Friday, 23 December 2011

2011 in Reflection


From Karachi, Pakistan

The CEO and Head of Operations are currently in Karachi, Pakistan on holiday. We just interviewed a young Pakistani IT professional for a potential position at NATC on the 9th floor of the Sheraton Karachi where we are staying. It was a good interview and it looks like we will have a new expatriate staff member on our team. 

The interview was scheduled by chance through a business owner from whom we purchased some equipment and goods for NATC. He introduced us to this IT professional and the fellow came over for an interview to our hotel. It is an interesting manner in which we arranged and conducted an interview but that is what makes running a company so exciting. We are able to hire people through flexible procedures and able to take risks. 

Sitting in the business lounge of the 9th floor of the Karachi Sheraton, sipping a steaming cup of espresso, and talking about our IT services company in Liberia was a memorable moment. Here we are, an Indian Head of Operations and a Pakistani CEO, interviewing a young South Asian about a potential job opportunity in an emerging economy in West Africa! Nothing could be more global village than that. 

So here we are on Christmas day and NATC would like to extend compliments of the season to its friends, staff, and customers. 2011 has certainly been a year of growth, a year of HR challenges, a year of expansion of clientele, a year of streamlining of procedures, and a year of growth in sales. 

Reflecting on 2011

NATC, a year old company, is the successor to NLTC, a company which was founded and operated by the late Wesley C. Daames. NLTC was one of the first, if not the first, IT services company established in 2003 in post conflict Liberia. Its main objectives was to provide quality and competitively priced IT services and goods to the market by expertly-trained Liberian technicians. NATC is carrying forth this legacy. 

We started the business from a humble apartment cum office space on Randall Street and are now poised to inaugurate a brand new swanking office space (we call it the "Loft") located opposite Harbel (Abijaoudi) Supermarket on Randall Street. This office and IT showroom will cater to our exclusive clientele where we will stock the latest technologies and equipment and supplies. 

For those of you who do not know what NATC does we provide on-site IT maintenance and services and supplies of IT related goods and  consumables. Our client base comprises of Multi Nationals, Mining Companies, Banks, UN Agencies and NGOs. We have also broken into Government Ministries and Agencies recently by competitively bidding for supplies of Computers and peripherals. 

We have also created a niche in GENUINE Toner and Ink Cartridges, so much so that other local vendors have started to purchase/depend on us for supplies. The ultimate aim is to wipe out supplies of FAKE/Compatible cartridge brands in the market by creating awareness amongst the consumers about the advantages of using GENUINE Toners and Cartridges in the long run. We have tied up with HP and DELL USA and will be embarking on a nationwide advertisement campaign soon. 

Critical lessons

We have learnt and experienced some critical lessons during the year. 

Clients expect competitively priced service and good value for money. This holds true for small NGOs as well as huge mining outfits. We are compelled to offer our customers long term warranties for our supplies, all round the year, on-site visits to trouble shoot and resolve IT issues, intelligent and experienced IT professional staff, advise on latest technologies, all of which we have been able to improvise upon each and every day. So, we have come up with an all-round contract which not only includes monthly maintenance but free site visits for ad hoc issues. 

Although seemingly saturated by Indian and Lebanese stationery shops, there is a lot of scope for providing quality IT hardware to the Liberian market. We do not intend to switch to retail and plan to increase our turnover by continuing to focus on institutional clients, but we can exploit the current demand for latest and industry-specific technologies. For example, our clients need ID card printers to create HR systems for vast numbers of workers on their farms and camp sites. They need plotters and plotter cartridges to print geological maps. Others are looking for specific brands such as Lenovo to match their corporate standards. And so on. 

NATC, with a partner office in Houston, Texas, is responding efficiently to customer needs. We regularly ship out items such as cartridges, plotter ink, high-spec laptops, replacement parts for damaged hardware, ID card printers and ribbons, and heavy-duty network printers. 

