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Investment on Innovation Centres Will Speed Up Nigeria’s Digitalisation- Nicholas

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Travers Nicholas is the general manager, Dell EMC West Africa. Working with his team, Travers spends time with customers helping to guide them through their digital transformation encompassing workforce, security, and IT. During Travers’s time with Dell EMC he has worked with customers from SME to Enterprise from all market segments, helping them to reduce cost and improve efficiency through the adoption of Dell EMC technologies.

Coming from a Technical Background, some of Travers’s previous roles include Systems Engineering Manager, Technology Consultant, and Infrastructure Manager for global organizations in the banking, telecommunications, and services industries. During a recent chat with peter oluka, he expatiates on how Dell’s activities positively impact Nigeria’s IT/ICT ecosystem. 

How Prepared Is Dell to Impact World Technology in the Next Industrial Revolution?

In September last year, Dell merged with EMC to create the largest privately-controlled technology company in the world – Dell Technologies.

Under Dell Technologies, we have seven brands (Dell, Dell EMC, Pivotal, VMWare, VirtuStream, RSA and SecureWorks) with which we are better positioned to deliver quality end-to-end solutions to our clients.

On our preparation to impact world technology in the next industrial revolution, Dell Technologies is innovating like a start-up with the scale and reach of a global powerhouse, investing $4.5B in research and development annually. In the same vein, we are also investing another $100M annually in innovative startups in future tech areas like AI/ML, Automotive, Genomics. These are indications that we are a forward looking organization and are future-ready in our approach to solutions and our client can attest to this.

The second question on monitoring: signatures is reactive, that’s the main talking point, i.e. not to be reactive; that’s where having Global threat intelligence (SecureWorks) and identity threat management solutions (RSA) comes in to plaly.

Security is very important in technology. How does monitoring network to detect suspicious acts solve the Issue of Internal Instigated IT Security Breaches?

First thing to note is that traditional approach to security is no longer enough. Identifying signature and using anti-virus are reactive approaches, and given current technology realities, being reactive is not efficient in forestalling and preventing security breaches, be it internal or external. For instance, what happens when virus changes itself and signature appears differently?

As such, solving security issues needs to do with the incorporation of global threat intelligence and threat management solutions using high performance security analytics. The need to shift from traditional approach to security is why Dell Technologies is investing heavily in its two security brands – RSA and SecureWorks.

RSA and SecureWorks provide intelligence-driven security solutions for organizations effectively prevent, detect and respond to advanced attacks, manage user identities and access, reduce business risk, fraud and cybercrime.

…Which Means You Are Using Big Data To Solve Security Challenges.

Absolutely, big data! Security is a big data problem. There is so much data and there is no way a human being could monitor and respond to all.

Let’s Narrow This Down To West Africa And Nigeria In Particular; Do You Think Nigeria Is Prepared For The Next Industrial Revolution Driven By Internet Of Things (IoT), Smart City, Big Data And Others? What Are Your Perceptions About This Market?

Personally, I think Nigeria is ready for the next industrial revolution. Interestingly, I believe a lot of innovations will come from countries like Nigeria, Kenya and India where there are necessities to innovate.

I have been opportune to interact with a lot of young people with keen interest in software development and do not think anyone would disagree with me on the high skills level of the members of Nigerian IT community. However, there is a need for continuous development and less dependence on the government.

No doubts, Nigeria has its fair share of infrastructural deficit in the area of power and networking, but the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of Nigerians gives me hope that Nigeria is ready for the next industrial revolution. The mindset is there; maybe it just needs to be proliferated and supported a bit more.

How Did Dell Fare During the Economic Recession?

Truth is, all Nigerians were affected in one way or the other by the recession.

How we fare is very simple. Dell Technologies is the world’s essential infrastructure company. We provide essential end-to-end solutions that businesses need to run effectively and efficiently and when there is a need, there is business.

Of course, spending slowed and due to foreign exchange (Forex) issues, IT and ICT market declined during the economic recession, but at the same time we are happy that we’ve come through in a positive way for our customers and we continue to support them and deliver on outstanding quality of service.

Recently Dell Made A Commitment To The 2020 Legacy Project, How Are You Using Such Opportunity To Give Back To Nigerians?

