It’s a brand-new season on the Business Infrastructure podcast! Season 18 is all about international business. Have you ever thought about expanding your business into another country or maybe establishing a strategic alliance with a foreign business? Or is it something you’ve never really considered until now?
Over the next 12 episodes, you’ll hear from natives and ex-pats alike about the possibilities that exist. Get your passport ready!
Our first stop is in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria and a city in the sixth most populated country in the world. Mujahid Usman, the Business Development Manager at Outsource Global, is here to greet us and share the scoop on what it’s like to really do business there.
In this episode, Mujahid also shares interesting facts about the large multinational presence in Nigeria, debunks myths and stereotypes about African businesses and societies, and explains why he believes people, not gold and diamonds, are Africa’s most precious resources.
He even reveals why he ultimately chose to leave behind a finance career in England and return home to Nigeria to help scale Outsource Global’s operations with a business infrastructure worthy of a rival.
You’re guaranteed to learn some things you never knew about Nigeria!
This episode is sponsored by:
Special Guest: Mujahid Usman, Business Development Manager – Outsource Global
Location: Abuja, NIGERIA
Air Date: October 3, 2022
Outsource Global’s Blog: Africa’s Premier Outsourcing Growth Partner online journal of history, current events, and related business topics.
Getting a Visa on Arrival in Nigeria: Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has rolled out a new Visa on Arrival Application Process for all Business Travelers and African Union Countries except ECOWAS member Countries.
SMEADN: (Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria) gives you access to government and private sector benefits to help you grow your small or medium-scale business faster.
Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission: established by Nigerian Investment Promotion Act Chapter N117 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 to encourage, promote and coordinate investments in the Nigerian economy.
United Nations: an international organization founded in 1945. Currently made up of 193 Member States, the UN and its work are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter.
World Bank: one of the world’s largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries. Its five institutions share a commitment to reducing poverty, increasing shared prosperity, and promoting sustainable development.
GIZ: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH – a service provider in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development and international education work.
More About Guest, Mujahid Usman:
Mujahid Usman has a bachelor’s degree in International Business and Management and a Master’s degree in Management Consulting from the University of Bradford and Leeds respectively. He started his career at PwC providing advisory services to Nigerian & Multinational clients on their most pressing public and private sector issues.
His next step took him to Verod Capital Management, where he worked with Managers, Partners, Portfolio company personnel, and outside parties to actively drive changes at the firm’s portfolio companies and maximize the firm’s return on investment. Mujahid is currently the Business Development Manager at Outsource Global, a Business Process Outsourcing company serving several International Markets. He works with the CEO and Senior Management to carry out the company’s strategic goals and objectives.
More About Host, Alicia Butler Pierre:
Alicia Butler Pierre is the Founder & CEO of Equilibria, Inc. Her career in operations began over 20 years ago while working as an engineer in various chemical plants and oil refineries. She invented the Kasennu™ framework for business infrastructure and authored, Behind the Façade: How to Structure Company Operations for Sustainable Success. It is the world’s first published book on business infrastructure for small businesses. Alicia hosts the weekly Business Infrastructure podcast with a global audience across 60 countries.
More About Sponsor, Equilibria, Inc.:
Equilibria, Inc. is an operations management firm specializing in business infrastructure for fast-growing organizations. Our mission is to provide access to tips, resources, and proven frameworks that revolutionize the way small businesses operate. We do that through original podcast episodes, blog posts, videos, presentations, workshops, and coaching sessions.
It’s a brand-new season on the Business Infrastructure podcast. Season 18 to be exact. And our focus is on International Business. What’s it like to do business in other countries? Over the next 12 episodes, you’ll hear from natives and expats alike on the possibilities that exist. As always, we’ll focus on business infrastructure – that is, the people, processes, and tools you can leverage to cure the chaos of unmanageable growth as well as any back-office challenges you may be experiencing.
Have you ever thought about expanding your business into another country or maybe establishing a strategic alliance with a foreign business? Or is it something you’ve never really considered until now. I’m Alicia Butler Pierre and it’s my pleasure to join you as we take an adventure around the world and back. So, get your passport ready!
Imagine we’ve met up at the Hartsfield-Jackson International airport in Atlanta, GA. It’s the busiest airport in the world so that means…let’s get moving! Our first stop is in Nigeria. Hurry, hurry! The gate’s about to close. Okay we’re on the plane now. Fasten your seatbelt. It’s time for takeoff in 5, 4, 3, 2…1…
This episode is underwritten by Equilibria, Inc. the company behind this podcast where we design scale-ready business infrastructure for fast-growing small businesses.
