COVID-19 Business Info Hub spoke with Lydia Syson Naiga, Business Development Manager at NLS Services Limited to understand how her business has weathered through the pandemic and to hear her advice for other women entrepreneurs.

Ernest Wasake: Thank you for joining us today. Can you introduce yourself and describe your business?

Lydia Syson Naiga: My name is Lydia Syson Naiga and NLS Services Limited is our business. We deal with medical waste disposal, hazardous waste disposal, and industrial waste. We pick up medical waste from different hospitals, around Kampala and the rest of the country, Kampala mainly, and take it to our incineration plant for disposal.  As of April, we have been in business for 11 years and currently, we’re employing 52 staff members.

Ernest Wasake: Can you tell us about how much of the market you control and what your business means in terms of its significance in the market.

Lydia Syson Naiga:  We have around 80 percent of the market share. Most of the private hospitals, actually almost all private hospitals are our clients. Recently, we managed to penetrate [to work with] the government referral hospitals.

Ernest Wasake: Let us understand a little bit more about your business. How has NLS waste management fared during the pandemic?

Lydia Syson Naiga: As essential workers, we continued to work through the lockdown because we had to pick up medical waste and there is no way medical waste could be left in the hospitals. I would say we didn’t get really affected because we have never stopped working. The only issue we had was making sure some staff members came to work, given the covid-19 travel restrictions. Some of our staff had to work from home, which wasn’t something we were ready for. That was a bit of a struggle.

 Ernest Wasake: Tell us what practical tools or skills you put in place to survive? What worked and what didn’t?

Lydia Syson Naiga: We just had to make sure we had to be very strict on the protective wear policy. We had to do mass testing every month for all staff members. The fact that our staff actually have to go on the ground and interact in these particular places where we have to actually pick up COVID waste meant we had to be very cautious.

 Ernest Wasake: Is there any other part of your business that you had to change or adjust as a result of COVID, either to increase your business or to protect business?

Lydia Syson Naiga: We have clients that have been struggling because their earning numbers have dropped. This has affected their payments flow, as a result we had to make sure we have money to run the business. You can’t tell a client “because payments are delayed, we can’t pick up your waste.” We had to just work with what resources we had and we made sure we save on every penny because it’s going to be tough ahead. The pandemic has also affected our suppliers, but we managed to get through.

Ernest Wasake: How can businesses position themselves for the times ahead? Now that we’re entering a different phase of the pandemic that will continue to shape the economy?

 Lydia Syson Naiga: The virus isn’t about to end today and It’s not going to end tomorrow. We just have to work with what we have and cut costs if we can. People have to be very careful with their operations and plan because enterprises are closing abruptly due to the effects of the pandemic.

Ernest Wasake: Could also tell us where do you see NLS Waste Management Services going in the next couple of years?

Lydia Syson Naiga: In the next couple of years, I think we will be the next big waste management company in Uganda and in Africa once we have aligned particular products, that we will roll out.

Ernest Wasake: If you had any personal last message that you can give to women entrepreneurs, what lessons would you share?

Lydia Syson Naiga: Be very clear and be consistent. If you think it’s going to be a walk in the park, it’s never a walk in the park, so it’s persistence and consistency. If you tell someone the contract, say this, it says we shall pick up your waste or shall do this – live within the contract. Don’t go beyond.