BY AYO ALONGE email@example.com
As a businessman and since the early eighties, Mr. Emmanuel Umeora appears to have had it so good, courtesy of his resilience, hard work and most importantly honesty, especially as he has established a mutual business relationship with his partners in Germany. To him, honesty does it all. “If I am dealing with you in business, anything I cannot do, I will just tell you I cannot do it.
My spirit will never allow me to be dishonest. If I agree to go into a deal with you, I will even take you to the bank and request that we are both made signatories to the account so that I won’t even be tempted to cheat you”, Umeora said. In this interview, he shares his success story with Sunday Sun.Excerpts:
What’s your business all about?
It’s a business that started back in Germany since 1874. Someone had been supplying these goods to the Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Army until I took over from him when he died in 2009. I had to re-strategise and re-organise the business again after registering with the CAC. The company produces all types of products among which is mosquito repellant. When you rub it, no mosquito will perch on you for over eight hours. The company has a lot of product lines. Another product line is a rust-proof product which you can use on any rusty metal which makes it new again. The problem we have always had in Nigeria is maintenance culture. The company also sells teargas. The mother company in Germany has been producing these products from the era of World War One and World War Two.
What motivated you into the business?
Well, I will say it’s because I want to help Nigerians. My vision is that in two to three years time, we can employ about 1, 000 Nigerians because it is a very lucrative business. Talk of the mosquito repellant that I told you about. You know mosquitoes kill a lot of people. When that particular product starts to move in Nigeria, of course I will need distributors and marketers all over Nigeria. That alone is enough to make you someone in the future.
How do you cope with the challenges and stress of importation?
I actually have a representative there in Germany and this guy is so eloquent in the German language that he wrote his Masters thesis in German. He represents my company on my behalf and helps me in packaging it down here. A container can contain about one million cans because the products are in small sizes.
How profitable is the business?
The business is very profitable. You know, it’s not like a business whose products you don’t see in a particular market and then you go to another market to get it. No, it is a customized business. I can decide how I want to run it myself. The manufacturing company is not even in Nigeria or any African country. It is all in Germany. I just thought why should a company that has been existing since 1874 not have any branch in Nigeria? A product like olive oil comes in a can and it’s different from the ones you see around. The only challenge is finance and if you have a partner , or even a bank on your side, the business is really booming. The huge capital requirement is just not easy to come by. No matter how the manufacturers produce theirs, we can request it the way we want it here. Instead of copying their own finished products, we can design our own shape here, so long as it is the same content. German products are very costly and very original.
Are Nigerian products up to standard?
No. Nigerians go abroad and ask the manufacturers to reduce the quantity of their products just to make profit. The products here are not the same because Germans don’t compromise standards. I’m even passionate about selling in other parts of Africa.
What challenges did you encounter while trying to register your company with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)?
I went to the CAC in Abuja. Imagine, the bank I was referred to told me to bring my grandmother that died many years ago and also requested many things I could not even provide.
Have you considered the Nigerian market to know the prospect of the business?
Yes. The market here is very big compared to elsewhere. Someone did the negotiation on my behalf and we have agreed that I would get discounts on all the orders I make. We agreed and we went into a Memorandum of Understanding to make it cheaper in the Nigerian market. Like the teargas we supplied to the EFCC, they so liked it and they have been asking us to do more business with them.
What are your plans to expand your business across Nigeria?
We have to start from somewhere first. The challenge is funds and I will be fine if I have someone I can partner with and we will just reach an MoU. Also, we need someone that can take the goods to the interior parts of Nigeria, particularly the mosquito repellant, because people die of malaria every day. Do you know why noodles sell? It’s because children love noodles. The mosquito repellant is also a product that would move very fast because parents would want to protect their kids from malaria.
What exactly are you doing to ensure you get the needed funds to boost your business?
I am reaching out to my friends and anyone who can partner with me. I have every document and the address of the chairman of the company in Germany and my representative in Germany is really doing everything on my behalf to ensure things work out well through the MOU we signed with the company. Nigerians just need to enjoy some of these products.
What are we not enjoying in this part of the world?
I told you the company is not even in any country in Africa. Imagine the mosquito repellant. If I spray some on you now, just watch and see that in the next eight hours, you will not even have any mosquito perching on you. We are not enjoying these types of products in this part of the world. One of our product lines is lubricant oil which prevents metals from rusting, since we don’t even have the maintenance culture in Nigeria.
Did you ever nurse an interest in the world of business as a child?
Yes. You know I hail from the eastern part of Nigeria. During the civil war, as a little farmer, I would leave my hometown and go to another village to farm just to take care of myself. I later served a very nice master and around 1976 he sponsored me to different countries in Europe, like Italy, to import many things. I remember in 1981, a white man called me and said that he wanted to see if Nigerians would like the wine he was producing.
He told me he would give me a full container load of the wine to try it in Nigeria but I looked at him and said he was stupid because I was already into a big business of selling suits. That was a costly mistake for me because if I accepted the offer, I could have made a lot of money from the business. I was just looking at the immediate gains I was making from my personal business.
What’s your staying power in business?
It’s honesty. If I am dealing with you in business, anything I cannot do, I will just tell you I cannot do it. My spirit will never allow me to be dishonest. If I agree to go into a deal with you, I will even take you to the bank and request that we are both made signatories to the account so that I won’t even be tempted to cheat you.
What are the things worth knowing about the business you do?
The unique thing is that the business is not popular. It is not a kind of business that you will say “ if I don’t see here, I will go and get it in the other market.” For instance, if government gives me the contract to supply teargas or gun cleaner , I won’t be dragging it with anybody. It’s not like any other business. It’s exclusive.
As a business man, how do you manage quality and price? You know people want the best and at a very low price?
No, no, no! There are some business ideas coming into Nigeria now. If you cannot buy a big tin of milk, you can buy the little sachet available and that is the same thing we did. We do that while still trying to ensure that the quality is not compromised. We do that so it can get to the grassroot. That’s my goal. Yes, we are rich in Nigeria, but we still have the poor and the average people and the product must get to them.
What have you to say to businessmen that compromise standards?
Any businessman that compromises standards does not love this country. There are some kinds of products that are brought here and instead of helping people, the products kill people. Like this mosquito repellant I am talking about now, you know it’s possible for producers and manufacturers to just add kerosene and water and sell to people. That is why NAFDAC is there anyway, because that is not the best. I trust that the Germans don’t ever compromise standards.
Can you recall your starting capital?
I started in 1980 with N2,000. Nigeria was very good that time because people could travel from Enugu to Paris, Napoli and then back to Nigeria. The fare then was just N400. It was just 80 kobo to a dollar then.
Looking at the different governments that we have had at the centre. Which of them would you say provided the best platform for businesses to thrive in Nigeria?
My brother, it was Shagari government. Look at Ajaokuta Steel Plant. If that place was managed very well, Nigerians wouldn’t need to buy cars abroad. We should be making it here by ourselves. That is the issue of the maintenance culture I was talking about. Someone like the Minister of Agriculture in Jonathan’s regime knows his onions and should be retained in the system.
Source : SunOnline