How would you describe the market in Nigeria?
ABIODUN OSHODI There are over 200 engineering companies in Nigeria, all from different sectors. Among these companies are those that have operated locally and/or globally for a long time, those that are new with strong financial backing, and upcoming Nigerian companies that want to prove a point. A company has to compete in that market where prices have been reduced greatly in the last two years.
ANTONIO MORENO We receive more CVs because people are out of work. The market is more competitive because new companies are entering the market. Nevertheless, we have been in this part of the world for over 35 years. We have clients that rely on us, and we adapt by providing different solutions, reducing our costs and the margin, while at the same time retaining the same quality of service that we provide.
How do you manage to stand out from the competition in this market?
AO A company has to engage with the client and determine what solutions they need, what they are planning, and what constraints they face in moving their project forward. A company has to outline the exact value it brings; it is not just about saying it can deliver the work. It is about the extra value that ILF can provide compared to 199-plus other local or international companies operating in Nigeria. In some cases a company even has to help its client gain funding or provide services upfront as guidance. Clients are more attracted to partnerships. Many other engineering companies in Nigeria do not offer every service. We are like consultants, similar to the likes of KPMG and Deloitte. We prefer to be there right at the start and help progress the project to the end.
AM At the end of the day, it is all about the service and the people in front of us. We seek to provide a better service than our competitors. Every client is different, and now, especially with the recession, we need to adapt ourselves to our clients. In terms of training, we try to provide a tailor-made solution for our clients. For example, we may have two or three modules but the client may only be interested in particular parts. We thus try to adapt. For outsourcing, we try and adjust our rates and our consultants try to adjust themselves. We also work more with indigenous companies. We are moving toward these companies because even international companies need to comply with local content and it is good to see more Nigerians.
What sectors have greater potential in the near future?
AO Because of the structure of the economy the Nigerian experience has been predominately oil and gas. Recently, we also delved into energy. We felt the uncertainties in the oil and gas industry quite early and decided to diversify our business in Nigeria. It was not that easy because some of our new clients have traditional engineering companies that they use. Nigeria still struggles from great infrastructure deficits; there has to be rail system projects and a great deal of work we can do in airports. Power is still a large area where there will be a great deal of investment if we can get the policies right. Oil and gas is developed because there are high standards here and the business is already competitive. For major infrastructure projects with long highways and fast trains, huge areas of development for the country still remain. In Europe, South America, and North America, ILF has been involved in rail projects and airport projects, and we want to do the same here in Nigeria.
AM Outsourcing is still the main sector. We want to focus this year and next on training. We have acquired a company in the Middle East that has worked in Iraq to train people on how to maintain facilities. We can bring this expertise in training to the difficult areas in Nigeria. Outsourcing works well in oil and gas because the sector needs the expertise and needs trained people for short projects. In this case, they prefer to use companies such as ours and outsource rather than recruit normally. IOTA saw a drop in activity in 2016 due to the situation in the country. Most of our clients downsized their businesses, with cost reductions as well. To overcome this situation, we sought to diversify into sectors other than oil and gas, such as renewable energy, telecoms, and banking. Today, there are large contracts being awarded for renewable energies; however, they are being given out in small quantities.