doesn’t help me do that already). Paying bills and buying airtime isn’t a bad thing, but if that is what your products key value proposition is, I’ll be frank with you, you don’t have a business, at least not for long.
SystemSpecs is an awesome business, and although they’re one of the oldest players in the game, their model of organic growth, and focusing on the B2B and B2G market segments have earned them profitable rewards, and made them a name to be reckoned with in the Nigerian technology space.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit