Nobody wants to change the winning team

Emmanuel Anyanwu

Emmanuel Anyanwu

Hyra Motors introduced and markets the now popular Geely and Brilliance car brands in Nigerian auto market. In this chat with ol’VICTOR OJELABI, Mr. Emmanuel Anyanwu, the company’s sales/marketing manager, presented an expository overview of the world of Asian made vehicles.

How many years have you been working for Hyra Motors as sales/marketing manager?

I’ve been with Hyra Motors for quite a while. Thank God, Hyra Motors has been around for three years. A company which was duly registered on 13th April 2006, and putting that into consideration, within a short period of time, we’ve witnessed tremendous progress.

As a marketing manager, what has been your greatest challenge since you joined the company?

Well, the biggest challenge has been how to develop a marketing campaign, especially changing the mind-set or perception of the average Nigerians towards the Chinese automobiles. It has not been easy, going by the history and heritage of Asian cars. Most people, of course, know that before now anything out of China was probably not the best. But I can say now that in the Nigerian automobile industry, the Chinese have done well. Given the antecedent, they have just been around for less than a decade in comparison to brands that have been here for quite longer. So I had a serious challenge of building awareness for the brand I represent, that is, Geely and Brilliance Autos. It took a lot of strategic planning to reposition ourselves to, at least, win the confidence of the average Nigerian buyer.

In the last two years, what manoeuvre as a sales/marketing manager has led to your greatest achievement?

Eh, I give all the glory to God who makes man what he is. Well, one particular act that I consider my greatest achievement is my resolution from day one not to give up on Chinese brands. And since I’ve decided not to give up, then I can look back and say thank God for the resilience, the steadfastness and focus. That is the most striking achievement, the fact that I didn’t give up on the Chinese brands.

How have the sales of your brands been like?

In fairness to you, what we’ve achieved less than three years, is probably what someone else has done in five to 10 years with the popular brands. And for this, I don’t want to take credit for it, but to God. We put up many strategies, but victory came from the Almighty. Permit me to be a bit spiritual because that is the ultimate. You know, sometimes you can plan so well, but it is still only God that gives you the grace to succeed. If we compare our stand, I mean in this our gestation period to what was obtainable by most popular brands, I think we’ve done very well.

We have something that most people are becoming very used to, which is the way we deal with them, taking care of their vehicles in terms of maintenance and any other necessary repairs.

In essence, you are saying that facilities like after-sales service attract or help increase your sales volume?

Three things are responsible for the growth of our sales volume, one is the fact that we are appropriately priced. We have offerings that are competitive in price for its range in its category, I can beat my chest to say they are about the most affordable four door salon cars in Nigeria. But that is not the key reason why we’re experiencing growth in sales. I also mentioned the fact that our after sales services are the best; no wonder, we were declared the best new automobile company in year 2007/2008. Of course, there is this other part of us that is becoming the toast of everybody. The parts of our vehicles are just the most affordable. You see, three things make a very good auto deal: performance, after sales service and affordable price. If you can’t buy the car, there is no point thinking about the pleasure you cannot afford.

What about durability?

Durability is all about performance. It is all encompassing. Performance in terms of the car performing below specification, if a car could do XYZ, that is, talking about the basic features. And of course, we look at the fact that this car has been on the road for three years without anybody complaining. Now, I know of some brands, I would not mention their names, which came into this country that couldn’t survive two years. I remember people telling us that in less than a year, all your cars would be off the road. As I speak, our cars have been on the road for much longer.

Aside from Geely and Brilliance, what other brands are in the company’s portfolio?

For now, we deal only in Geely and Brilliance, talking about the saloon cars. But we also have in the pipeline other brands we would be showcasing very soon. These are all other categories of vehicles…

Can you be more specific?

Yes, we are looking at some other categories like truck, saloon cars, and any other category that would attract you to us.

And don’t you think the commitment in trying to sell the Geely and Brilliance would wane, if you digress into selling all these categories you mentioned?

