Unyime Idem, CEO Idems Group Of Companies in this interview with Blessing Bature unravelled his aspiration to change the Civil Service status of Akwa Ibom State to a commercial hub in Nigeria.
About the Organisation…
I started my first company, Idems Ultimate Venture in 2005 with only N45, 000 (124 US Dollars) and two staff. Interestingly, with hard work and patience, that small business like a mustard seed, has not only become a local house hold name but also an international brand in diverse sectors of the economy.
Today, it has metamorphosed into a conglomerate, called Idems Group of Companies with interest in telecommunications, banking distribution services, printing, building and construction as well as Real Estates.
Idems Group of Companies has several subsidiaries which includes the Idems Ultimate Ltd, First Network Ltd, Ibom Communications Ltd, Ibom Cement Company Ltd, Villa Press Ltd, Ibom Liquids Company Ltd, Idems Property and Real Estate Management Ltd, Stanford Microfinance Bank Ltd, and Stanford Express Ltd.
My organisation has contributed significantly upgraded Akwa Ibom State economy and that of Nigeria at large.
As the biggest Telecoms partner in Nigeria, I have more than 450 Nigerians in my employ, 4 are chartered Accountants, 3200 appointed retailers and more than 900 sub dealers, thousands of roadside recharge card vendors depend on my telecom business to earn a living, as a major contributor to the telecoms market in Nigeria, my huge investments in telecom- related activities has assisted the sector to contribute over 8.6% to the GDP of Nigeria, one of the highest in the country.
Ibom Communications Limited in partnership with Stanford Microfinance Bank limited championed the transformation and overhaul of the traditional method of dispensing airtime in Nigeria in line with global best practices, this was done through the launch of 3000 POS, i.e Airtime Vending Machines , thus discarding the obsolete method of printing airtime on paper and the event was witnessed by the Akwa Ibom State Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo and MTN management.
My company was the first telecoms service partner to commence this innovation in Nigeria.
Through my connections with the telecommunications companies around the world. I have facilitated the installation of GSM base stations in several rural communities in Akwa Ibom state, thereby connecting them with the outside world.
My bank, Stanford Microfinance Bank limited which commenced operations in 2015 has empowered more than 1000 small businesses and 5000 individuals through various loan packages and grants.
Our business are spread to several locations in Nigeria, not just Akwa Ibom, we are in Rivers, Cross Rivers , Abia and also in Lagos. For Stanford Express Limited, we hope to be in the entire country, we are going to be an international Korea service provider.
Motivation behind the establishment of Idems Group of Companies…
Well, I will start by saying that the need to be self-employed, self reliance as well as a wealth creator prompted me to venture into the business world and when I was in secondary school, I recall my business studies classes teacher always taught us that the private sector usually employ more than government.
He always emphasised that the biggest business sector in the international communities and the international market is not own by the government but private sector, so that was how I developed my business interest with the dream that once I leave school i will create employment opportunity for job seekers and also render services to humanity. So since that time my quest for employment generation has been very consistent and high.
So like somebody who is thirsty I don’t know when I will be satisfied. I always want to render services any day and anytime. That is why I am trying to expand my tentacles to cover the entire country and I believe by the grace of God I am going to do that.
Contributions To Societal Development…
I facilitated the donation of 4 security patrol vehicles by MTN Communications Limited to Akwa Ibom State government which was received by the then secretary to the state government, Mr. Udom Emmanuel now the governor. I also facilitated the installation of GSM Base Stations in several rural communities in Akwa Ibom State and initiated and participated in the execution of human – based development projects – road maintenance, construction/ renovation of public buildings/ schools and rehabilitation of indigent members of my native communities and its precincts.
I organised and sponsored a number of business – based seminars and workshops for more than 6000 young school leavers; grooming and providing scholarships for participants and providing empowerment packages.
I also initiated and sponsored squash tournament. Quarterly I tour hospitals in my home state to offset bills of indigent patients unannounced.
Well, there are lots of challenges but getting the right manpower to run the business was the first phase of the challenge I faced when I started my business. Like I said earlier, I started with just two staff, so for me to increase the workforce from that 2 to over 450 that we have today, it wasn’t that easy, it was something that when you beckoned on a young man and say come and work for us so that we groom you to become an entrepreneur apart from the salary we are going to pay you now, they felt impatient to be groomed for a long time, they needed a venture through which they could make millions overnight.
Though I was able to surmount all the challenges by setting up a department in my organisation that handles training, I called it Stanford Business School. Though, it is not really a full blown school, it is still within the organisation as part of the subsidiaries for now, we use it to train our workers and when we identify potential entrepreneurs , we use that angle of the business to train them and make them self reliant, so that is the mechanism we used in convincing many. With this, we were able to surmount our challenges and raise our staff strength and given the orientation that have been given to them I can tell you that they are loyal and have no choice other than pursue entrepreneurship as a career.
Breaking kick off financial challenges…
Well, I tell people whenever I am opportune to present papers that to be a successful business man, what you need is not necessarily money but ideas. Once this is obtained, it is either you sell the idea to raise money to run your business or you have a person that will partner with you because you have the most fantastic resources which is the idea. I don’t believe that without money you cannot start a business, after all, I started my business with just #45,000 and then I brought it to the level you are seeing today. What people need is not money but ideas, you can have an idea right now then you don’t have money to run it, if you bring such idea to us, if I look at it as an idea that will bring about success and progress, either I partner with you to bring it to fruition or I can buy the idea into what I am doing. So there are lots of ways idea can be translated into reality. Better still, if you don’t want to sell your ideas or partner with people you can actually start with the little you have at hand, do not worry about the size of the idea, what people want to see is you starting something and once that is done, you see people coming in to assist, that is the way it works. I advise people to just get started no matter how small it is. If you know your idea needs like N200,000 to start but what you have at hand is #5,000 don’t worry just go ahead and start, when people see you taking the bold step they will begin to support you and before you realise what is going on you have succeeded .
Balancing Family, Business and Leisure…
Actually you cannot really isolate family from business and you cannot be so glued to business at the detriment of the family. The family is the bedrock or the platform through which the business thrives. If you must create time for family, don’t allow activities of the family to jeopardise the success of your business. I have to balance both, I create time to be with my family after work to know how they are faring, and also set aside weekends to seat with them and make sure that there is peace in the family . In spite of this, i don’t allow pressure affect my business. I thank God that for giving me a lovely family, they support what I am doing and that is my happiness.