Nigeria Market Is A Great Place To Invest Now – Edwards

Gerry Edwards, Western Digital. Image: PR Revue


In this interview with CHIMA AKWAJA, the marketing director for Europe, Middle East, Africa and India at Western Digital Corporation, Gerry Edwards, explains why his company came to Nigeria, its expansion plans and need for data security for institutions and individuals. You came to Nigeria at a time of economic recession when others were exiting. Has the market been receptive to you? Nigeria in many ways has more challenges but we have other markets about the same amount of challenges. By investing sustainably in very good quality products in a methodical way, through the recession we have always come out on the right side of it. As a country with a significant percentage of digital savvy individuals, Nigeria is an important country for us. We aim to create value to consumers and stakeholders by providing innovative storage solutions. The introduction of an extended product portfolio is a step in the right direction – as we continue to provide improved performance and efficiency for our customers.

The population of 200 million people in Nigeria, mobile phones growth and penetration is right around a 150 mobile phones, I think 50 per cent of which are smartphones right now, each one of them with a microSD card. Consumers want to expand their capacity within the mobile phones. Even during recession, consumers have the need for more storage in their phones and we know that is only going to get bigger and bigger as data is the new oil. So, that is going to continue at a consumer level and beyond for the next 10 years.

What is your objective for the Nigerian market?

We have long been at the forefront of game changing innovations. From the invention of the first hard drive to recent advancements in 3D NAND, our journey of innovation continues to inspire those who dare to think big about the possibilities of data. Western Digital is enabling a bigger, faster experience in its portfolio with new solutions that give consumers an excellent combination of performance and capacity so they can do more with the rich content they capture. In the Nigerian market, we are setting up and we are here to stay in terms of our investment in the infrastructure and our go-to-market. We came first with our SanDisk brand and the guys in the sales team have set up the infrastructure through distributor and retailers with the aim of making sure that consumers are protected with original products. We have a ‘Buy Original’ programme on SanDisk products which will go to markets in Nigeria through our authorised resellers. Our objective is to ensure that the consumer has what we believe is the best technology for consumer flash products from microSD cards, USB drives and OTG drives for mobile phones in the Nigeria market. We believe the technology is best and we believe that the Nigeria market is a great place to invest now and into the future. How long have you been in this Nigeria market? We started three years ago, very methodical planning to make sure we do it the right way, not to just come in to do some deals and go. We set up the infrastructure and the plan to make sure that we are here for the long run and we are investing sustainably, not doing things that are going to be a flash in the pan. We invest in a sustainable way into the future because we see opportunities not just for now but also 10, 15 years from now. We understand the magnitude of this market, which is why we have expanded our distribution channels, so that more people can have access to our products. Nigeria has millions of individuals who use data digitally, one way or the other – we have recognized this opportunity and provided storage solutions for their needs. We offer high-performance, high-capacity and high-quality storage solutions to fit the increasingly digital lifestyles of consumers.

There is the issue of fake products, how have you been tackling it?

First of all, we compete globally with many other brands. We are by far the biggest market shareholder globally with our SanDisk brand for flash micro SD cards. We are a manufacturer of flash memory, one of only five in the world. You see a lot of brands, if they are not manufacturers, they are buying from the market. This means that we can guarantee the best level of quality at a very competitive price and the consumer gets the best possible products. It is not rocket science, we invested in very good products, in quality ways to go to market over the years and globally; in Nigeria we do exactly the same. Universally, we are compatible with everything, on the consumer side, we have a solution for everybody. We advise consumers to go to one of our authorised resellers where they would see the SanDisk sign, a ‘Buy Original’ sign and a stand with a ‘Buy Original’ sign, you will then see an original product within that store and that store owner will help to take them through the process. If it is not SanDisk, don’t touch because the brand has to be SanDisk. But we have educated our resellers, we have educated the market what the SanDisk brand looks like and what are the elements.

Your products, do they come with warranties?

Yes, it differs per product. For example, on our brand, the external hard drive comes with a local Nigeria warranty. The consumer has a level of trust on the product and they know it’s an original product, it is not fake, we have it in the country; this is a locally distributed product, it has an hologram sticker so everyone knows it is genuine product and has a local Nigeria warranty.

What are your plans to expand across the cities as well as channel distributions?

Our plan was always to reach all the major cities of Nigeria, so we started in Lagos. As you know, we are already now in Onitsha. We are in Abuja, and we have started expanding into Ibadan. In two to three years we should be covering all the major cities in the country. In terms of your retail outlets, we are supplying directly almost 12,000 stores in the country and we are in at least 3,000 to 4,000 branded stores for SanDisk. We are already in all the 66 stores of Slot, Pointek, and Spar and so on.

What is your vision for Nigeria now and in the future?

In the near future, we want to continue the growth that we doing in a sustainable way. We are going to continue on our SanDisk brand of products, developing our ‘Buy Original’ programme, going to more store fronts and more outlets and we going to concentrate on our branded products and launch them in the same way we did for SanDisk and then grow exactly the same way. We have authorised distributors and we go through retail and our resellers in the same methodical way, enter into Lagos and beyond the rest of the country as well.

Why is it important for individuals and organisations to secure their data?

Your data is very valuable even if it’s professional data, through to your personal memories and photos of you and your family, how you secure that is very important. On all of our products we offer a secure access software which can be used to set up a simple password on all of our hard drives and we want for all consumers to have the ability to be able to look after their data on hard drives.