Dell is committed to driving human progress by outing our technology and expertise to work where they can do the most good for people and the planet.

One of such commitments is the Ocean Plastics project, where we’re taking discarded plastics from beaches, shorelines, and other coastal areas and turning that into packaging for our XPS 13 2-in-1. 

As a country near the ocean, this is very important to Nigeria and it is a project that excites me personally. I’ve seen too many videos and heard many stories on how whale and other aquatic animals get killed by the plastics in the ocean

Dell Technologies is also involved in an alliance with the Nigerian government and a couple of organizations on how we manage Electronic Wastes (e-Wastes) around the world because we believe there is a need for e-wastes to be discarded in a responsible way.

What Is Dell Technologies Doing About Empowering Women In Technology?

First of all, we have a large female population of Accounts Executives in our team and we are very supportive of our female employees. Also, we have a female Mentoring and Development Program that allows our female employees grow and advance their careers. In fact, it was an employee driven initiative where some of those employees mentored internally become mentors to females in Universities, developing and guiding young women on how to join and succeed in the technology industry.

This type of thing only happens when you create a culture that supports women and treat them as fair and equal partners. There is no gender discrimination in our organization and we are going to provide a frame work for that to be successful around the world.

Research and Development (R&D) Is The Centre Of Technology Evolution, But Most OEMs Seemingly Develop Product Based on ‘Perceived’ Needs Of Emerging Markets. What percentage of Dell’s resources is channeled towards R&D?

We are very passionate about R&D such that we invest about $4.5B in it annually. We have in excess of 15000 engineers around the world who are working on building and developing products- software, hardware and solutions. We believe we create great products, great solutions and great technologies.

Also, we ensure we maintain a direct relationship with our customers and when we get feedback we take it very seriously, report back to our team of engineers on how to improve and be better positioned for the future

What Do You Are The Areas That Needs Fine Tuning; Requiring Government’s Intervention To Give Nigeria’s Technology Market A Push?

I’ve observed in Nigeria that many people look, first, to the government ‘to do things for us’, but I believe that innovation is more likely to come from individuals, because they are the ones who know and have the needs to solve problems. However, the government can invest in innovation centers that would allow use of technologies for youths who don’t have access. Though, it’s not possible to provide overnight access of technology to all Nigerians, we need to start with what’s reasonable; maybe some small centers.

Secondly, once they have access to the technology, a bit of monitoring should be done to make sure they are using it productively.

If the youths have access to technologies you would be surprised at what they can do, but if you create some sort of policies to force it on people, it won’t come out of passion. That’s why I have the belief that innovations need to come from the people, give them the tools, the access and support they need.

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Mentorship: You Can’t Develop Skills Without Giving Experience- Johnson

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By peter oluka

Start-ups in Nigeria require proper adequate mentoring to triumph in today’s business environment hence the establishment of Lighthouse Hub about nineteen months ago.

The Hub aims to mentor, train, encourage, guide and propel the upcoming entrepreneurs towards the right path in order to reach their potentials, Yetunde Johnson, founder of the Hub said in an interview with Nigeria CommunicationsWeek.

Lighthouse Means

“LightHouse guides you to where you are going, safely. So, we are​ here to guide anybody that comes to us ​inspired to move to the next stage of achievement. We took a risk and we are still taking risks to make it happen. When we moved into the building, the core team took on the job of setting things right, from the electricity to decors and other works. We did this by ourselves and the funding had come from Slingshot’s consulting fees and money we have raised internally,” she said.

Why?

“We ​believe that if you give young people responsibility with the right training and mentoring, they will get to their destination. Imagine if you take an army of young people in technology or business and expose them to adequate training, the gains will be much.

“​My​ only worry is that young people​ tend to separate themselves from the older people. It is such a fundamental mistake. There should be a ‘marrying’ of the two; it takes the raw energy of the young people and the experience or exposure of the older people to move us to a different place, the right place’, Johnson said.

Lighthouse System of Grooming Young People

“It has been difficult in the country for organisations to take-on young people due to the cost required to groom them to a level where they are productive. Therefore, we are trying to give them (young people) hands-on experience in IT. They are here for real life tasks to develop their skills. We have six pioneer interns.

