As every first Wednesday of every month we attended the Startup Hour the other day and got to meet entrepereneur Bejoy Nettikadan , who is founder and Managing Director of NetOne Zambia, which is an IT support company and also operator of Zambia’s first cloud computing service. He was there to share how he started it and strived.
He was born and raised in Zambia and studied ACCA in Lusaka, but he always had a passion for IT. He went on to work in accounting jobs before he finally decided to venture out and start his own IT company, without any IT training or papers.
Starting out wasn’t easy, having only $800 (by then about K4000), a laptop and a car, but that is how NetOne was born.
The name came from the first 3 letters of his last name Net, and the One from a joke he had with his friends about how he had one of every asset he owned, one car, one laptop, etc. Thus it has no affiliation with the NetOne in other countries.
In the initial stages capital was hard to find because financial institutions were not willing to take such risks especially when it came to technology. Luckily, Bejoy managed to source a grant from the Dutch government who funded just under half of the initial investment of $2 000 000. The rest was covered by commercial grants.
Today NetOne is a prestigious business, having clients such as Barclays, Zanaco, MTN, Zambia Information and Communications Technology (ZICTA), Copperbelt Energy, University of Zambia & Tata Zambia. It also has partnerships with some of the biggest names in IT like HP, Microsoft, Dell, and Sage to deliver the best possible services.
Bejoy stressed the fact that in order for you to run a successful business you have to have passion for it. Most people have a 5 year plan to start a business but sometimes we need to realize that to build our economy we need valuable human resources in existing companies, otherwise everyone will want to start their own business and then we’ll end up with over 13 million businesses, one belonging to each of the over 13 million Zambians in the country.
We also need to know that entrepreneurship has its risks. Some ideas work , others don’t. What works for someone else may not work for you as well, so we need not copy others.
The crowd then got to ask Bejoy the following questions:
- How do you handle managing older staff?
It’s hard. I don’t have a specific method. Each person is different, others have to be dealt with as a boss, others have to be treated with care.
- When do you know when to accept or deny an opportunity offer from interested parties regarding your startup idea?
Go with your gut and heart.
- You only has $800 to open up NetOne; you were a startup, so how did you convince funders that you were a legitimate business?
Luckily I knew some people in the IT field who helped me out. My advice to all young entrepreneurs is to finish school, get your papers, get a job, and most importantly network. Getting a job will give you a background and also experience. The same people you work with/for may help you out in the future. Build a good reputation and get contacts.
- As a startup how do you get new staff you have acquired as you expand and grow as a business to be as passionate about your idea as you are?
You’ll never have people who work as hard as you do for your business. You have to have realistic expectations. Running a business is never easy and so you should place incentives that encourage them to work hard. Eventually they may develop the same passion you have and help your business become bigger than what you eventually started out with.
It was a very informative startup hour overall and you can be a part of it by following the Startup Junction on Twitter for updates on the next session. Also check out NetOne Zambia to find out more about their services.
A huge thanks to Startup Junction founder Matthew Grollnek and Protea Hotels for making this event a success.
Image Credits: NetOne, LinkedIn