No. You see, Geely and Brilliance having done so well, we would leverage on our expertise. We look at the human resource angle to our business. We have gotten the best hands, satisfying the maxim of the right people in the right place. We also have the will and the determination to move the industry forward. We aren’t just in the business to make profit, we are in the business to add value to basic operations as far as the marketing of automobile is concerned. And that is why we are already in some other West African countries. Our ultimate objective is not just to sell cars, we want to deploy the expertise in technology of those who have been in this thing for decades.

Despite the good looks of Geely and the claims of your marketing department, some users still complain about the durability of some interior components like the door knobs and fragile backrest. What is your take on this?

Well, I am very surprised to hear these because these are not complaints that I’ve documented. If customers do complain, I document it, I don’t know how this complaint came about and where. But between you and I, what we are realistically aware of in terms of customers’ complaints, is that if they travel out of Lagos, they weren’t sure if they would get an outlet to service their vehicle. And we quickly put up more service centres to cater for this. But for the door knob and the rest, I stand to be corrected, there has never been any record on those. No Geely door knob has fallen off and no headrest as dangled as you said. We are in Nigeria where anything is possible, people say all sorts of things because they don’t want competitors.

Okay, all said and done, let’s talk about the new bride, Geely CK2. What makes it worth the noise?

Well, Geely as a brand is worth the noise. And for the new Geely CK2, it gives us joy to have in the stable another version. CK2 1.3GL is an improvement on the former CK 1, which is our fastest selling model because it meets the requirement of an average Nigerian. Bearing in mind the purchasing power, the new Geely is just some few thousand naira above the CK 1. Then, looking at the structural improvement, there are lots of changes. When you look at the interior of the car, the quality of the materials that have been used is much better than what it used to be. The fabric used is easier to clean, while the body boasts of impact repelling material. The CK 2 comes with a lot of things which take the car to the level we can say it is satisfactory.

What is your market projection for the car?

We are looking at over 200 per cent growth in volume because as we speak, the orders we have on ground is about 90 per cent before the final unveiling.

And what do you think is responsible for that?

Actually, as I told you, when you give people what they want, they always want to say ‘thank you’ by being dedicated to the brand. We’ve won the confidence of the average Nigerian users. We’ve represented ourselves very well in giving cars that have performed well, that are durable, the parts are affordable. What else do you expect the man to do but to commend you as far as automobile is concerned. So they are saying, ‘hey! Hyra Motors, we stick to you,’ because the troubles they’ve gone through in the past, Hyra Motors has been able to fill that gap. Nobody wants to change the winning team.

How many cars did Geely sell globally in 2008, and what fraction of it accrued to Hyra in Nigeria?

At this point, it’s like somebody is asking how much profit you made last year. Anyway, Geely has done very well. From the Far East to core Asia, to Europe and Africa, Geely has been able to do well over 45,000 units. And then you see, for us in Nigeria, we are proud to say our contribution to that is commendable compared to the chance we have.

How do you intend establishing dominance of your brands in luxury sport car segment?

The main thing is that we are not driven by passion that is not traceable to reality, but one that is traceable to reality. We would always try not to be left behind in the technology advancement of our auto industry.

Will you allow Nigerian reviewers to test drive your cars?

Sure, we do. In fact, a team of journalists left my office a while ago, and they were here to test drive one of our new models. Well, I believe it is necessary to establish all the parameters, whether it is on emission or transmission. Due to the bad state of most Nigerian roads, whatever facts that might have been recorded for any vehicle, will definitely be attacked by the Nigerian context, which necessitates the need for Nigerian auto journalists to test drive.

What is the company’s corporate service to your customers for the support given over time?

We’ve shown tremendous appreciation to customers in the area of sponsorship by taking part in what they do.

As a dealer and user, what are the challenges one faces in the process of owning a car in this country?

Well, it is very unfortunate that the major challenge people face is that of finance. Now that people desire brand new cars, their paycheck is not brand new. But we have a stop gap measure which is not tailored to satisfy individuals, because you have to be very careful not to incur bad debt. It is called the Hyra Auto Leasing Facility for corporate bodies. We allow them to make down payment of 40 per cent on the value of any car they want, then we spread the balance over six months. This facility is currently being enjoyed by corporate bodies that don’t want to tie their cash from the acquisition of their cars.

And the result?

