Nkgwete IT CEO Siddika Osman took to the stage at the CIO South Africa Pitch Parade to talk about this new venture.
According to Siddika Osman, CEO of Nkgwete IT Solutions, the company’s aim has always been to unleash Africa’s pulse through technology, so it’s no surprise that they’ve opted to introduce their own line of laptop computers under the brand ONE Technologies.
“Unlocking Africa’s pulse through technology is the vision, but I’ve been asking myself over the years how I am going to get this right,” she says. “I am in a highly competitive industry, competing with the big guys, but I’ve not let that intimidate me – I still want to see that vision through.”
She’s observed that the country and its people hold a lot of potential. However, technology is key to unlocking this potential and this is what inspired that idea of ONE Technologies. During Covid-19, she says, there were approximately 750,000 children who dropped out of school, as they had no access to education simply because they didn’t have a device. “There is a huge gap between the people who can access technology and the people who can’t, and looking at the pace at which things are moving in the world, the people who don’t have access to technology will be left behind.”
A brand inspired by people
In fact, Siddika says, that’s what inspired the name ONE Technologies, the one, in this instance, standing for making technology accessible to everyone, with a tagline of ‘transform your future’, inspired by a story about a young man from the Eastern Cape. In 1994, when planes were flying over the rural areas throwing out election posters, he became fascinated by planes, and decided to learn about planes and engineering. He even made it as far as Harvard University.
“The idea that a child once saw an aeroplane and it transformed his life and entire future is what inspired the catchphrase, ‘transform your future’. ONE Technologies making a laptop accessible to one child, whose only resource at the moment is a notebook, has the potential of helping to catapult the child into a brighter future,” she explains.
ONE Technologies may have been inspired by real people and wanting to transform their lives, but there was quite a bit of thinking behind the brand from a business perspective.
“We did our research and came to the conclusion that there was no possible way for us to produce laptops locally and still achieve the vision of making technology accessible, while competing with the prices of those manufacturing them out of China, for instance. Therefore, it became a no-brainer to look to China for our manufacturing – making ONE Technologies an African-inspired brand, produced in an economy of scale,” she says.
Siddika’s team is responsible for the design and specifications of the laptops and their international partners assemble the devices and ship them to South Africa. However, it doesn’t end there: these devices also come with support.
“We cannot preach transforming people’s lives and giving them access to technology, give them those technologies and walk away. The people buying our laptops might require additional training and support: as such, when you buy one of our laptops, they also come with either six hours of training or tech support. We also set up a full-day training session, and our 130 people workforce/technicians will then be available to handle any tech support needed.”
Furthermore, you will not have to purchase one to have it in your hands, Siddika has already given away some laptops. This year, Nkgwete gave back to an orphanage in the West Cape, setting up a computer room with more than 15 devices, where these children now receive training every Saturday.
When the price is right
According to Siddika, you walk into a store or even if you’re looking online, you would have a difficult time finding a decent laptop at an affordable price. Whereas an entry level, but very capable ONE Technologies i3 device costs R9,000, which is a significant discount compared to what’s already in the market.
“It’s a highly competitive industry, but as far as quality is concerned, we don’t compromise,” Siddika says. “Our machines are made in an Intel factory, which speaks to the superior quality and components of the laptops. We had to find the right balance between quality and price, and I believe that we’ve struck that balance quite well.”
Siddika is well aware of the carbon emissions associated with the manufacturing of technology from an ESG standpoint. As a result, Siddika and her colleagues have pledged to plant a tree for every 1,000 computers sold.
At the moment, the laptops are being sold business-to-business (B2B), but at a later stage, Siddika is planning to approach retailers in order to be able to sell at a bigger scale and to the broader market. They currently have three models, the i3, i5, and i7, with prices starting at R9,000.
“It’s important to always trust your gut,” she says. “Making the decision to start the brand was very difficult and a huge investment. It won’t be an easy journey, but I believe it’s going to work out. That’s what entrepreneurship is all about: taking risks. If we don’t take those big risks, how do we expect to achieve and live out our dream?”
According to Siddika, our fear of failure often holds us back in life, but failing at something is preferable than doing nothing at all: “When you look back on your life in 10 to 20 years, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did. This is why I’ve spent my life with the no-regrets mentality.”