Ayo Alonge, [email protected]
Arun Ghai is the Managing Director of Agro Allied Development Enterprises Limited, a firm that specialises in large fish merchandise. The company is also into other agro allied ventures.
According to Ghai, Nigeria has the potential to meet business expectations of entrepreneurs, despite high level bureaucracy, high interest rate and weak business policies that pose challenges to the growth of SMEs in the country.
The Indian entrepreneur, spoke with Daily Sun on the way out of these myriad of challenges.
I am from India but I have been in this country for about 20 years now. I love this country so much because it is granting me so much success and love. The people are very good and cooperative. They seem to understand the sector of the business economy we have found ourselves. Basically, I studied the atmosphere and slowly came in. My hobby has always been to travel around and when I came and saw the opportunity the country has to offer, I just chose to establish here. We are in the Agro Allied sector. As a company, we started with cocoa business after which we delved into importation of fishes into Nigeria. We have also delved into the power sector and there are other businesses we do in the country.
Scope of investment
We do business in so many sectors. We have invested in so many sectors. We only need this country to make the policies for us to succeed in business. Without the policies, you cannot succeed and we can say that we can achieve a lot, if we face other sectors. We deal with specialised people in the different sectors; people who have got the experience. We also deal with institutes and that makes us progress.
We build a relationship with farmers to sustain farming as an activity. We only need the sustainable policies which will match international standards. Indian government is not usually far away from health and technology and that is why today, the country is doing great along that line. The major diseases that affect farming can also be cornered if we have the right technology in place.
X-raying business policies
We have to first look at the strength of the nation. We have doctors, lawyers and other experts, and we only need to consult them for suitable advice on certain policies for agriculture where we can consult technocrats and some experts who would strengthen us. Nigeria has the potential to meet that expectation. You will soon have the sectors strengthened and you only need to discuss with farmers and see where their strength lies. With that, things would work out fine.
Workforce and entrepreneurship
It is very simple. We only understand the system. It is all about understanding the system, else, you cannot do business in Nigeria. It is not about reading books from the colleges. It is about understanding the polices of government and you are fine and at home in business. So far, we have been able to employ well over 600 people. We employ people that can develop themselves and make them go and grow themselves within a certain time.
We employ you, train you for a certain time and after working with us, you are free to go if you want. That makes them successful in life. When you make good policies, it will rub off in growth on the economy and the company. The youth need the opportunity and the government must bring it through the technology.
The challenges are in all sectors. First is about government’s policies which is usually very slow. Bureaucracy is the main challenge we face from government. Another is that the interest on loans is very huge in this country. The system is not running as smooth as we have in India. In India, we have the ministry that gives loans to companies and government rests assured that employment opportunities are coming. Land is often given for free and tax is first done away with. Whatever you are making, nobody asks you for taxes until later.
That encourages investors to troop into the country. The global economic meltdown is affecting everybody and we are having our fair share of it. CBN has not been friendly with the distribution of the dollars and inflation rate is very high too. GDP is also on zero degrees. My own is very simple. Don’t buy the products, just buy technology. With that, you are buying growth into the economy.
Addressing import duties
That can be addressed too. I feel that this country can even stop importation completely. Let us bring in the technology instead and everything else can be sourced here. Let us buy the technology. Small scale enterprises are necessary for economic growth. India does not joke with that and that ranges from pharmaceuticals, food, and the rest sectors.
Fish importation and sales
Fish is rich in proteins and that is good for all human beings. Without it, nobody can survive. I see the deep seas all around Nigeria and no needs to continue to export fishes from overseas. The technology for fishing is very effective in Malaysia and if we can take a cue from that, it would be fine for Nigeria. It is very possible for the Nigerian government to stop the importation of fishes into the country but not now. Maybe in the next seven to eight year when you must have imported the technology. This is not just with fish importation but can be applied in other sectors too. The technology improves the functionality of your senses and brains.
Advice for Nigerian entrepreneurs
I challenge them to coordinate the youths. In India, you see entrepreneurs coordinating the youths and giving them specific trainings for the specific sectors which is useful for the growth of the country. Investors would troop in to create jobs if the needed technology is available.
Investors would only need to go into a freelance agreement with the government, build the industries and employ people. Government should sit down to discuss with investors and unemployment would suddenly diminish. For me, if I have my way, I will continue to invest in Nigeria. Don’t envy other countries because they have their own challenges that they are dealing with.
Your country is blessed with everything and you people don’t know. You people don’t have earthquake and tsunami. You have harmattan which fertilises food produce. You are also blessed with abundant rain. I look around the world and I see that Nigeria is the most blessed. Give people inducers which will encourage investors to come in. Just make that happen and with time, you see the country grow.
India versus Nigeria
There are specific policies obtainable in my home country that we don’t have in place in Nigeria. First is the live equipment which is not available now here. The major tractors for farming too are not available.
Crops grow easily here but where is the technology? Also, even when the farmer does not know timing and seasons for certain crops. This situation is very critical and it all requires good quality in farming. There are just certain policies we need to adopt.