How service-related professionals, equipment and assets owners benefit from e-commerce platforms -Emmanuel Okorafor, founder, MEPON Limited
Dr Emmanuel Okoroafor has worked 31 years in academia and industry in Nigeria and overseas. He is the Managing Director/CEO of Hobark Consultant Management Services Limited, a business with a primary focus on the full suite of human capital management, and the founder of MEPON Limited, a company that provides online platforms for “Global Equipment and Facilities Rentals” and for “Services for Hire”.
The Nigerian Xpress spoke to him recently:
What inspired the idea for MEPON? And what gave you the conviction that the idea will be embraced by people?
It is well known that prosperity spreads to communities that are connected to centres of economic activities. Traditional connectivity routes include land (road and rail), sea and air, and more recently via the internet. This inspired the idea of MEPON – globally accessible platforms (centre of economic activities) to bring online and help local businesses and services reach a wider audience, expand the customer base, and generate more revenue-creating prosperous communities.
The idea has received a great commendation from numerous industry leaders, who all believe that “For communities to thrive, one needs a tool that enhances visibility and sustainability of local businesses; that is global online presence”.
So far, what has been the response?
Currently, it is website-based and the corresponding Apps are under development. The database of vendors and visitors to the sites are growing.
There is bound to be issues of trust or poor service between the service provider and customer, what guardrails do you have in place?
To protect the business and our customers, vendors will need to sign up, verified and approved before listing a service. We welcome reviews from customers, and to chose whether to recommend a vendor or not. All submitted reviews are vetted before being published. Reviews would only be added where there is evidence that the customer has previously been served by the vendor. A vendor that repeatedly receives bad review will be removed/delisted from the platform. Every business on MEPON platforms is fully reviewed, checked, and approved. We ensure to maintain a safe and reliable space to access service-related professionals, and equipment and assets owners 24/7.
What does it cost a service provider to get on the platform?
There are various subscriptions levels on offer together with the benefits, for both services for hire and equipment rental platform
How will MEPON make life easier for an average Nigerian living in urban centres?
Everyday tasks can be time-consuming, or service professionals difficult to find. Our platform gives persons an easy way to find and compare services in their area or where they need them. So, we help them get more done in less time by finding service professionals faster and taking advantage of competitive price offerings in the market. It also permits owners of equipment and facilities that are idle and un-used to monetize their assets, thus enabling those who want to rent to have access to diverse, efficient tools, machinery and equipment.
How has your experience, your skill or/and education helped you to come up with this initiative?
My 31 years of experience in academia and industry helped. I have been involved in the decision-making or tasked with coordinating procurement of services or equipment for large and small projects. Regarding services, to control costs, it made sense to qualify and utilise available local services. However, they were not readily visible because they were offline, which made it difficult and time-consuming to complete procurement processes. Based on this and knowing that an online presence is an essential tool that will benefit businesses and local communities, I sought to provide a globally accessible platform to bring more of those service professionals into the online space, thus supporting local businesses by allowing them to quickly connect with buyers without the hassle of having to build and maintain their websites. – www.meponservices.com
Concerning equipment it was obvious at the end of projects, companies that could afford to buy equipment and tools ended up with them left idle, unused, and stored away, sometimes for months or years before being used again. On the other hand, some businesses could not afford to buy these equipment and tools and need access to the type of equipment and facilities being left idle by other companies. They were forced to heavily leverage their businesses to access these tools that were only needed for the length of their projects or delay project start. I sought to connect these two businesses efficiently and cost-effectively, which ensures reduced costs for business operators through easy and affordable equipment rentals while enabling companies to maximise the use of their assets. – www.meponequipment.com
Unlike most platforms that rent their equipment, MEPON gives users a global reach to list and take advantage of opportunities worldwide and economies of scale.
Although Nigeria is recording big strides in the number of people getting online, the country, however, also still has a large illiteracy figure. How will this affect e-commerce in the long run?
Illiteracy in Nigeria is defined as a lack of basic western education, but that never stopped our forebearers from transacting and conducting lucrative businesses. There are illiterates in the UK and elsewhere that are comfortable with e-commerce and the same will apply in Nigeria. After all, Apps have made a lot of things easy to accomplish by both educated and illiterates.
Secondly, e-commerce thrives when a society is largely cashless. We are still a cash-inclined society. What is the import of this?
Currently, e-commerce is thriving in Nigeria and the volume of transactions is increasing daily, and expected to continue to rise. The arrival and rise of Fintech companies are bringing alternative means of payments to ordinary Nigerians and will contribute towards driving more e-commerce.
With the internet fraud on the rise, many citizens shy away from making a purchase online. Yet, it is becoming clear that online shopping is here to stay. What is your advice for individuals and vendors offering or seeking online service?
Better for them to transact via reputable global platforms like MEPON. AMAZON, JUMIA, etc.
One of the lessons the world learnt last year during the Covid-19 lockdown was the inevitability of online business. Going forward, what do you think every business owner, big or small, or aspiring entrepreneur ought to do to optimise the opportunities that are inherent in e-commerce?
They may have their website or App, but listing on globally accessible platforms (new centres of economic activities) will push and sustain their brands. An outcome of the Covid-19 pandemic is the emergence of e-commerce as a primary route to survival, especially for SMEs – moving a key component of the marketing mix to online platforms; helping businesses to increase their online presence and grow sales using digital tools. E-commerce platforms like MEPON, AMAZON, etc generally bear the cost for online and offline advertising, search engine optimisation, and social media exposure for businesses on their platform. There are also special campaigns that SMEs on these e-commerce platforms can benefit from in the form of a boost to sales volume due to high customer traffic.