“One of the key things is that our interns follow us to meeting businesses. On one of such occasions, I spoke to a client and the company was willing to take four interns, train and pay them stipends. At the end of six month one will be selected, as a permanent staff. More employers need to do that.

“You can’t develop a skill if you don’t give experience. You can’t keep people unemployed because they don’t have the right skills or certification, yet you don’t provide the right environment for that. You can make it tax deductible whereby every business is involved in training​m the young people​. Businesses can​not just be sitting by the corner; not want to assist in job creation. They should train our youths to be employable”.

Lighthouse Hub, Johnson added, “We will show IT startups the avenues through which to limit business risks while giving those seeking career redirection the route to success.

“For this case we are partnering with organsiations like the Debbie Mishael Consulting and others. The fact is that IT needs a strategy. If you have a dream and lack where to seed it, there is not drive. We have given free courses before.

“Our costs are seemingly the lowest in Lagos and you can still get zero entrance. When we train somebody, we do it thoroughly. But people aren’t turning up. We did training on WordPress which anybody can take up and begin to make money. We had little or no turn out.

“However, we had some girls who showed serious enthusiasm that I rarely see in the young people and without any motivation from us they came for HTML and CSS training and have been coming for the last 10-12 weeks. They are inspiring. They see the opportunity learning coding skills can give them and they have jumped at it. We wish for more like them.

“Now, I know we don’t want brain drain, but if you have spent time here and there are opportunities calling for your skill​s elsewhere, then of course you would ​ go and grab it. Though, I strongly believe that when a Nigerian goes outside the country, they would want to return, because he would realize why home is so special.

“But you need an avenue or programme that should be showing our young people the pathway to success; rewards them commensurately. We worked with the Women In Tech on a project in the University of Lagos (Unilag). Out of thousands of young ladies in Unilag, less than 70 attended the training. We offered to train people free, but they aren’t showing up.

“There is something wrong with the present generation that must be addressed. Some of the best IT trainers are in Nigeria, but the young people are not paying attention. We did a programme for teachers in collaboration with Teachers Nigeria; they tend to train teachers on how to use Google related research tools. They were so disappointed.

“The turn out in Lagos was just low. How many teachers do we have. It was a free course. But the attitude of our people will now force them to start charging fees. We were invited to Ogun State, the turnout was incredible and we had a dynamic session.

Nigerian Youths Need to Believe In Themselves

“We need to give credit to ourselves and accept the little things we make here. I know a young man who makes shoes of extremely high quality. For him to make s​ale​s, he had to use ​an ​Italian label. Now, the shoes were made in Nigeria but Italy takes the credit. Now, Debbie Mishael Consulting is bringing ICITP training programme​s​ that will enable our young IT graduates have han​ds-on​ experience. Only the passionate will understand and grab the opportunities as they come.

“This is one reason we are partnering with lot of organizations do a lot of things that compliment the skills our startups would need. We are planning a six weeks intensive ‘You-Learn’ programme.

“If you are a programmer I don’t think you can succeed by mere ​reading books​, you need to practise what you have read​. Our young people need that practical approach to doing things. Also, it is difficult for interns to learn without ​​​financial support, even though they are not expecting to us to pay them we provide a stipend. They will struggle to have concentration if they are hungry or short of cash. Though, it is not easy to sustain such system. If we can’t continue to function as a business, we can’t sustain the Hub.

Why Obalende?

Johnson doubles as the managing director of Slingshot Technologies Limited. Lighthouse Hub is one of the consulting firm’s projects, located at 35 Moloney Street, Obalende-Lagos Island. She speaks on the location, thus:

“I really love Obalende; this is the place I want to be. People think I am crazy, but they are wrong. If you are going to tap into human capacity of Nigeria, you must know where they are. They too need to tap into us. We are willing to be here to share these skills we are bringing back. Among us, we share skills too because no body has​ a​ monopoly o​n​ knowledge. We need to borrow skills from others. I have always loved this building. To me, it is the most strategic place you can be.

“If you are headed to the Mainland- to the left; to the Island- to the right. If you are aiming at Ikoyi, go through under the bridge. ‘Besides that, it is one point where every w​ork ​of life crisscrosses. So, there was a day I was passing on the bridge, I felt this is a place we can tap in to the ​raw material of Nigeria which is the human resource. I fe​el, the Nigerian human resource is the most incredible resource if trained, mentored well and tapped into. Why do I say that? If you look around the world Nigerians are the ones leading. We are not hailing ourselves, unfortunately. If you look at the key developments in the US & UK, the key drivers are Nigerians.