Image is important. We constantly strive to project a particular image: a young, dynamic and professional company which provides excellent service at a great price. We have invested a lot of time and funds on creating a website and logo. We spend valuable hours blogging and updating our Facebook page. Likewise, we have invested into a new office which we are confident will be the swankiest space in Monrovia. 

Do not undermine procedures and constantly communicate with the client! NATC places great emphasis on internal procedures such as filling out forms for monthly maintenance and call outs to client sites. If need be, we buttress these forms with separate reports and e-mails. Not only does the client appreciate this kind of attention to detail, it also presents us a company that maintains records and knows how to follow up on issues. It also helps us to create a record of what we have accomplished for each client, especially when there is a turn over of staff amongst some of our international clients such as UN agencies and NGOs. 

Spend time with staff and explore training opportunities. NATC inherited trained and experienced staff from NLTC but some of them stayed on while others took on other job opportunities. We hired new staff and have finally settled on a core team which feels like a small family. We engaged an experienced English teacher to come in for regular English classes to improve communication skills. We ensure we have regular office meetings to update each other on company news, share anecdotes and make plans. We are also planning on sending staff members abroad for advanced training such as the field of fibre optics. And lastly, we are planning on hiring an expatriate staff member who would head and train the technical team. 

We are convinced that the current economic outlook in Liberia is only the beginning of an imminent  foreign investment boom which is going to create opportunities for local companies, especially in the area of services. It is a good time to be doing business in Liberia. 

Final thoughts

It has been a good year for NATC and we are grateful to our staff for putting in all the hours of hard work, whether it was performing on site services out in Grand Gedeh County or running after that tax clearance! We are grateful to our partner in Houston for sourcing quality goods at excellent prices and putting that extra personal touch in ensuring our goods get to us in good time. And lastly, we appreciate the wide range of our clients who have confidence in us. 

We would end by remembering and honouring those who have passed on. Joseph Dennis, our janitor and security, died suddenly of a stroke, and his loss is greatly felt and mourned by NATC. 

We have also sponsored the medical treatment of a former NLTC staff member who is currently in Mumbai. We hope Naomi is fully cured and will be amongst us soon. For more details you can see our blog post Please help NATC save a life

We wish everyone a memorable end to 2011 and a smooth transition to the new year. See you all in our new loft in 2012!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Please help NATC save a life


NATC has sponsored the medical treatment of a young Liberian lady, Ms. Naomi Zeinabu Meh aged 30. She is currently admitted in Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai, India under the supervision and care of Dr. Jayant Barve, a respected MD and Gastroenterologist

Patient Details: Ms. Naomi Zeinabu MEH, Ward No. 6, Bed No. 24, Indoor Patient No. 12005, Liberian Passport No. L 043646

Since she has been under the care of the doctors in India, we have found out that not only does Naomi have Osteo-Carcinoma (Cancer in the Pelvic Bone) but is also suffering from Jaundice and TB. This really explains the enormous suffering she has been undergoing for the past few years.  She reportedly used to vomit huge amounts of blood before the treatment began at the hospital. At the moment, the doctors are trying to first cure the Jaundice and TB, which is on course.  They have also started Radio Therapy treatment to shrink the tumor in her pelvic area before considering the supra-major surgery to excise the tumour. The Doctors believe that if they rush into carrying out the surgery without ensuring her Lungs and Liver are in suitable condition, then the surgery could be prove fatal as it will be done under General Anesthesia and there are chances of Lung/Liver Failure/Collapse if they are not fit enough. Therefore she will undergo treatment for the Jaundice and TB until the Doctors confirm that she is fit for surgery to remove the tumor. This may take up to the next 2-3 weeks.

Naomi is 30 years old, a mother of a 10-year old girl and a former employee of NLTC (the predecessor of NATC). Naomi has been suffering for several years now from a malignant tumour in the pelvic region of her body. She sought treatment from various hospitals and as you all know, given the poor quality of care available at the medical facilities in Liberia, has continued to suffer because of the lack of proper diagnosis and treatment. The doctors at Firestone Hospital actually amputated one of her legs which was unnecessary. 

