Cole­man is ‘Dan­gote’ of ca­bles in Africa – MD

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS -

What business ethics can we bor­row from Cole­man in the last four decades?

Cole­man Tech­ni­cal In­dus­tries was reg­is­tered in 1975 as an in­dus­trial trad­ing com­pany by the chair­man Asi­waju Solomon Kay­ode Onafowokan. Shortly after, the business looked at con­vert­ing into man­u­fac­tur­ing of cool­ers be­cause the prod­ucts brands it was deal­ing with were Cole­man cool­ers and fridges. Un­for­tu­nately that did not work be­cause once the part­ner no­tices you want to be­come a lo­cal man­u­fac­turer, he is not as en­thu­si­as­tic as deal­ing with you when you were just their trad­ing part­ner.

Sys­tem­at­i­cally we moved into other things and by 1998 we ven­tured into ca­ble man­u­fac­tur­ing. We had some hitches at the be­gin­ning which led to chang­ing man­age­ment by 2001, 2002 which was when my­self and our ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, En­gi­neer Michael Onafowokan, who is head of tech­ni­cal pro­duc­tions and the rest of the team started com­ing in.

In 2009, the com­pany re­ported that it had grown Mr Ge­orge Olu­tope Onafowokan, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of Cole­man Wire and Ca­bles in this in­ter­view with speaks about man­ag­ing suc­ces­sion is­sues, solv­ing the Nige­rian ca­ble needs and the forex chal­lenge for man­u­fac­tur­ing. Ex­cerpt:

from a N50 mil­lion as­set base to N5 bil­lion, what has hap­pened be­tween then and now?

Be­tween 2009 and to­day, Cole­man has be­come a true re­flec­tion of the Nige­rian dream. In 2009, we de­liv­ered a pro­ject that no Nige­rian ca­ble com­pany had done in the past, it was the big­gest in our time and we could have ap­plied the break pedal at that point and make it our pin­na­cle but we sought what next and moved on. In 2014, we opened the first high volt­age fac­tory in Nige­ria and in West Africa. We be­came the first black African com­pany to achieve that feat, I used that word on pur­pose be­cause South Africa is a black coun­try but they achieved it when the white ruled.

In 2015, we achieved an­other mile­stone with the as­sis­tance of Bank of In­dus­try. We be­came the most up-to­date house wiring fac­tory, and we also be­came the first coax­ial ( Tele­vi­sion ca­ble) pro­ducer in West Africa. We also be­came the first pro­duc­ers of cat 5 and cat 6 net­work ca­ble in West Africa.

By 2015, turnover wise, we had grown al­most five folds. In terms of ca­pac­ity, the business had grown al­most ten folds. We wanted to solve the Nige­rian ca­ble prob­lem be­cause as our chair­man would al­ways say, no­body aimed to be the Dan­gote of ca­bles. We de­cided as a team that the sky is the limit on what we do.

In 2009, we had 120 staff, to­day we are al­most 400 and still grow­ing. We run one shift with 400 and have an­other shift we are mov­ing to over the next cou­ple of months. Our fourth fac­tory is un­der con­struc­tion in Shagamu, Ogun State and we ex­pect an­other fac­tory some­where in the North in 2017. To­day, the value of the com­pany is well in the ex­cess of N25 bil­lion and still grow­ing.

I want to have ca­bles in Sokoto touch­ing the edge of the North­west, in Borno even with the cur­rent chal­lenge, Cal­abar and ev­ery part, the same way we have our bev­er­ages ev­ery­where in this coun­try. We are the first ca­ble com­pany to of­fi­cially start open­ing up de­pots.

We have ap­plied to the Fed­eral Cap­i­tal De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (FCDA) and said ‘please give us land, we will pay for the land’ but up till now we have not seen the suc­cess of the ap­pli­ca­tion. We want to put a fac­tory in Abuja if given the op­por­tu­nity and we are chal­leng­ing the gov­ern­ment that we can be the so­lu­tion to her power ca­ble, dis­tri­bu­tion ca­ble, house­hold ca­ble be­cause we ac­count for more than 50 per­cent of ca­ble prod­uct range in Nige­ria that are not pro­duced by our com­peti­tors be­cause we have taken bold steps beyond the con­ven­tion of profit and loss or ben­e­fits.

How has pe­cu­liar Nige­rian chal­lenge im­pacted your business?

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When we started, there was zero money. We had to go to the mar­ket our­selves, walk Alaba International, and con­vince distrib­u­tors to give us some money to buy raw ma­te­ri­als to pro­duce for that dis­trib­u­tor. So there were no free bees.

For any in­dus­tri­al­ist or per­son in man­u­fac­tur­ing, the sup­port of gov­ern­ment is meant to push that sec­tor. If these sup­ports had been there, a lot of peo­ple would have achieved more than they have no doubt. We are ben­e­fi­ciary of gov­ern­ment sup­port but not at the be­gin­ning. We started see­ing gov­ern­ment sup­port dur­ing the 2008/2009 eco­nomic melt­down.

Ge­orge O. Onafowokan, Cole­man MD

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