Ict@innovation: Free your IT Business in Africa/2-3
Module 2.3 Revitalizing software resources through FOSS
Registered Name: Future Software Resources Nigeria Ltd.
Staff Strength: 5
Type of business: FOSS Business solutions
Future Software Resources Nigeria Ltd. is a new turnkey web-solution provider in Nigeria operating in partnership with DigiRev LLC (USA) and Paperless Staffroom Ltd. (UK). The company was founded in 1998, but remained inactive until the beginning of 2008 when the management fully re-branded and shifted the company's focus to web-design, web-hosting and creating software solutions that are based mainly on open source software. Currently FutureSoft has 5 full-time employees. Consultants and software developers also work with the company on contract basis.
The mission of Future Software Resources Nigeria Ltd. is to provide a range of services that allow small, middle-size and large businesses, as well as individuals to host their websites on the World Wide Web. The company provides services related to domain name registration, development and hosting of websites, development and maintenance of e-commerce and web-applications.
The fundamental experience of FutureSoft is to try to keep costs at a minimum by reusing open source components and outsourcing essential development activities. The company had a favourable start by not going for bank loans and was privileged to have a rent free office space.
Company registration procedures were not hard. However, the managing director advised that 'the best thing to do is go through a law firm'.
In its years of operations, major problems encountered by the company were related to finding skilled work force that is willing to work for a low salary. According to the managing director, the company's solution to this problem is to outsource most of their work to India, where the company has found highly skilled developers, who are willing to work at very low rates.
FOSS Business Focus
The company's strategy was to reduce the main start-up costs to building the website, designing and printing their own business cards, letterhead, invoices, and receipts.
What has worked well for Future Software Resources Nigeria Ltd.? Looking at other companies in and outside Nigeria offering similar services, the company is positioned to compete and benefit from open source software products and services because, as the manager puts it, “we're keeping deadlines and delivering quality products and services“. The company not only relies on its IT and staff competencies, but also work with consultants who are able to deliver complete working packages or solutions on time which the clients need; from copy writing to developing conventional and online marketing strategies, graphical designs, content development etc.
Having experienced the building of business around open source software in Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular, Future Software Resources Nigeria Ltd. advises SMEs doing business around open source software to consider the following:
- Identify the wants and needs of the target market. Market research is the key. It makes no sense developing a solution that nobody needs.
- Localize the solution in order to make it work for the target market. Localization can stretch from content to actual functionalities. With proper planning, the company sees open source software as a great means of wealth generation.
- Ensure that the capabilities of the software are tried and tested before deploying it to a potential customer. Research on various types of software that do the same thing is very important. Engage in and understand the open source project whose software you are customizing, distributing, or localizing.
Revenue generation model
Among the company's products and services, business solutions are generating the most revenue. However, the company plans to launch a series of educational solutions in near future, which they hope will be able to match, if not exceed, the revenue stream currently being generated by the business solutions. The company is also working on creating a strong brand, a range of products, as well as bigger staff strength.
Involvement with open source projects and communities: Future Software Resources Nigeria Ltd. realized that in order to venture into the open source software business, a company needs to have an individual with vast experience and a good track record in participating in open source projects and communities. The company has an open source expert who has done a lot of research on open source projects before joining the company and is responsible for testing various open source solutions and finding, according to the managing director, “the best working models for our clients in the African market”. The company also vets developers to whom it outsources solutions development to make sure that those developers have a good track record of involvement with open source projects and communities.
The company also shares its customization efforts with the communities and developers who want to implement similar customizations. As a goodwill gesture, Future Software Resources Nigeria Ltd. also donates part of its profit to some open source projects and communities, whose identity the company wishes to keep private. What is now missing from the company's open sources arsenal is a comprehensive open source policy. In this regard, the managing director commented that”We are currently working on putting together an official open source policy”.