“I am a staunch Nigerian and I love being here. As a child I grew up to know Nigerians are strong and dynamic. They don’t give excuses rather go for the results. So, I just wanted to come back to the country and tap into the ecosystem and contribute my quota to the development of the young people. If you are trained in Nigeria life is not that stressful when you travel out of the country, because you have already faced great challenges here.

What Happens At The First Floors?

The first floor is where the Hub is located. “In summary, the Hub has room to accommodate everybody no matter how large or small your business could be. We have inside the Hub the Co Working Area for those who can’t afford to rent offices. We made it flexible for networking beyond your own ‘kind’ of people- that is, those outside your immediate business field, but who you need to climb the ladder. That is the environment that allows the young and old meet. We also have the serviced office space that give clients opportunity to focus on their business while we handle all others issues for them.

“You have free access to the meeting and conference rooms for an allocated period of time which is also located on the first floor. Being a member of the hub guarantees you that platform. It is our way of making life comfortable for small businesses. You can actually conduct your training, seminars, meeting, conferences too. It is a small community with a great vision for businesses in the IT ecosystem”, she concluded.

 

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Nigeria Can Become Africa’s Internet Hub If… – MainOne

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Vremudia Oghene-Ruemu, MDXi’s product manager, Data Center in this interview assesses the data centre market in Nigeria, challenges confronting the line of business, the partnership with IXPN, MainOne’s Open Connect Service, among others. Excerpts

Data Centre Operations in Nigeria

The Data Center landscape in Nigeria is still new, gradually developing. We have a few data centers for our economic size and population, which means there is opportunity for more operators to come in.

We are gradually building a digital economy, which requires cloud-based services and applications and data centers.

A rising confluence of demand and supply factors is making Nigeria’s data center business one of the most dynamic ICT market segments in Africa.

As broadband adoption has boomed, demand for cloud services has emerged and is expected to surpass supply soon.

To cater to this demand, MainOne’s Data Center Company, MDXi is also building more Data Centers not only in Nigeria, but other parts of West Africa. We have started our second Tier III Data Center in Nigeria in Sagamu, Ogun State; we have a Data Center in Accra and should launch another in Cote D’Ivoire soon.

We believe that other players will follow suit and build to match the growing demand. Right now, South Africa has the largest data center presence on the continent, with North Africa following closely but Nigeria and other West Africans countries are expected to deepen Data Center penetration over the next few years.

Main Challenges Confronting Your Line of Business

The major challenge for Nigerian businesses right now is the high cost of operation. Data Centers have huge power requirements and usually recourse to direct connection to the national grid, which is a significant investment in addition to backups, which include huge generators with attendant costs of diesel ad maintenance.

Operators need to import equipment into the country, but do not have access to FOREX, as the Central Bank has refused to give telcos priority. It has been ingenuity and financial knowhow that has kept players like us going in this tough terrain.

Nigeria is yet to fully implement data domiciliation and a lot of government and enterprise businesses still hosts Nigeria’s data abroad, rather than patronize indigenous data centers.

The Federal Government needs to enable policy to drive our diversification from oil-dependent to services-focused; such as pioneer status for indigenous operators, tax exemptions, data residency and priority access to Forex will go a long way to help Nigeria’s data center operators and enable us be at par with South Africa and other climes.

In China for example, foreign operators are mandated to keep Chinese data within the country. Europe, Russia, Malaysia and Indonesia have also implemented Data Domiciliation regulation.

Nigeria must also proactively protect its citizen’s data and mitigate huge security risks by repatriating all Nigerian data in-country. This will limit the country’s exposure to cyber-attacks, save us huge international internet transit costs and enable Nigeria’s data center capacity to grow quicker.

We need to understand that apart from glaring issues such as national security and capital flight; local data hosting has the ability to drive job growth and improve the lives of our teeming youth population.

Local data domiciliation has worked and is still working in countries with strong digital economies around the world. All you have to do is look around the globe to see what having data hosted in-country has done for local innovation, technology development and economies in general.