It has paid off. More orders are coming in, although we have to screen them. All you need is to present a copy of your Certificate of Incorporation, guaranteed from your directors and some other arrangements. The main thing is that at the end of the day, with the presentation of your post dated cheques, you get your facility.

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NIGERIAN ENTERPRENEURS SCARE: GOVERNMENT POLICIES THAT DESTROYED BIG-TIME BUSINESSES

Only the naïve entrepreneur in Nigeria is excited with the contemplation of floating a manufacturing concern. The wise ones, schooled in the experiences they have had to contend with in the ever changing dynamics of manufacturing and other investments tasks in the production lines have fled the scene to the shelter of trading and merchandising. This, for good reasons. The challenges of conducting manufacturing and related production activities in the country, though, besetting, are however benign when compared with the ease with which government oft volte-face on policies and action stamp out the promises or existence of a once upon-a-time manufacturing plant.
In this review, we track some of the celebrated industrial concerns that had been heckled into non-existence by government policy summersaults over the years, official actions or inaction that have become the scare of entrepreneurs.
Presidential Initiative on Cassava Production
In 2002, cassava suddenly gained national prominence following the pronouncement of a Presidential Initiative. The intent of the Initiative was to use cassava as the engine of growth in Nigeria. In the ordinary sense, the perception is that cassava is indigenous to the country, official statistics claim that Nigeria grows more cassava than any other country in the world with a production capacity of about 34 million metric tones a year.
The Presidential Initiative on Cassava production and export was initiated in the year 2002. The goal of the initiative was to promote cassava as a foreign exchange earner in Nigeria as well as to satisfy national demand. The challenge of the initiative was to make Nigeria earn 5 billion US dollars from value added cassava exports by 2007. The objectives of the Presidential Initiative on Cassava was to expand primary processing and utilisation to absorb the national cassava production glut, identify and develop new market opportunities for import substitution and export stimulate increased private sector investment in the establishment of export oriented Cassava industries, ensure the availability of clean (disease free) planting materials targeted at the emerging industries, increase the yield, productivity and expand annual production to achieve global cassava competitiveness, advocate for conducive policy and institutional reforms for the development of the Nigerian cassava sector and integrate the rural poor especially women and youths into the mainstream of the national economy.
The federal government under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo backed the initiative with funding support while encouraging banks and other government and multilateral agencies to drive the initiative through funding support.
Suffice to say that in response to the government drive, an industry revolving around cassava plantation and processing started emerging. Opportunity seekers were encouraged to invest because of the obvious outward flourish of government. The signs were obvious too, under the Presidential Initiative on Cassava, Nigeria mandated millers to integrate 10 percent cassava flour to wheat flour in making bread, a percentage mix of ethanol in refined petroleum motor spirit (petrol) in the nation’s refineries. These were moves aimed at increasing the utilization of the tuber crop.
Other statistics pointed to the profitability of entrepreneurial engagement in cassava related activities; the domestic demand for cassava starch is about 130,000 tonnes per annum and 200,000 tonnes per annum for high quality cassava flour. The domestic demand for ethanol is 180 million litres – all ethanol is imported In Nigeria. None of these markets are being satisfied by local supplier even till today in Nigeria.
Individual entrepreneurs were attracted into the field and the buzz made the rounds of great things happening in cassava production in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the fancy was just for a time, even before the exit of the Obasanjo’s regime, there were obvious signs of government distancing itself from the clarion call to cassava farming and processing, soon after the assumption of office of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua, immediate successor to Obasanjo, federal government articulation of the cassava initiative lost its din.