Welcome aboard Equilibria Airlines, the imaginary airline that will transport us on each leg of our international audio tour this season. We’ve just landed in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. Did you know that Nigeria is the sixth most populated country in the world and home to the largest population on the African continent? There’s a driver waiting to take us to Outsource Global’s headquarters. We’re about to meet with Mujahid Usman. He’s a native Nigerian and also the Business Development Manager at Outsource Global – the largest business process outsourcing company on the entire continent of Africa. And he’s eagerly waiting to speak with us.
This is Episode 222 – Doing Business in Nigeria with Mujahid Usman
I’m really happy to be on this podcast. Been excited since I got the information. Abuja, which is the capital of Nigeria, it’s like the government headquarters, normally here, whereas like for business, most people go to Lagos because a lot of multinationals and very large companies are based there because of the ports.
You know, there’s a lot of misconceptions about a lot of capitals. Most people might take the most exciting city or the most talked about city and just assume it’s the capital, most times, you find, to be surprised.
What’s the business climate like in Abuja compared to Lagos?
Lagos actually used to be the capital, right? but the capital was moved to Abuja because it’s more centrally located. And at that time that was the decision. Lagos, it’s very fast paced because, Lagos is like a country in itself. the culture there is very different. people there are very driven and really want to succeed. Whereas Abuja, yes, people do want to succeed, but it’s just a bit more relaxed. It’s more government jobs and most people come here to get approvals because all the important people in terms of government are here. So, the business climate in Lagos is very enabling and in Abuja too, it’s an enabling, but not as big as Lagos.
As of this recording, Nigeria has a population of 225 million people. You might be wondering how I know Mujahid. Well, my company, Equilibria, and Outsource Global are strategic partners. And I’ve worked closely with Mujahid for a little over a year now. Our introduction came after I met Amal Hassan, the Founder and CEO of Outsource Global. There’s something she told me that I never forgot – approximately 1 million students graduate from university annually in Nigeria. So where do they go for employment?
And you’re actually graduates, that much in a lot of different skillsets. And that actually goes back to one of the founding missions of Outsource to really empower women and youth, because we recognize that there is so much skillset here. We just need to be given the right opportunities.
So really the SME, the Smaller Medium Enterprises in Nigeria, it’s actually quite good. That’s another misconception I would like to debunk today. SMEs actually contribute to about 50 or 48% of the GDP. That’s like accounting to about 96% of businesses and 84% of employment. And there’s a lot of people in small businesses, because Nigeria is a very business orientated. The world is moving towards more remote jobs and entrepreneurship as well. So, you find that a lot of people are actually setting up a lot of their businesses, not really relying on the government to make those opportunities for them.
So that’s why the Outsource Global model is very amazing because we’re able to directly tap into that. What we’re doing is that we’re giving them opportunities that they would have abroad and, and they can do it basically in their living room remotely or in our centers. And there’s so much opportunity for growth they’re being trained and being in a system that they can actually cope with
any kind of demand in terms of like the work, because everything there is according to international standards.
And that’s important to know because, sadly, there are a lot of stereotypes, myths, and misconceptions about not just Nigeria, but Africa in general. Now is probably a good time to address the elephant in the room. I don’t know about you, but I’m curious about the extent to which Outsource Global combats these challenges when working with clients around the world. For example, in the U.S. where I live, we’re often presented with images of large-scale poverty, political unrest, and mass corruption when it comes to Africa. Truthfully there are elements of all of this in practically every country. So, what is that frustrates Mujahid when it comes to this?
Okay. I have a lot actually. I hope you have enough time for me. I can list out like some for you, like, there is this misconception that there’s no, kind of competitive urgency to build a presence here. I can tell you for one that is a lot of multinationals, some have been here for decades, some are setting up their presence here and, because the market is very competitive. There’s a lot of dynamics in right now. That’s a myth that, a lot of people don’t, dispel until they come here and actually see for themselves.
In case you’re wondering some of those multinationals include Google, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, and Nestle, to name a few and of course oil companies like Shell and Chevron.
Another one is, we’re not all about natural resources. Yes, Africa is blessed with a lot of national resources, but there’s a lot happening right now in terms of like the infrastructure, our FinTech. I’m sure you’ve heard about that. it’s booming, smaller, medium enterprises, agriculture, healthcare. The thing I find that is the most appealing is our people because there’s a lot of skillsets here.
There’s a lot of people from diverse backgrounds and there’s new ways of doing things. Africa is the next frontier market and I feel a lot of people need to be a lot open-minded, towards this. And a lot of people think that the market is quite volatile. that’s actually not the case. it is to some degree though, but there’s a lot of companies here that are making significant amount of profits. It just means that you just have to find new ways of doing things that will be specific for this market.
