A simple search for businesses of Nigerian origin that are 30 years old or more will require some scratching of the head. Indeed, it will require some digging deep because majority of the businesses that are household names in Nigeria today are multinationals. The likes of Coca-Cola Nigeria, Guinness Nigeria, Unilever, Julius Berger and Mr. Biggs, to mention a few, have been there for so long that they are now an integral part of the business landscape which most Nigerians can easily identify.
For the average Nigerian, it will be a difficult exercise to reel off a list of Nigerian businesses that are more than 30 years old which are also household names. Apart from some brands like First Bank and, to some extent a few other brands in the banking sector, one would find it difficult to come up with a list of local businesses that have been in business for 30 years or more. Such is the consequence of operating in a harsh economic environment where businesses are confronted with daily struggles for survival. Besides, many businesses have had to fold up due to poor management, failure to conform to business ethics, deficient accounting methods, or poor tax remuneration, among others.
According to Bloomberg, a business-focused publication, eight out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. A study done by Inc. magazine, another business-focused publication and the National Business Incubator Association (NBIA) of the United States also revealed that 80 per cent of new businesses fail within the first five years. Further data reeled out by Dun & Bradstreet reports that; “Businesses with fewer than 20 employees have only a 37 per cent chance of surviving four years in business and only a 9 per cent chance of surviving 10 years.”
If only nine per cent of businesses survive after 10 years, the figure will definitely be lower for businesses in operation for 20 years not to talk of 30 years of continuous business operations, a feat recently achieved by Chams Plc. Established in 1985 by Sir ‘Demola Benjamin Aladekomo, a proficient innovator and an astute businessman, Chams Plc is Nigeria’s foremost indigenous ICT firm. The company has a solid reputation for providing innovative, qualitative products and services in the information technology sector.
The company which first opened shop in Lagos 30 years ago as specialists in maintenance of personal computers (PCs) – a field which had limited participation of indigenous companies – maintained the personal computers of prominent multi-national companies such as Ernest & Young, Dunlop, Lever Brothers, and UAC. However, as the years went by, coupled with new trends in technology, the clients of Chams Plc demanded for more. The clients wanted their PCs to be inter-connected and networked for efficient and simplification of work operations. Not fazed by the challenge, the company responded by acquiring the relevant skills and successfully migrated to developing enterprise technology solutions.
Chams successfully pioneered Local Area Network (LAN) interconnectivity in Nigeria which saw the connection of computers in a single edifice to a centralised PC. Not done yet, the company also introduced the Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) interconnectivity, a connection of computers across a certain metropolis, to the delight of Nigerians. Upping the ante and meeting the needs of its esteemed clients, the company initiated and invented the Wide Area Network (WAN) interconnectivity, the first in the country which witnessed the integration of various computers across the land. This achievement attracted big oil companies such as Mobil, Elf, Agip, Shell and many others to pitch their tent with the company for their tech needs.
Poised to fulfill its core objective to create and deploy innovative and beneficial technologies for the betterment of Nigeria, the ICT firm played a vital role in the financial sector with the introduction of smart card technologies in Nigeria and was the brain behind the first e-payment card in Nigeria birthed by the Valucard project working with a consortium of five local banks. This resourcefulness exhibited by a local company made Chams Plc the most sought-after home-grown ICT organisation by renowned Nigerian financial institutions such as First Bank, UBA and Union Bank, amongst a host of others.
Not satisfied with just being the groundbreaker, Chams Plc which nurses the ambition of becoming a renowned player in the ICT sector globally, raised the bar higher by being the first local company to produce the first set of corporate ID cards in Nigeria when it produced the cards for members of staff at Dangote Plc. This singular act prepared the company for the next phase of its business diversification – identity management – an area in which the company has initiated several ground-breaking accomplishments which transformed both the public and private sector and has made it the undisputed industry leading player.
These accomplishments include the production of the first set of national ID cards in 1999, the recently launched Banker’s Committee and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) led initiative called the Know-Your-Customer (KYC) popularly referred to as the Bank Verification Number (BVN) – using a biometric matching solution for the identification and verification of customers, and the-governance and residents’ identification projects – with the governments of Lagos, Anambra, and Osun, among others. Also included is the recently launched Confirm Me, a unified platform for identity, credit and credential confirmation.
All these ingenuity and inspiring projects, however, would not have been possible without the thoughtful management of Sir Aladekomo. A graduate of Computer Engineering from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and an MBA holder in Operations Research from the University of Lagos, Aladekomo and has worked assiduously over the years and with the indefatigable cooperation of employees, metamorphosed Chams from a single business division to a conglomerate.
Under his leadership, Chams Plc has grown to have multi-functional subsidiaries such as ChamsAccess, ChamsSwitch, Chams Consortium Limited, amongst a host of others. He is also reputed to have built ChamsCity, the largest digital mall globally with over 1,000 PCs in a single location- an innovation duly certified by global historian recorders, the Guinness Book of Records. It is also to his credit that the company was in 2008, listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange as public liability and proudly boasts of a repertoire of shareholders.
However, as the popular saying goes; “all things must come to an end.” After three decades of meritorious service to Chams Plc and Nigeria, Sir Aladekomo is set to take a deserved bow as he retires from active service this September. Coincidentally, his retirement aligns with the period the company is celebrating its 30th year in existence as a business entity. He has the confidence to proceed on retirement knowing that Chams would henceforth be managed by a competent individual who was under his tutelage for 25 years.
Mr. Olufemi Williams who took over the rein of affairs in Chams Plc from Sir. Aladekomo as the new Managing Director is an excellent engineer and manager of resources. Williams joined Chams Plc in 1990 and was named the General Manager of the company. His brief as GM included being in- charge of Sales and Marketing, General Management, and Project Management. During his time as GM, he led major operational change Initiatives which shaped up the company.
In 2004, Mr. Williams was seconded to SuperCard Limited, a subsidiary of Chams Plc as the Chief Executive Officer of the new firm. He nurtured the firm, plotting its operational strategy, building its customer base and finance level to profitability status. Recognised for his superb leadership qualities, Williams was recalled to Chams Plc as the Deputy Managing Director in 2011 and has since then, worked tirelessly for the growth and success of the company.
Williams’ elevation as MD of Chams Plc can be attributed to his diligence, doggedness, managerial competence, and his knack for excellence. Under his leadership, Chams Plc is expected to continue with its tradition of providing innovative, qualitative, efficient, and dynamic services to the Nigerians and making giant strides in the ICT sector.
And with an experienced head like Williams at the helm of affairs, the shareholders of Chams Plc are assured that the next phase of the company’s business development would surely be a unique and profitable one.