The lacklustre enforcement of the policy of mandating flour millers to integrate 10 percent cassava flour to wheat flour in making bread and other confectionaries were altogether abandoned. Of course, the idealism of the refinery blend of ethanol with petrol had been a mirage according to entrepreneurs that had found their ways into cassava processing. “The nation’s refineries only functioned epileptically, rather, the bulk of refined products are being imported from foreign refineries, so the idea of the ethanol could not have worked out at all.” A cassava processor said
The government of Yar’Adua nailed the fledgling sector by abandoning the ethos of the Obasanjo initiated presidential initiative on cassava initiative. Importations of cassava processed by products and all have been allowed in the country with import tariff of 20 percent value.
“Apparently, this has sounded the death knell for that endeavour.” Another cassava processor said. “Local conditions have made it difficult to produce and process cassava, the thinking was to protect the industry until such a time that it would be able to compete favourably with importation but I understand that government decided to make this reversal because of the need to mitigate increased food prices. But then, we think that it would have been better to strengthen cassava production and processing in the country to boost food supply and to earn more income for government through export.
In the final analysis, the fact is that most entrepreneurs have had their investment and efforts gone up in smoke, another promise subverted by inconsistent government policy shift.
NIGERIAN LAMP PLC
One of the outstanding business endeveavour the recently demised Chief Beyioku Adebowlale of the Adebowale Store fame would be remembered for is his Nigerian Lamp Industry Plc. A courageous indigenous effort to play in the main stream manufacturing sector, when Adebowale built the Nigerian Lamp plant in his native Epe in Lagos State, it was reported to be the first of its kind in Africa. The plant was equipped to manufacture light bulbs and fluorescent.
It is reported that Adebowale was encouraged to make a foray into the manufacturing effort away from his electronic products trading concern in the Adebowale Electronic Store by the positive outlook of government incentive for indigenous manufacturers to commit to the economy in the 1980s.
Unfortunately, by the time the plant came on stream, it was like hitting dirt on first day of commission, government had made a reversal on policy, rather than protect local industries, government lifted the restricted importation of bulbs and fluorescents tube and other lamp forms. The market place was immediately flooded with Asian and Far East Asian countries bulb brands, which were cheaper though low in quality.
Nigerian Lamp, unfortunately, had become a publicly quoted company, Nigerians had subscribed to is initial public offer, but with the influx of cheaper products and brands into the market, the company’s operation became blighted and soon after became literally comatose. The company that never took off for operation eventually was placed under a receiver manager. This officially announced the demise of the once upon a Time promising company.
ROKANA INDUSTRIES PLC
Rokana Industries, had, back in the late 1980s caught the attention of the dentistry world with its production of the uniquely styled Jordan tooth brush. The market penetration of the Rokana brand of tooth brush was fast and quite domineering. It is reported that in its first year of introduction, the Rokana brand had pushed other imported brands to the back of the shelves. Jodan tooth brush was, considered the authentic Nigerian brand though the brand is a British franchise.
The dominance of the brand won’t endure for long however, because the Federal Government felt no need to specifically outlaw the activities of importers who would rather import fake Jordan tooth brush into Nigeria than to import other brands.
This more or less killed the vibrancy of the brand in the market place, it is however to the credit of the endearing qualities of the brand that it still subsists till day despite the continuous import of its counterfeit. The limitation is that Rokana, the producing company which is also a publicly quoted company floated by the immediate past commerce minister in the Yar’Adua’s cabinet Mr. Charles Ugwuh, has remained more or less moribund on the stock exchange’s price listing as investors ignored it even when the stock market was upbeat.
DOYIN INDUSTRIES
Doyin Industries is still a flourishing concern, this would not have been so if the man behind the manufacturing concern had not been well grounded in the ways of manufacturing in Nigeria. Of course he had been badly burnt from his engagement with manufacturing.