In other words, adjust to the cultural norms of Nigeria. This is true anytime you expand your business’ operations whether it’s in another town, city, state, province, or country. Study the way business is done in this new area, first.
The standard things might not work, because of course there’s a difference in terms of like the people and the processes, social norms, a lot of other differences. And one thing, like, a lot of people are dependent on data. Yes, data is good, but a lot of times when you come here and you actually interact with the people, you would find that a lot of those things are not as it is. And you find that you can actually make your own mark. And, and this market is largely untapped. There’s so much opportunity for you to actually come and set the pace for whatever industry it is that you do.
So, these are, some of the things, and lastly, some companies think it’s better to go set up shop in like South Africa, but actually Nigerian market is actually booming we have over 200 million people. The median age is about 18 years. and basically like, there is so much room for improvement. So much growth in this market. I’ve seen a rapid shift in terms of diversity and relying on oil and gas.
The recent oil, crisis actually pushed for, other sectors to government and private sector to really focus on growing other sectors. And so, there’s, there’s a rapid shift happening right now.
A shift that, if you were to do as Mujahid suggested and become more open-minded, could yield a win-win situation for your organization. Speaking of being open-minded, I asked Mujahid if he could speak to a troubling thing I often here whenever I tell people about my company’s relationship with Outsource Global. I’m often asked things like, “Are you nervous about that? Do you trust them? How did you even meet them?” My answers? “No, yes, and through podcasting) …in that order. But even I hear about the schemes and corruption that seem to plague Nigeria.
Okay. Thank you for actually raising this, in terms of corruption, what I can tell you is that it’s just a very small percentage of people that I’m sure you hear sometimes these internet frauds and whatnot, but it’s actually a very small percentage of people that actually, get up to that. The government and the international, the government specifically, they’re doing like a lot in terms of like, trying to make sure that these kinds of myths are dispelled. We work with a lot of international companies, mostly in the U.S. and these companies require us to handle a lot of information, client information, customer information, and they give us that level of trust. There’s a lot of, companies here that are actually doing things the right way. Majority of people here actually are doing the right
way. So that corruption is actually just a small percentage of people, unfortunately. but I think over time, we would actually go a step further to rebrand the country.
Now that’s an interesting concept – this idea of rebranding Nigeria. Which brings us back to a previous myth mentioned – widespread poverty. What are the facts, Mujahid?
Thank you for bringing that up, and I’m glad that we’re talking about very important issues, and perceptions that people have. Yes, Africa is actually a developing economy. Same as every developing economy, there will be people that are, poor. There will be people that are well-off, there’ll be the middle-class or whatnot. And, you have to understand that in terms of like, independence,
most African countries are not as old, compared to the developed countries. Africa is really at a pivotal stage whereby there is significant growth happening right now.
I’m a strong believer in the private sector. And I believe private sectors can have a large impact on the economy in terms of elevating a lot of people out of poverty. The other day I was reading there was a time that China actually moved about 700 people or is it 800 people out of poverty within 40 years. That was something that I found very mind-blowing, and I saw that in this market, with such
kind of planning like this improvement can happen. There are still aspects of the economy that we need to improve. There’s a lot more that Africa can offer.
Considering all that Africa can offer, you might be wondering if language is a barrier to doing business, particularly in Nigeria. As you can hear, Mujahid is speaking English.
English is actually the official language, the business language and major you’ll find that majority of the people here can speak very well. There isn’t that barrier in terms of a language barrier or any kind of understanding. Nigeria was colonized by the British and it’s actually, the British English that we grew up speaking. And, a lot of people here are very well educated in that regard, even those that maybe might not have gone to school, can still speak, some good level of English for anyone to understand. And there’s a lot of diversity in other parts of Africa whereby there’s some regions whereby they are Francophone speaking because they were colonized by the French, Some places, Portuguese. So, it depends. What you find that majority of the continent actually very well-spoken when it comes to English.
Now that we’ve covered some basic information about Nigeria, I’m sure you want to know more about Mr. Mujahid Usman himself and how you might be able to work with Outsource Global. That’s coming up after the break.
Is your business growing faster than you can keep up with? Do you need to grow your team but aren’t sure where to start let alone who to hire first? And what about processes? Do you have any of them documented so that people know what work to do and how to do it?
