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Africa Outlook

Brain
Techno

TECHNO BRAIN

The brains to succeed



Techno Brain seek to establish a prominent global position and strong brand credibility as an IT solution provider

Writer Emily Jarvis
Project manager Donovan Smith

Techno Brain is a 15 year old company operating in 19 countries, with origins in Tanzania and Daresalam, boasting an impressive 1400 employees in post across their offices. The company now have offices across the world including in the USA, UK and a Developing Centre in Hyderabad, India and Dubai. Manoj Shanker, the company's CEO, has been involved in Techno Brain's entire journey, and has more recently been in charge of securing an outstanding status for quality on a global scale. As Mr Shanker states: "Africa is a huge continent and we are an African company at our heart, who deliver local solutions at a local cost. However, we want to be known for our excellence worldwide."

Understanding the African Market
Mr Shanker identified that the IT and Telecoms industry in Africa has not matured in the same way as the Western world. "There are two areas that Africa are still lagging behind, one is development of local content and software. The second is the development of business applications. These are the two areas that Techno Brain have focussed on and built credibility in the market where we are able to develop and deploy complex business applications in both the public, private and non profit sectors and bring a value to the customer by deploying local resources; delivering local solutions at a local cost."

In the last 5 years, there has been a tremendous amount of interest in the continent in relation to the technology industries. With more investments and more need for IT, many companies are choosing to set up here as Shanker identifies: "The market shows promise that it will continue to grow for many years, and I see Africa as the next growth destination in the world."

From Training to Solutions
Each year, Techno Brain train close to 15,000 people across the African continent. "We take IT Education very seriously. Our training ranges from basic literacy to advanced programming, networking, database, project management, security and much more." Techno Brain's biggest challenge has been to secure employees with the desired skill set required for the jobs they have available. "Across the entire group of our 1400 employees, over 1200 of our staff are African. Since last year we grew by 125% and to cater for this kind of growth we need more people, specifically those with an excellent skill set." The company's biggest challenge has been to find these readymade skills in Africa as Shanker highlights: "We want to attract talent from all over the world, but also invest in people within the continent, so that in the long term we have people ready for our future."

The Governments in Africa are yet to implement a strategy to develop and encourage local companies to invest in IT, in terms of building applications and solutions in Africa unlike other continents in the world. In order to overcome this issue, the company are taking major steps to establish a Techno Brain Academy in Kenya. "The objective of the Academy is to attract the best people from the continent and the globe and train them not only in technology, but in human resources, marketing and other key areas. This is a long term solution to our skills shortage and key to the company's future success. We are trying to achieve this centre of excellence that can train thousands of people," Shanker explains "our raw materials are our people, and there is no short answer to getting this workforce." Techno Brain hire hundreds of graduates every year, taking them through a mentoring programme, certifying them and placing the new employees in post across different countries. "This is producing a very good result, even if it takes a lot of time and money, but from my experience, it is clear that there are a considerable number of talented people in the continent, and this is the best way to produce skilled people."

"We enjoy a special relationship with Microsoft"
More recently, the company have branched into Business Process Outsourcing in order to compete with the likes of India and the Philippines. They now have a BPO centre in Kenya, Uganda and Malawi. Techno Brain's largest sector continues to be in IT solutions, where they have several industrial-specific solutions, with the biggest being the identification business. "Today, Techno Brain is in a unique position where we offer driving licences and national ID production. We are the first company on the African continent to build our own automated fingerprint identification system."

Their other services include a Government consulting business, whereby Techno Brain provide tax administration solutions for customs and revenue authorities across the region. Shanker is proud to stand behind a company that have developed 11 of their own IP products including MEsure, a project Monitoring and Evaluation system which helps the Government to monitor and track their projects, and an enterprise and human resource management software certified by Microsoft. InspireHRM is a Microsoft Certified ISV Product. It is a complete Human Resource Management and Payroll Management System which can be integrated seamlessly with financial software like MS Dynamics Nav and other ERP packages to manage the Human Resource and Payroll of an organisation in an efficient manner. Also, they have developed an airport revenue management system, which has already been deployed in four airports across Africa.

Shanker spoke in detail about the company's relationship with Microsoft: "We enjoy a special relationship with Microsoft. We are their largest partner in Sub Saharan Africa. For the last four years, we have won partner of the year with Microsoft in the continent. We have a lot of products and solutions that operate on the Microsoft platform." Other important partners include Oracle, SAP and also work with Cisco. Techno Brain are predominantly a software centric company, who use these partners to develop their solutions using their platforms. Two of the most notable projects Techno Brain have completed are:

 Currently implementing a large country wide financial system for the Government of Uganda: an Integrated Financial Management System for the local Government. Deploying financial and revenue management solutions at each local county, which will help the local counties to account for the money they receive from the Central Treasury, and also collect revenue more effectively using automated tools.

 Developed Border Control solutions for the Government of Malawi in Lilongwe and this will help to secure the borders and track people's movement by taking their photographs/ biometrics/identify documents country-wide, helping with the identity and authentication of travel documents.

Steps to Achieve a CMM I Level 5 Status
The Governments in Africa are yet to form a strategy to develop and encourage IT investment, and to choose Techno Brain for their IT solutions as Shanker cites: "Being an African company, we have the issues of the global perception of us. High-tech companies have not yet established a brand credibility that makes a world class company. Our objective is to take Techno Brain to the next level, to achieve global recognition, and we have taken several steps to improve systems and processes. We are CMM I level 3 and are targeting CMM I Level 5. There are only a handful of companies worldwide that have achieved this. This would secure our visibility worldwide in terms of our quality and standard of service," Shanker believes.

Boasting a US$65 million turnover in 2013, Techno Brain are looking at a substantial US$100 million turnover for this year.