Partnership with The Nigerian Internet Exchange (IXPN)

This move is significant in many ways. As a data center provider, there are two goals. The first goal is to ensure that businesses that have high availability requirements can run their technology operations without breaking the bank.

The second goal, is to ensure that the infrastructure running these highly available services can be reached irrespective of the networks that users connect from.

To ensure that end users communicate effectively in this rapidly evolving digital ecosystem, network providers need to enable the exchange of user data in the quickest and most efficient manner using a process called peering. Peering is made possible by an Internet exchange point which in the simplest of terms is a physical meeting point where networks, content and service providers connect and directly exchange data.

This results in the significant reduction of costs and increase in speeds at which data is exchanged thereby leading to consumer friendly network subscription rates and superb end user experiences.

This is where our partnership with the Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN) is relevant. By hosting and partnering with the IXPN, our data center customers now have quicker, less costly access to local, regional and global connectivity via simple physical cable connections called cross connects.With these cross connects and close proximity to the Internet Exchange, our customers immediately have instant access to an ecosystem of network providers, cloud platforms, content providers and business partners while saving costs on expensive wide area network links and ensuring high network performance.

By combining our vast local, regional and global network resources with the IXPN’s capabilities, we can now directly connect and provide interconnection services to local operators, regional operators, global carriers, content providers, ISPs among others. Our data center’s value proposition is thus to ensure that people that host in our data center are able to reach their users seamlessly with great user experience and at lower costs.

Role of The IXPN

The Internet Exchange is the backbone of digital economies around the world and a key ingredient to growing the online economy in Nigeria.

The role of the IXPN is to ensure the local exchange of data between users by enabling peering between the networks that serve these users; hence the popular saying “keeping local traffic local”.

An example is a situation where an email from User A in Lagos to User B in Lagos needs to travel across User A’s provider network to an International location where User A and User B’s networks connect just because they cannot connect locally.

You can also view this practically from the standpoint of regional airport hubs which serve as an exchange point for passengers between different airlines served by that airport.

Airline passengers will definitely not fancyif they travel long hours to switch flights outside their country to reach a destination in their country just because a common airport that serves multiple airlines in the country does not exist. Routing internet traffic is similar to you flying to Ghana to get a connecting flight to Abuja, because there is no local interconnection point.

Mainone’s Open Connect Service
With Open Connect we are creating a powerful Internet ecosystem in the same physical location as the Nigerian Internet Exchange, and providing a platform for participants to exchange data in real-time at lightning fast speeds.

The idea behind Open Connect is that we are enabling owners of products, services and content with high response requirements become more service-oriented by bringing the networks closer to them. Being closer to the networks significantly enhances their ability to improve their end user experiences. For instance, today’s customer will seriously consider changing banks if they have an internet banking application that takes thirty seconds to open a login page, and takes several other painstaking minutes to conduct a transaction.

Main Benefits of Open Connect
Open Connect provides better network performance for the networks and their end users. It also ensures low latency connections which in turn enhance the end user experience while enabling local data exchange, local content and local hosting.

Before Open Connect, How Did Operators Connect?

In the past, operators connected Internet traffic via networks outside the country at interconnection locations where global content providers reside. This put more costs on internet providers, slowed down internet connections and put the end user at a disadvantage from a cost and user experience.

For voice services, interconnections were achieved through clearing houses some of which are present locally today. These methods of interconnection are no longer sustainable with the volumes of broadband traffic we are experiencing in Nigeria today via current explosion in content and smartphones.

The Nigerian Internet Exchange is currently enabling a limited amount of interconnection between operators today but we believe that a synergy between MDXi and the Exchange using Open Connect as a platform will take interconnections to the next level in Nigeria and West Africa.

With The Launch Of Open Connect Would You Now Consider Yourself A Carrier Neutral Data Centre?

We have always been a carrier neutral data center. For the benefit of your readers, a carrier neutral data center is a facility that allows its customers connect their hosted infrastructure to any network of their choice.

MDXi is structured as a totally separate legal entity from MainOne even though we are a subsidiary company. Customers in MDXi are free to choose any network provider that suits their business requirements and have done so since Day 1. As a result, customers in MDXi are connected to their various locations by over 20 different network operators and ISPs today.