Noami used to visit the NATC offices from time to time and, to take her mind off her illness, offered to provide voluntary administrative and marketing duties. She managed to even get us a new client. Naomi is an exceptionally intelligent, capable and wonderful girl. More than that, she is a survivor and we wonder how she has managed to cope with her pain all this time.

Having learned more about the suffering she has undergone - she has not been able to get a decent night's sleep in the last few years due to the sheer agony she suffers from - NATC made the decision to sponsor her travel and associated costs to and from India. 

We got her a passport, visa to India and arranged for the ticket and travelling cash which amounted to about $ 2,500.00. We have also borne the initial hospital fees which amount to US $ 3,000.00. The next step of her treatment involves US$5,000.00  and a further US$5,000.00 (maybe more)  for the Major Surgery. We are committed to bear the financial costs and to go all the way in order to save her life. She herself has insisted that she would rather die on the surgery table rather than come back to Liberia to continue a life of physical misery.

The doctors predict a 80 % rate of recovery and extended life span by another 5-10 years
NATC is a mid-sized company that is trying its best to help Naomi. We are requesting our friends and community to help us do a good deed and save the life of Naomi who deserves a fighting chance. 

We will appreciate any amount of contribution, even amounts as little as US$100.00. Every penny counts! We spend hundreds of dollars going to the beach/restaurant/ entertainment on ourselves. If everyone of us decides to skip one such outing this can help save a life.
You may give the donation to us in cash or directly transfer to the NATC Account in Monrovia, Liberia or the Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai, India:

Nanavati Hospital, India
Bank name: Axis Bank, Santa Cruz West.
Account no: 778010200000019 in favour of Dr. Balabhai Nanavati Hospital.





Swift code: AXISINBB020
IFSC CO: UTIB000778
Make sure that the Patient details are mentioned in the transfer.

New Africa Technology Company
Ecobank Account Number: 004-1024701946001
IB Bank Account Number: 04-00-02532-6


Please see below a letter from the Hospital confirming that Naomi is admitted there and undergoing care. 

You may contact us for more details and information. 

Please join us in a good cause to save the life of a young girl and mother. 











From: Rekha Barve [mailto:rjbarve@gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 08, 2011 3:25 PM
To: Haresh Karamchandani
Subject: Re: patient detail

Mrs. NAOMI MEH ,30 yrs old female patient  from LIBERIA was admitted at DR. BALABHAI NANAVATI HOSPITAL MUMBAI,for further investigations and management.

Patient admmitted on 13 /10.2011 in ward 6 bed no 24, ipd no 12005, with chief complaints--  1.swelling at left gluteal region    since may 2010
                     2. intermittant pain at left gluteal region  since may 2010

Past history --  





1.Jan 2010 = kochs spine  treated. ( documents unavailable)
2.Feb  2010 = left leg above knee amputation done  in view of  cellulitis of left leg,chronic left foot ulcer and peripheral neuropathy left leg. 





On examination -- 





1.  Genral examination = Afebrile, pulse 88 /min ,BP 110/70, No pallor/icterus/edema feet.
2.  Systemic examination = RS -Air entry equal in both lung, clear
CVS-  Heart sound + CNS.-- Concious ,oriented ,alert.
P/A -- Soft ,non tender,no organomegaly.
3.   Local examination =  1.Left leg above knee amputation +
2. Swelling and tenderness  at left gluteal region + Investigation report -- 1.2 D ECHO = LVEF 60%
2.PFT =  Sev .restriction FVC 37% ,mild small airway obstruction.
3. Colour doppler right lowe limb =  No DVT
4.99 MTC MDP Whole body bone scan = A large Soft tissue mass right iliac bone, avascular tumour
5.X ray chest = Pulmonary kochs.
6. Histo patho report ( biopsy from mass left gluteal region) = Spindle cell neoplasm  ( coagulative necrosis.)
7.Cytology of broncho alveolar lavage = clusters of  acid fast bacili seen, candida spp. 





