By Vivian Onyebukwa
Every business has its secrets. In this interview, Chief Cajethan Amadi, Chairman, C. A. Amadi and Sons Nig. Ltd went down memory lane on how he found himself in motor battery business. He also spoke of his challenges and how he surmounted them.
How did you venture into the business?
I was mainly a general motor spare parts dealer before I concentrated on motor batteries after an apprenticeship with late Pius Ndedigwe, a good friend who brought me to Lagos. When customers came to my shop, they asked for motor batteries which initially weren’t in my stock.
So, I decided to stock them and within the space of two days, I sold them and made little profit. The main distributor of Bosch battery then in Nigeria was UTC, with Mike Ezetendu of Tendus Motors Nig. Ltd and Emanko, Pius Commercial Stores Ltd as their retailers. They supplied me regularly.
Then I travelled to the East one day in 1985, and as I was returning to Lagos driving alone, I got to Ore, and saw someone that parked his car by the road side, a Peugeot 504 car with a woman and two children. I passed them, but later changed my mind and came back and asked them what the problem was. His name is Mr Chukwuka Mathias from Asaba.
He told me that his car broke down. The clutch plate and disk got burnt. I asked him where he was going, and he said he was going to Lagos. I was alone in the car with little loads like garri. So, I decided to help him by driving his wife and their two children to Lagos. I also asked the man whether he had enough money to take care of himself and he said no. I gave him N60.00 and he collected my complementary card. When we got to Lagos, I had to take his wife and the two children to Ijesha where they resided. The woman thought I was a spirit when I dropped them and turned back to go. They were looking at me thinking I was a spirit. It was later they told me this.
So, after about two days, the man came to my shop at Palm Avenue, Mushin, Lagos. When he arrived, I was driving out of the shop. I could not even recognise him again. So, he asked me if I was not Mr. Amadi, and I said I am and we laughed over it. He came into my shop and saw few units of Bosch batteries and asked if I deal on batteries, and I said yes. And he said God is wonderful. I did not understand what he meant by that.
He was speechless for some minutes when he saw few units of batteries. He now asked me how I used to get my Bosch batteries and I told him. He laughed and told me that he was a Sales Manager at UTC. He told me the people I was buying from would henceforth buy from me. He took me to register with UTC and I started getting batteries in bulk. Gradually, I focused on motor batteries.
How lucrative is the business?
Motor batteries business is good business, because they’re essential, but as a dealer, you have to be straight forward and honest. We are talking of corruption, but corruption is everywhere. If you take a battery that is supposed to be 80 amps and label it 100 amps, you are dishonest. People come from all over the country to patronise us because of our honesty. That is why the motto of our business is “It Pays To Be Honest”. As you do that, you would not be very rich, but you would not beg for food.
What are the challenges in the business?
Someone once supplied us substandard products and as we were selling, customers rejected them. It almost ruined my business, because they came in a queue returning the batteries they bought after two or three weeks. The batteries were imported from China, but with prayers we were able to overcome.
What has kept you in business?
Sincerity and honesty. Today in Nigeria, 70% of battery dealers are dishonest and they manipulate others in order to maximise profit, but it is not in my character. I am always satisfied with the little profit I make.
Can you recall any bad moment?
Yes, my worst moment was sometime in 1985 when I was duped. Someone came to tell me that they had Bosch plugs. They took me to Tin Can Island, Apapa, Lagos, opened a container and I saw it. They started taking money from me until it amounted to N46,000.
One day, they told me that they were bringing the goods and that I should sweep my warehouse. I hired a warehouse and waited for a whole day and they never came. They were four in number. When I went back to them, they told me that they did not know what I was talking about. They were arrested and detained for nearly one month.
Eventually, they bribed their way and were released. I was going where they were detained and they kept telling me those fraudsters were inside the cell, not knowing they had been released. That was how I lost the money.
How has the recession affected your business?
It has seriously affected my business, because the general language today is dollar scarcity, which has affected the price of everything.
What’s your advice to those who want to go into the business?
They should ensure that they don’t manipulate others to make profit. Battery business is good enough but you must be sure to sell quality products always.