Launching Open Connect expands our commitment to providing that open access, carrier neutral environment and bringing it closer to the Internet Exchange for all our customers to thrive.

Of What Benefit Is This To Over-The-Top (OTT) And Content Providers Across The Continent?

Until around 4 years ago, OTT operators like Facebook and Google hosted outside the continent because the infrastructure to host locally wasnot available and the traffic they generated in Nigeria was quite limited with low internet penetration.

This narrative is however changing as the facilities to host such infrastructure is now available on the continent. Africa’s huge population and rapid mobile broadband adoption is also a major business driver for these large players as they recruit these large number of users to their platforms.

Nigeria is the most populous country on the continent and we are beginning to see more content providers, producers and distributors develop significant interest in our local market. Five years ago we didnot have applications like Facebook Live, Instagram live and WhatsApp video. We also did not have Internet banking and the level of E-Commerce applications that require real-time online connections as we do today.

One of the key value propositions for content is a robust user experience. Accessing content hosted outside the country provides a significantly diminished user experience compared to content hosted within the country. By leveraging local hosting and Open Connect, content providers will improve their user experiences significantly, scale their products and increase user subscriptions which will lead to more revenue.

Plans to Build an Internet Hub in West Africa

By hosting the Nigerian Internet Exchange and leveraging our already active connections to the Ghanaian, Amsterdam and London Internet exchanges we have significantly expanded the reach of our network to other networks in the region and globally.

What is next is to ensure that our partnership with various internet exchanges and content providers across the continent continues to grow using products such as Open Connect to explore new frontiers for interconnections.
We will leverage our strengths as West Africa’s most connected data center to continually localize traffic, reduce transmission costs and improve user experiences which will catalyze the development of other industries such as gaming, content and media which are highly dependent on superior internet connections.

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Cheki Accounts for 60% Online Car Listening in Nigeria- Dara

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Checki new.jpg

Gbenro Dara, chief executive officer of Cheki.com.ng has said the platform which accounts for about 60% online car listings in Nigeria is out to assist the dealers improve on their sales.

Speaking to Nigeria CommunicationsWeek recently, he said in the last five years the platform would remain on the forefront of innovation in the market.

Cheki.com.ng, he said, is experimenting on a virtual room, where potential buyers are exposed to a-360 picture view of the car.

“First, we are the biggest and oldest online car sells platform in Nigeria. Therefore, we have a database of five years, containing data of anybody who had thought about buying a car through online platform. We have 60% of them on Cheki.

“We can literally say we have idea of people who intended to buy a car in the last five years and others who went ahead to purchase. We also know the sellers and their locations: their monthly sells and number of cars they have online. Such data are valuable even to the Government for taxation.

“Tax has remained a big source of revenue for the Government. There is a saying that what you can’t measure you can’t manage. It is also important to the insurance sector to have better understanding of the market and how to price their products.

Association of Car Dealers Award Received in 2016
“This was as a result of an analysis done by an international (independent) organisation. They came to Nigeria assessing online classified companies and wanted to understand who drives which verticals most. They looked at the auto verticals and the horizontal classified and we stood out on the side of quality and range. We boost as the best in the array of inventories, covering the 36 States in the country. In terms of quality, we boost of the best in-house risk management platform.

Plans for Cheki.com.ng Moving Forward
“Two things are on my mind. First, to deliver on our proposition to our buyers by giving them quality cars at the right price. We want them to know they have people to trust or interact with on the platform. On the sellers’ side, we want to consolidate on them improving sells. We don’t want to just remain as leas generators, rather a sales’ partner that will help them tie up the loose ends.
 

Leveraging Technology To Assist dealer- Cheki’s Virtual Showroom
“Every company needs to be flexible. By this time last year, and for the trajectory we were bullish and busy with restructuring the auto space, thinking that brand new cars were going to be the key drivers. So, the change in Government, the direction on auto policy is not clear yet.

“Even investors in the new cars have rolled back their investments. In other words, not much activities are taking place. So, Cheki needs to be flexible and focus more on used cars and no longer our growth plan for new cars. It is not really too bad for the new cars segment, but not as much as the business in the used cars segment. Therefore, used cars are our biggest opportunity. We are consolidating all our activities around that”, he said.

 

 

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