Mrs. Naomi had a major episode of massive hemoptysis and needed ICU management for 10 days.
     
Antituberculosis treatment was started from 27/10 2011 ( as BAL + VE for Acid fast bacili ) After controlling hemoptysis patient was considered for surgery. However in view of active, advanced pulmonary tuberculosis, fibrosis with restrictive lung disease, poor general condition, immunocomprized state and need of a supramajor surgery  patient  was considered unfit for  surgery and even for chemotherapy.  At present a desicion is made to treat her with radiotherapy, Anti Tuberculosis drugs, chest phyotherapy and improve General condition of the patient.






If patient's general condition improves at the end of radiotherapy, surgical treatment will be considered.






  Dr.Barve

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Latest Loft Pictures

  

















English Improvement Classes

Contributed by Jane Wright

Jane with James, Patience, "8's Cece", and Patrick


When Farzana asked me if I could do weekly English Improvement classes with her staff I was delighted. I am in Monrovia with my husband who is working here on an E.U. project and I was so pleased to be able to do something which will help the company and the individual staff members.

The aim of the sessions has been to help the staff improve their use of English so that they will be more confident and successful in producing the various reports and records which are required by N.A.T.C.

The weekly exercises are based on a range of stories and articles which lead to improved vocabulary and provide a stimulus for discussion.

Each week we cover a basic aspect of grammar. So far we have looked at parts of speech, punctuation and sentence structure.

Some of our work is oral and some written, with a homework assignment to complete every week.

Card activities allow for elements of competition and creativity and lead to some amusing situations!

The group are very enthusiastic and hardworking and the sessions always pass very quickly.

Over the next few weeks we will be working on the writing of personal blogs which will be posted here so look out for them!

NATC is a young and dynamic company who have a very creative approach towards the achievement of their aims, putting staff training high on the agenda and recognising that a capable and confident staff will be the basis of future success.

I wish them the best of good fortune in the years to come.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Fibre Optic Cable Has Landed in Liberia

Contributed by Farzana Rasheed

*

The eagerly-anticipated fibre optic cable has finally landed in Liberia. This is an exciting moment for the country to say the least. This is the first public private partnership which made this happen. To read more about it, check out this article: "First Fibre Optic Cable System Lands Here." 

There's also a wikipedia article "Cable Consortium of Liberia". 

There are some photos posted on Facebook by Liberian Observer Online of the moment when the cable landed on Thursday, 3 November which was coincidentally the national Thanksgiving Day. 

Deployment of the fibre optic cable infrastructure in the country is going to take some time. There is also an assumption that the cable will immediately replace the current dependence on more expensive technologies such as V-SAT. Not only will it take time to deploy the fibre optic infrastructure but also given Liberia's lack of infrastructure outside of its main centre (Monrovia), connectivity will still depend largely on V-SAT and GSM technologies which are expensive. Of course, it also remains to be seen what kind of average costs broadband will have in Liberia. 

One of our colleagues and friends who is a V-SAT operator in Liberia was quite underwhelmed when discussing fibre optic cable. He told us that Nigeria has three of them and yet the V-SAT business is roaring there. 

So, it remains to be seen how the fibre optic cable will change the dynamics of the business environment in Liberia. Will V-SAT providers be driven into extinction? What business opportunities will be created for IT companies? How soon will the average entity or household in Liberia be connected to high-speed broad band internet?  What kind of prices will we see? And lastly, what will it be like to finally have high-speed (relatively) low-priced internet service?

Meanwhile, NATC is representing an international company that has submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI)  to Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (Libtelco) for the Liberia National Fibre Optic Project. Keeping our fingers crossed!

* Image from http://www.cheaphighspeedinternet.net/