Samuel Adedoyin, the man behind Doyin Industries started out in business as a trader and he made quite a success of it that he diversified into manufacturing of household and food items and body care products. By 1996 he mobilized credit to build an awesome factory to manufacture his company’s range of products, and he was daring enough to take on multi-national companies. Travails soon ensued, electricity limitation to power the factory and the credit sourcing for funding the factory project became a burden, the market was also flooded with cheaper products from Asian countries.
The operations of the company soon became hamstrung, credit issues from City Express Bank became a public embarrassment for the Kwara State born industrialist, eventually, a production line of the industry had to close down and workers lay off.
DUNLOP
Dunlop Nigeria Plc is the latest of once buoyant companies to hit the dirt. The company had endured the harsh economic environment and had over the years returned impressive earnings to investors in the company being a public quoted company a greater majority of 95 per cent of the company’s shares belongs to several state governments, public companies and no fewer than 93,000 private Nigerians.
In 1991, it acquired majority shareholding in PAMOL (Nigeria) Limited, a rubber producing company to ensure uninterrupted supply of the right quality natural rubber, a major raw material in tyre manufacturing.
The company pioneered the radial car tubeless tyres in West Africa; produced the first crossply tyre in tubeless in Nigerian market; was the first Nigerian tyre company to hold the E.C.E 30 Certificate, an export requirement for car tyres to Europe; and first manufacturing company in Africa (beside South Africa) to hold the ISO 9002 certification.
It would soon be revealed during the former minister of commerce visit to Dunlop factory late last year that the company was merely struggling to stay afloat. The managing director of the company had complained about infrastructural deficiency, especially energy (electricity and recently, gas outages) and import duty regimes, inconsistent tax regimes which combine to place local manufacturers at significant disadvantage.
A major gripe of the company was its N8 billion expansion into the Heavy Truck Radial segment which was frustrated by reversal of government policy on tariff for imported truck/bus tyres from 40 per cent to 10 per cent at the beginning of 2007. This according to the company’s officials, created unfair and inequitable advantages for importers of finished tyres.
The dichotomy between tariff for car tyres (50 per cent) and Truck/Bus tyres (10 per cent) is said to have been abused by importers, both in terms of tariff and haulage evasion.
The situation confers undue advantages on importation rather than local manufacturing, now, the company has declared its incapacity to continue manufacturing activities in the country. Unofficial source said it would resort to tyre importation with grave implications for the rubber from its subsidiary, Pamol.
FAMAD (FORMERLY BATA) PLC and LENNARDS NIGERIA PLC
Before the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme, Bata’s ubiquitous outlets were the ultimate in foot wear shopping for all ages, Bata with its lesser cousin, Lennards Nigeria Plc. After 1986, the promise of flourishing was effectively shut out of the footwear manufacturing outfits. Government could not stem smuggling activities.
Synthetic shoes from Dubai and other Asian countries and high quality leather foot wear from Europe smuggled large scale into Nigeria particularly suffocated indigenous production. Ironically, the nation’s export in their raw forms the materials needed for footwear manufacturing. The products are exported, refined, recycled and packaged abroad to be sent back to Nigeria as import.
Till date, no appropriate government policy has addressed the inadequacy in the sector that has turned FAMAD (BATA) and LENNARDS into moribund companies.
VOLKSWAGEN AND PAN NIGERIA
In the 1970s Nigerian was the centre of attraction in the African continent with its hosting of the Volkswagen and Peugeot Automobile Nigeria plants. Nigerians, before the economic deluge of the last quarter of 1986 were sure of brand new cars proudly assembled in Nigeria. The assembly plants were supposed to be transitional in the nation’s march to becoming a full fledged vehicle manufacturing country.
The dream was cut short by government policy. Government steel rolling mills could not produce an ounce to support the desire to attain full production capacity, just as the value of the naira had suddenly depreciated in the years running to the close of the 1980 decade, and government back in the days, unofficially gave the go ahead for the importation of second hand vehicle (Tokunbo) at outrageously low tariff without consideration for age of vehicle to be imported.

