Ayo Alonge [email protected]
Princess Toyin Kolade is a well known entrepreneur who sits on a conglomerate in the country, and with scores of employees under her watch. She is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of a group of companies including Arikay Oil and Gas, Fisolak Royal Furniture Limited and Rashkol International Logistics Limited.
Kolade has stakes in virtually all major sectors of the economy, ranging from oil and gas, agriculture, manufacturing to maritime.
In this interview, the ace businesswoman opines that Nigeria is blessed with skilled manpower; hence, has the potential to be more self-reliant and spend less on importation. She adds that the recent free fall of the naira is a major challenge for importers and has been detrimental to growth of the economy and ease of doing business in the country. She fields other questions pertinent to entrepreneurship and small scale businesses.
As a group of companies with units like Fisolak Pharmacy Nigeria Limited, Arikay Oil and Gas, Fisolak Royal Furniture, Rashkol International Logistics Limited, we are into pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, importation of furniture and contract leasing. I think it is worthy of note to mention that as a major company in Nigeria, we do business with multinationals because we are a multinational too in our own right. I must add that we have contributed immensely to virtually all the major sectors of Nigeria’s economy, especially oil and gas and maritime.
Every business comes with its own challenges. In fact, the Nigerian situation is very challenging in itself. Anyway, God is always our strength. The most daunting of the numerous challenges we face is epileptic power supply. No business can thrive without steady power supply. We are also talking about recession today and on top of that, the exchange rate is skyrocketing daily.
How can you run your business profitably if the exchange rate isn’t stable? Power supply, at least, should be stable. We have skilled manpower, so we have the potential to be more self-reliant and spend less on importation. Anyway, this is not to cast any blame on the government of the day and I hope things get better very soon. Coping with the free fall of the naira is a major challenge for importers. That is very worrisome. We cannot continue to exchange N400 for one dollar because people are losing purchasing power already.
Already, we are working on producing locally. We are looking in that direction but such efforts can easily be frustrated if the operating environment is not conducive to business. Producing furniture locally, like other ventures, requires regular power supply. Also, as a stakeholder in the oil and gas sector, the country was once bedeviled by the menace of militants who blew up all the gas plants and pipelines in the Niger Delta. That was one major challenge we also faced as stakeholders in the oil and gas sector. We are already into farming too. We have partnership with major stakeholders in Kebbi and Osun states to produce rice and watermelon. We have also secured a large expanse of arable land in Ogun State. Have you ever been to Cotonou, just near us here? Go and see their farmlands and the way they take agriculture seriously and you will marvel.
The oil and gas sector is going through a lot, which may not even have been reported yet. We only hope that things stabilise very soon. The exchange rate and price per barrel are also issues that may have to be addressed if all stakeholders would agree with me and we can face the problem headlong. It is ignorance at work for people going into the business of oil and gas, while neglecting the other sectors. The oil and gas sector is dwindling now because oil price has drastically crashed in the international market.
Managing the challenges
We hope to have our own refinery like Aliko Dangote does. If our local refineries are working perfectly, as a country, we can easily stabilise and industrialise the economy. All will be done. We should also ensure we diversify by going into farming. It is not enough to talk about diversification. As a country, let us be proactive about diversifying the economy. We need to cooperate with the government and government too must be ready to collaborate with us, for business to thrive and for the country to regain its stability. That is the solution.
Quitting business is not the solution to the challenges we face today. Oil price has crashed and the sector has ceased to be juicy like it used to be. It is happening to even Russia, Ukraine and the rest of the world. You cannot compare Nigeria to developed countries. Most people even go about lying about the true situation of Nigeria. Turkey gained independence far long ago. We should only continue to pray for Nigeria. We need prayer to survive and I am the type that believes in the prosperity of this country.
Sustaining business’ growth
Our group of companies is indigenous. No matter what, we remain here. We can’t relocate to another country. We are indigenous. Any company that would relocate from Nigeria is probably not Nigerian enough. Most Nigerians are not patient. They suddenly want to be like Princess Kolade overnight or like Alakija, Jim Ovia, Mike Adenuga, Otudeko and other business moguls who own conglomerates in the country. Most people live above their means. When we opened our pharmaceutical company, we soon discovered that the company was not doing well and we needed to close it down for a while. I need to mention that the Nigerian Customs is really trying its best in the area of sustaining importation for us. There is no way you will have a problem with the Nigerian Customs if you declare the content of your container. I have never had any face-off with the Customs. Contraband goods are not tolerated and we know that. If you default, then you will find yourself in their net .
Yes, the rich in Nigeria are not helping matters. They make the money here and go abroad to invest. Anyway, they should not be blamed because most of them are not well groomed in the area of running a company successfully. You cannot compare us to Asians. Asians have the technology to start a company and make it grow but see what Dangote is doing, building a refinery for us. We equally have some Nigerians that can do so too. It is only for us to invest right.