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We’re in Abuja, Nigeria and Mujahid Usman is our host. Now that he’s given us some background information on doing business in Nigeria, it’d be nice to learn more about him and his background. Here’s Mujahid…
My background is in international business and management. I did my undergraduate degree in the UK, in a city called Bradford. and I have a management consulting master’s degree from the University of Leeds, also in the UK. In terms of my professional background, I first started off in PWC, in the finance and accounting unit. Basically, what that entailed was working with a lot of
international companies, development partners, and actually supporting them to solve a lot of critical problems that they might face, within Nigeria. After some time, I felt like maybe, I need to hone a specific skill.
So, I moved to Verod Capital, which is a private equity firm. I just worked with the managers, partners, portfolio, company personnel, and outside parties to actively drive changes at the firms’ portfolio companies and maximize the returns on investments. So, I was just there, you know, me doing my irregular finance day-to-day then I met, Amal Hassan who is a founder and CEO of Outsource Global.
And meeting Amal would change his career…and his life.
She told me about the company. I’m actually somebody that is very driven by, the mission of a company. And I want whatever I do to have a lot of meaning, a lot of purpose because life is too short, not to be focused on things like this specifically because I come from Nigeria, and I feel like everybody has a responsibility to contribute to the development of the economy.
Outsource Global was once such company whose mission aligned with Mujahid’s values and skills.
Outsource Global is a business process outsourcing company, servicing several international markets. We’ve been in business for about six years now. And, we have, over a thousand employees. The mission at Outsource Global is to make Nigeria, the premier outsourcing destination with a focus on empowering women and youth. We don’t look at the natural resources in Nigeria and think that is the goldmine. We think, the gold to mine is our people.
And we have such an abundance of skillset here. We make sure that we put them in the right system and the right training and development, and they are able to service several international markets, according to international standards and most times, and what we do with those global is that we go into a partnership model and this partnership model is that, from day one, we look at your processes, at your people, we look, we sit down and look at your plans and we actually devise a plan of how we’re going to key into that.
So really that mission was what drove me to actually move into Outsource Global. There isn’t like a dull day here, is very fast paced. there’s so much growth that is happening. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming. We have over 50% women and over 50% women in key management positions as well. 90% of our people are university graduates. So, most times, we do have a lot of experienced heads as well, but a lot of people, come to us in their first jobs and we train them, and we build their skillset to a level whereby they would grow and they will be able to service any market in terms of, any kind of service offerings that we do.
You might be wondering what kinds of services Outsource Global offers as a business process outsourcing company. It’s definitely evolved and expanded over the years.
We first started off with customer service and telemarketing, mostly, targeting the U.S. market. But now we actually have a lot of diversified services like finance and accounting, legal services, software development, every kind of professional service you can think of. We’ve actually just opened a software academy, whereby we are going to train several, software engineers, and build their skillset, to be able to service the labor market. And the plan is to ramp that up to a thousand before the end of the year. There’s so much happening, there’s so much happening. I’m not bored. I can tell you that.
That means Outsource Global is projected to scale to 2,000 employees by the end of 2022! Wow! This kind of rapid growth requires a strong business infrastructure. As a reminder, business infrastructure is a system for linking people, processes, and tools so that growth happens in a repeatable, profitable, and sustainable way. Speaking of processes…
We have a very rigorous monitoring and evaluation process, that we use to manage, our people in terms of making sure there’s a quality of service every single time. For instance, I can tell you like for every 10 agents or employees, and there is a team lead, there’s a quality assurance specialist. There’s a supervisor associated to that. We’re actually also, ISO 9000, 9001, quality management
certified. We were actually the first, contact center in West Africa to be certified.
And in terms of security, we’re compliant when it comes to the Nigerian data protection, regulation, in general, all of our clients’ data is secure, and, so most times we plug in, we might plug into their own kind of data, but we also have always secure data centers, and we have backup to those backups. And really the first step before we onboard a client is to really make sure that we understand your
process. And we design how we are going to key into that. That is really the main thing that we do first before every other thing, gets going.
Mujahid mentioned data protection which is a part of the tools and technology element of business infrastructure. Let’s find out more about that.
In terms of general technology infrastructure, for us to be able to keep to international standards, we made sure that we have really invested in the right infrastructure when it comes to power, when it comes to internet. I can give you an example when it comes to internet, we have several backups to the backup, to the backup. Some might be hosted in-house, and we have some, hosted on the cloud as well. So, we make sure that they are multiple, multiple, covers for if maybe anything goes down and just to allow for business continuity, because we pitched to RP, to our clients that we want a certain high level of, service. And so, it’s only right that we put the right infrastructure there to make sure that we, service them properly. We have a lot of, cloud-based solutions, that are hosted I secure data centers. We have a lot of AI, kind of like, intuitive interfaces and, really the world has moved on from just the regular way of doing things. So, a lot of our things are driven by data.