NISSAN MURANO: THE LOVE IN TOWN

A macho man will surely turn green with envy because there is something else in town that appeal and command the attention of the female gender. Nissan Murano, new darling in town, has gotten nothing that is left undone. With inspired sculpted curves, well crafted interior, and advanced technology, this is definitely something to chew!

After skipping a year, that is the 2008 model, Murano is Nissan’s midsize crossover that enjoys redesign since its first introduction in 2003. Named after an elegant sculpted glass art that comes from the islands near Venice, the two in one SUV combines the desirable attributes of a truck-based SUV, such as cargo capacity, ride height and available all-wheel drive, with the refinement, handling and comfort of a sedan.

The whole load is being pulled by a horse equated power of 265 version of Nissan’s VQ-Series 3.5litre V6 engine and receives the second-generation Xtronic CVT with Adaptive Shift Control. It consumes fuel at average approximately 18 and 23 miles per gallon in the city and highway respectively. Having the same template as D platform as the 2007 Altima, which provides a solid foundation and new lighter suspension components with increased stiffness. And with the availability of a dual-panel power sliding moonroof and second-row skylight, a new foldaway cargo organizer, heated front and rear seats, power liftgate, and power return rear seat. Nothing is forgotten in the production of the sport utility vehicle!

Accidents happen. Nissan put the safety of its occupants into consideration with the presence of driver, passenger and side airbags, although, the crash test and the total weight of the SUV are averagely impressive. If all driving codes are well obeyed, I think four stars is neither a bad grade for crash and rollover tests, nor five stars to get, in front and rear side tests!

Possible drawback in the functionality of the SUV could be the recommendation of premium fuel and its limited rear visibility, but not to worry, this is taken care of with the presence of RearView digital monitor feature.

Although the reliability data for this vehicle could not be gotten as at press time, Japan-based manufacturers are still tops in dependability and reliability while European models scored below average. And guess what the good news is, Nissan Murano has its parts assembled in the Asian country!

FRAUDULENT CREDITS HAUNT NIGERIAN BANKS -Industry Sources Warn

Despite continued assurances made by Central Bank of Nigeria’s Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo restating the healthy state of Nigerian banks, reliable banking industry sources have indicated otherwise.

The sources warn that many commercial banks’ risks exposure is quite high, this, the sources averred is responsible for the growing tension in banking operations in the country.

“Of course, most banks keep issuing spectacular financial results, declaring huge profit after tax. But we can tell you that all you see are mere accounts engineering for which financial sector regulatory authorities should be held responsible.

“It is unfortunate that the auditing processes of companies have not been criminalized, if they are, all the shenanigans happening in the banking sector would have been exposed. We can tell you that several banks have lost there shareholders funds. The same capitalised funds that the CBN Governor is hailing as the proactive measure of consolidation that have supposedly saved the Nigerian banking industry.

“But have you ever imagined to the dividends several banks declare at their year-end? If you look at their books properly, they morphed the supposed dividends in their assets account. Yet what the requirement is that funds attributable to dividend should be set aside and, indeed, forwarded to the registrars for onward delivery to shareholders.

What some of the banks do, however, is to transfer some funds to the registrars, which usually are under their direct supervision because they are the banks’ subsidiaries. The registrars just make a show of posting dividends, but then, what you will soon hear is unclaimed dividends. The truth is that the dividend warrants were not dispatched in the first sense.

“Again, So many concerned Nigerians are looking to commercial banks exposure to the stock market as the next likely cause of distress in the Nigerian banking industry, yes, we agree that the stock market may be a possibility, but more than the eventuality we expect from continued worries arising from banks’ risk exposure in the capital market is the heavy exposure to fraudulent credits granted to some highly rated Nigerian and foreign businessmen that have become more or less moribund.

“We can tell you of a celebrated businessman who owes several banks a total of about N412billion debt and as the days pass it is becoming increasingly impossible to recover the sum from him. Besides, there is another gentleman who recently stormed the petroleum products marketing sector. He secured a facility of more than N50billion to finance his diesel supply business and joined other top players in the market to slash price for competitive advantage. But now, the situation have turned bad for him, again it is becoming increasingly bad for him.

“A Nigerian branch of the group of companies owned by an Asian ranked in the list of the world’s ten richest people had on the strength of the track record of the wealthy individual behind the company wracked up about N92billion facility form different Nigerian banks. For this individual, the slide in the global financial market has badly affected his business empire that he is to talking about official bankruptcy. With such a situation what is obvious is that it would become near impossible to repay the facilities secured from Nigerian banks.

“We qualify most of the facilities so secured by these businessmen as fraudulent because the processes of securing are often compromised. We have investigated how conniving accounts officers of some of these banks compromise the whole process of risks and collateral valuation. These account officers are usually promised a percentage of the amount to be loaned out; they forward favourable reports to the management, again, there are members of the management who are insiders to these compromised processes; they easily approve the reports for their personal gains.

“What all these boil down to is that if the CBN Examiners properly conduct the review of the books of most of these banks as required, the revelations will be shocking. On this basis, we want to warn that depositors’ funds with several Nigerian banks are at risk. People should start becoming cautious as they relate with their banks. Just a small slip could cause a lot of damages to depositors’ funds.