‘We locals can do it’: Wakio
In a country where locals struggle to thrive in the business world, Hudson Wakio managing director of Advance Technology Limited, stands out as one of the few who has beaten the odds.
Born in East Are’are Malaita Province, he came from what he described as a very typical village family.
“My parents were not that educated and they lived at the village. They did not have much money, but they wanted me to do well in life.”
Mr Wakio’s education took him to Rokera Provincial Secondary School and later to King George Sixth National Secondary School.
Initially he wanted to become a teacher. That gradually changed when he continued with his education to form six and form seven.
“I became interested in science so I pursued that. I wanted to become a doctor at first.
“I was fortunate to secure a scholarship related to health. But around that time was the height of the ethnic tension, so international scholarships were halted.
“I then applied for a government scholarship for computer science and marine studies and got through.”
Wakio graduated in 2007 and came back to the Solomon Islands. He signed a five year contract to work for the government. But after two years, he resigned.
“The interest to pursue my own thing was big. A lot of my colleagues were surprised. I was young and had only started working.”
Mr Wakio had a business plan, and he was determined to achieve it. He wanted to do printing, computer services and sales.
“At the time, all the businesses accommodated at the Anthony Saru building closed down. The economic crisis then was not only domestic but international as well. A lot of rooms at the building were vacant.
“I rented one of the rooms. I had one lap top, one photocopy and printing machine and one table.”
Mr Wakio started doing freelance work. A month later, he hired a boy to assist him.
“I was able to secure six contracts at the time with six schools for printing services.
“The deal I made with them was to charge them forty cents a page for printing. Other places were charging fifty cents.”
As he progressed, Mr Wakio secured business deals with some of the government ministries.
“I conducted my own research that year. I discovered there were quite a number of printers from White river to King George. There was a big demand to supply toners and cartridges.
“I saw that AusPac only supplied non-genuine toners. So I decided to supply genuine toners and cartridges and let the organisations know I was selling them. Slowly I built the business.”
Mr Wakio needed to have a big capital to grow the business so from the first profits he made, he invested in a property.
“To survive in an economy dominated mostly by foreigners, I needed to have capital. I bought a property in 2010 and invested into developing it with whatever profit I made.
“In 2012, I had it valued.”
The property was worth four million dollars. Mr Wakio applied to a bank in Honiara for a two million dollar loan using the property as security. That year on, the business made a great and steady progress.
Wakio believes Solomon Islanders have the potential to become successful business people.
“We can’t keep depending on the government and blaming it for our lack of development. I know the government has helped a lot of local businesses with as much as $50,000 or more.
“The only problem is that we don’t utilize those opportunities.
“I don’t think the Government can create more jobs for the people, it has reached its limit. It’s up to us to create jobs, employ people and develop our country.
“You can see, foreign companies do not have much confidence to put huge investments in the country. Who is going to do it? Are we going to continue living like this? Who is going to come and do it for us?
“At the moment I have almost 100 employees. Think about it, if one person has one hundred employees each, how many people will we employ? That’s a lot of people.”
Mr Wakio noted businesses take time to grow.
“It cannot grow itself within a year. You must be patient, go through a period of time and then it will happen. Sometimes you will only make a ten dollar profit, but that’s it.”
He encourages young Solomon Islanders to take the risk.
“The trend we see now is most young people go into business. Some as young as twenty-two.
“In Solomon Islands we wait until we reach forty years of age then we start thinking of starting a business. By then you’ll be stale and cynical. It’s best to start young so that you have a lot of fresh ideas and you have the plan you want in place.”
Many Solomon Islanders failed in businesses because of the popular ‘wantok system’ syndrome. How did Mr Wakio cope with that?
“I do not have any problem with it,” he said. “It is our culture, we cannot stop it. But we can set our limits on how much we are prepared to assist our relatives and friends. That’s what I do.
“The advantage is we make more connections through our wantoks. That is good for business.”
Advance Technology Limited has come a long way from the room at the Anthony Saru building ten years ago. Now it has its own four story building in Honiara.
“We are expanding into the real estate business”, he said. “The second and fourth floor of the new building we will soon lease out to the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.”
Mr Wakio proudly summed up what made Advance Technology Limited stand out as a business.
“We are a local company. Second we employ the best qualified people with degrees and masters. And third, we offer the best products and services.”
By: Kikiva Tuni.
Note: The comments in this article are those of Mr Wakio himself and SIBC is not liable for them in any way.