And you know what? I can honestly tell you that in the time I’ve worked with Outsource Global, there’s never once been a disruption to operations due to an electricity outage. This was initially a concern for me because here’s something you might not be aware of – in countries with predominantly hot climates electricity outages are common. I experienced this when I did some volunteer work in Egypt many years ago. So, I’m glad you mentioned energy, Mujahid.
Yeah, I’m investing in a lot of clean energy, inverters, solar, you name it. There’s a lot of like sunlight here. Why not take advantage of that, you know? So, there’s no problems when it comes to like power shortages or whatnot. It’s always running.
Uh oh, that sound means we’re running out of time. There’s so much more to say, but before we end our meeting with Mujahid, there’s an obvious question we need answered – besides a passport, what else is needed to conduct business in-person in Nigeria?
For a lot of countries, they’re eligible to like Visa on Arrival. it’s very easy. mostly if you are staying for a period of like about less than, two weeks, if not, you might need to get a Visa. We’ve actually hosted a lot of our clients here, because, sometimes seeing is believing and would love to bring them so that they actually, understand and actually see all we’re saying is actually real. The country is trying to make a more enabling environment for business to come in. So, a lot of restrictions that might have been there have been kind of like relaxed and, you should be able to come in with ease, especially if you’re coming specifically for an invitation. we can actually also process, the Visa for you.
How long have you been at Outsource Global?
I would’ve thought you were there from the very beginning.
That’s how much I’ve keyed into the vision. And I actually believe in everything that we’re doing.
And it shows. I’m sure Mujahid will be there for many more years too! Now, there’s only so much we can cover in this initial meeting with Mujahid about doing business in Nigeria, but if you want more information, then take heed to these additional resources he recommends.
When you think about the big four, they all have like a huge presence here. And there’s a lot of research that has to do with a lot of different, aspects of the market that they regularly publish. For instance, it’d be published, small and medium enterprises, survey that they did interviewing over a thousand SMEs in the country. I think that kind of data is very valuable. Then a lot of international
development agencies, like the World Bank, the UN, and GIZ, you name it. They have a lot of data on their sites, for you to be able to access. And also, Nigerian-specific, there’s an organization called SMEDAN, which stands for Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria.
This actually gives you access to the government and private sector benefits to help you grow your small or medium scale businesses faster. and specifically for people that want to come in and set up shop here, there is a Nigerian export promotion council, which gives you a lot of information when it comes to the regulations when it comes to import export. So, a lot of people that want to come here and maybe start a manufacturing business and are thinking about what the government regulations are, what does it take to start all those kinds of resources.
You’ll be able to get it there. And when it comes to also, business process outsourcing, we have a lot of resources when it comes to our blog, we gave a lot of insights into the market. We give a lot of insights into specific skillsets and a lot of case studies of how we’ve been able to organically grow our clients.
If you’re worried that you won’t know exactly where to find this information, then don’t. Just go to Business Infrastructure.TV to access links to all the resources Mujahid just shared. As we bid Mujahid farewell and thank him for his time, it’s only fitting that we ask for his parting words of advice.
It’s nice to have an open mind to be honest. A lot of times, people, too focused on some stereotypes and they don’t even take the time to look at things by themselves. One other thing is that it’s becoming more and more expensive, to manage a team internationally. Why not outsource really? Here we have a very good time zone. We have the right, English speaking population. We have the right skillsets. We have the right people. We have the right processes in place and a very diverse skillset with new approaches and new ways of doing things. So, I feel like, you can focus on outsourcing your non-essential functions, to businesses in Africa, Nigeria to really make sure that you can focus on your core.
Wow! Thank you so much Mujahid! Well, it’s time for us to leave and head back to the airport. We have another plane to catch. Don’t forget to go to BusinessInfrastructure.TV to access the resources Mujahid shared.
So…where are we going next? Well, you’ll just have to listen to the next episode to find out.
Thank you for listening! If you enjoyed this episode, then please subscribe and leave a five-star rating and review.
Growing and scaling a business is no small feat but working with a company like Outsource Global can help cure your company’s back-office blues. As a matter of fact, we’re all here for you so stay focused and be encouraged. This entrepreneurial journey is a marathon and not a sprint.
This podcast was written, produced, and narrated by me, Alicia Butler Pierre. Audio editing by Olanrewaju Adeyemo. Original score and sound design by Sabor! Music Enterprises.
This is the Business Infrastructure – Curing Back-Office Blues podcast.