Tuesday, 1 January 2013

End of the year reflection: 2012

Contributed by Farzana Rasheed and Haresh Karamchandani

2012 has been a tremendous year for NATC. 

Welcome to NATC!
We would like to take the time to reminisce and mull over our successes, challenges and plans. Bear with us as we walk down memory lane and, we hope you enjoy reading our latest blog post.

Below are some of the significant highlights of this past year:

New office!
We shifted to a swanky new office which our friends and clients upon entering exclaim is the nicest one in Monrovia. Wooden floors, high ceilings and a funky open layout, our office which we affectionately refer to as ‘THE LOFT’ is our pride and joy. We commissioned a design and oversaw its implementation over six months. An Office Warming party was held on 28 March and you can see the fabulous photos on our Facebook page.

It truly reflects our image as a modern company dedicated to bringing world-class IT services and products in a challenging and exciting environment like Liberia.

We look forward to welcoming you into our office for an espresso and a chat about your IT needs.

CEO, Farzana Rasheed, and Head of Operations, Haresh Karamchandani,
share a friendly cup of tea. 
New position!
A new position was added to our team - that of a marketing consultant. This position is intended to manage our social media presence, jazz up our templates and forms, and interact with our clients to ensure we are constantly aware of their satisfaction levels.

This position was firstly filled by Guillaume Foutry who did a fantastic job of capturing the work of our techies through his concise nerdy writing style for our blog; updated our tired-looking templates; edited our techies' reports; updated our website; built a website for a client; brought us new clients; accompanied our techies on out-of-town missions; and, stepped in whenever management was out of town. We were extremely sorry to see him go but wish him the best in his future endeavours. We will always appreciate his consistent efforts to help us with innovative ideas on how to have more efficient internal procedures which would help us deliver better service to our clients.

The marketing consultant is now Corinna Bordewieck. We are extremely happy to have her on board since December 2012. We are grateful to her for quickly stepping up to the plate and, in fact, acting like an Office Manager plus Marketing Consultant since the CEO is away on maternity-leave and, the Head of Operations is also away for moral support.

New website!

NATC is proud to announce that we have refurbished our website. There was a dire need to update our web address since so many excellent new developments have taken place since 2010 that needed to be effectively shown off!

Guillaume Foutry will be contributing a post shortly to capture how he created it.

First V-sat deal!
Internet is famously slow and expensive in Liberia. Although the fiber optic cable landed on Liberian shores, it is still to be deployed and commercialized. It is still difficult to estimate as to when broadband will become a reality.

Meanwhile, internet is available through GSM, fixed wireless or V-SAT.

NATC has been quite keen on entering the V-SAT market after gaining an excellent command of on ground IT services such as networking, regular maintenance of hardware and software, diagnosis and repairs of hardware, and ad hoc tech support. After submission of countless proposals and proforma invoices, we finally made a breakthrough!

We are providing internet services to our client via V-sat on the DVB-SCPC platform using the State of the Art Datum Modem and DVB receiver. This technology enables us to keep the prices at nearly 50% lower than that of the regular iDirect platform that other V-sat providers have implemented. Please feel free to contact us for a quote and a demo.

Finally found a great banking partner!
Businesses need capital to invest and grow. Businesses need a reliable and efficient banking partner. For around 2 years, we were constantly frustrated with our bank (which was more like a crowded bus-stop always) which we shall not name for sake of diplomacy.

We finally came across a bank which finally understands and appreciates the needs of growing business in Liberia. In fact, it is worth mentioning of when and how we came across our bank: during one of our famous evening walks around central Monrovia when the CEO and Head of Operations unwind and excite ourselves by coming up with new business ideas to take over West Africa. We were walking on Crown Hill when we came across a new building and what seemed to be the impending opening of a new bank. We eventually got a meeting with the dynamic Managing Director of the bank who was as excited as us in exploring mutually beneficial opportunities.

We have managed to secure capital for our business through some very innovative flexible facilities which has helped us with much needed finance and taken our cash flow to another level.

A Great Team
Jonathan Barwon
It would be unfair to mention our significant highlights of the year without celebrating the everyday work accomplished by our hardworking staff: Jonathan Barwon, Head of IT; Patience Nyepanh, Finance and Administration; Daniel Collins, IT Trainee; Cheayee Gee, IT Trainee; Alex Baryou, Printer Wizard, and, Emmanuel Jacobs, Messenger.

Jonathan is our senior IT staff who is most responsible for all our clients' IT needs. He has hardly missed a day since he joined us in 2010. He never gives up until he solves the problem. And, he does it with utmost humility.

The rest of our IT Trainees are eager to learn and contribute.

Patience is the beautiful face on our blog. She is our dedicated finance and administrative officer who does our banking, chases payments, maintains our records, and does all our taxes and permits. And she does it with style and elegance that is admirable for a young lady for her age.
Patience Nyepanh

Last but not least, Emmanuel brings his untiring enthusiasm and smile to our office every day.

Like any business, there are continuing challenges:

Finding an international level IT Engineer
As much as we are proud of our local team's excellent work in providing IT services to our clients, we now need to take our game to the next level. We feel we will only be able to do this by hiring an IT Engineer with more international exposure and skills in newer technologies so we are in a prime position to support our clients in the near future.

It has been a difficult proposition to attract and hire such a professional, probably because Liberia may not seem like an IT destination to most IT professionals.

We are now exploring advertising the position through Escape the City and, possibly hiring an HR Company. We were under the impression that merely spreading our requirement through word of mouth, a forum like Google Expats Group and such would solve our problem but after all, you need professionals to do a good job. We should know since we also depend on our clients understanding this fine point.

We hope to find the right person very soon.

Shipping blues:

Yes, all was not rosy. We did encounter a very serious debacle recently with one of our inbound shipments on Fedex. We received purchase orders from our clients for supplies of genuine toners and other IT related equipment which was promptly handled by our overseas supplier in Houston, Texas, USA. Unfortunately the complete consignment went “missing” in transit, and all efforts (including a trip to Kenya and Accra to personally locate the boxes by our Head of Operations) have failed. We have had to write off this consignment and re-order the same goods in order to deliver the purchase orders.

Finally, we  have some future plans. 

Our immediate plan for 2013 is to open a fully fledged and equipped branch office and workshop stocked with genuine supplies and equipped with necessary diagnostic and repair tools in the very fast growing city of Buchanan. This move has been encouraged due to the movement of one of our major clients to Buchannan and in keeping with our commitment of providing best services and prompt supplies we feel that this move is very important. We are on the lookout for a suitable location at Buchanan and should be able to complete the formalities before March 2013.

We also are seriously considering a plan to open an office in the newest country – South Sudan, watch this space! 

We wish everyone a prosperous and successful 2013! 

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