The era of merchants travelling across different states just to resell their products may now be over, as there is now a technology solution that connects businesses to resellers in different locations. CICOD Merchant is a recently launched merchant solution that tries to build an SME network by connecting merchants to resellers.
The founder and CEO of Crown Interactive, Wumi Oghoetuoma, was a guest on the Nairametrics Business Half Hour show where he stated that this most recently launched product was targeted at building an SME Network that manufacturers and other players in the supply chain can tap into.
“We believe strongly that the manufacturing sector is the future of Nigeria, and building a strong SME network is just one step towards transforming that value chain. Not everyone has to come to Lagos or go to Abuja to resell his products. What happens if you stay where you are, represent your local community, put your products on CICOD Merchant and have somebody as a reseller for you in Lagos or in Kaduna or in Abuja?” he asked.
He noted that Crown Interactive is a software company, with a clear roadmap, and specific systems detailing the kind of problems they want to solve and the life cycle of the suite of products that will provide business solutions for the organisations.
“Just the way Oracle has a suite of products, so do we, our vision is very clear about our roadmap and what our systems should be doing. Being a software development company puts a bit of distraction on us, it’s quicker money but slower to the vision that we want to execute. We are a software company not a software development company,” Oghoetuoma explained.
How it started
More than a decade ago, Oghoetuoma was pursuing a career as a consultant in business process reengineering and business analysis, and working with several international companies. Up until he decided that the transformation of business processes could be brought home to Nigeria.
“All of the work we were doing at the time was quite interesting because we were involved in many systems and processes, and I thought to myself that we could do this in Nigeria. If these large companies are undergoing transformation and having to put all the systems together to build their processes for the next level, surely this can be done in Nigeria. I thought to myself, if we do the same thing in Nigeria, it could help the country and her industry,” he said.
The business first started off in the United Kingdom, trying to build solutions and provide services for customers in Nigeria. However, it became clear with time that if they were going to provide solutions for businesses and merchants operating in Nigeria and in Africa, the best place to be situated was in Nigeria. It was on this premise that the company moved down to Nigeria.
He said, “We were doing quite a bit in the UK, but I was trying to future-proof the company as well as Nigeria. On July 16, 2012, I decided that if this was going to work, I had to move my whole family back. We were building solutions for Nigeria by Nigerians, with Nigerians and it made sense that we should be in Nigeria so we packed up and bags and came down. We have been fortunate to have the right board supporting us.”
The team went through all the highs and lows, losing money, starting all over, raising funds before finally breaking out of the cycle when they secured a major client in Nigeria’s power sector. The biggest challenge, according to him, was getting people to believe in their capacity and agree to buy local. It took the first major break to make a difference.
“Our first major client took a gamble on us, although they managed their risk. We’re very grateful to them because if they didn’t believe in us, if they didn’t decide to go local and buy local, maybe we would have still been struggling now. It is usually the first big break that is very difficult, but they saw that we were not after the money but after impact,” he recounted.
Crown Interactive now has a suite of several products and solutions for businesses and merchants in Nigeria, and recently back to the United Kingdom. One of such products is the Workflow Manager (WFM) – a flexible and fully integrated platform to the Business and Operation Support system – for Service Fulfilment and Problem Handling. This product automates back-office processes especially for approval-based business processes, across departments and systems from complaint handling, task management to inventory request management. With this, businesses can track issues from initiation to resolution.
There is also the CICOD Customer Order Management (COM), an Application that manages orders for merchants across sectors like Manufacturing, Retail, Wholesale, Construction, Oil & Gas, and Public Sectors. This product has features like Sales Order Process, Order Management, Invoicing, Payment Validation, Order Delivery, Payment Confirmation among others, thus enabling businesses to manage the lifecycle of their goods from order, purchasing, processing, fulfillment, logistics to delivery.
CICOD also has a Customer Management & Billing platform that eases the customer management processes for all categories of customers. This product is built with features like the Features Customer Order Management / Provisioning, Customer Account Management, Product Management, Automated Estimated Billing Methodology, Non-energy Billing (Flexible solution to manage billing in many sectors) etc. This provides a cost-effective way to manage business processes, effectively manage customers and stay flexible.
The CICOD Energy Management Control Center is a product designed to help users keep track of their consumption of provided services such as Electricity, Water or Gas, ensuring reduced outages and zero leakages.
The tool enables more efficient management and optimization of demand and distribution with Load Sharing, Demand Management, Revenue Assurance, Monitoring and Analysis. It also has the ability for energy usage forecast, Bulk Purchase & Distribution Management, Asset Provisioning, Power Management, Consumption Management.
CICOD works with a freemium model, allowing users to start with a free trial of the products and upgrade to the premium version afterwards. In this way, merchants and business owners can first begin to try out the features on their business and see how it improves their processes and returns, before deciding what package to upgrade to. The products are Fully Integrated Modules with the Option to Choose and Deploy to private cloud, or use as SaaS.
The CEO noted that the company has been providing solutions for merchants in the power sector, before venturing into the manufacturing and supply chain sector in recent years because of the projection its solution is expected to have in the sector.
On the payment end, CICOD plays the role of an aggregator with a single plugin – the unified collections gateway – that integrates majority of the payment providers and gives businesses a single plugin for different kinds of payments.
Crown Interactive plans to be the dominant software company to come out of Africa in the next decade, “providing the best and most innovative software for and from Africa”; and its founder says this is because they are becoming “too relevant to be ignored”.