Ayo Alonge, [email protected]
Eniola Fayose is the Managing Director and Chief Executive oFFICER (CEO) of O’Naphtali Company Limited, a startup that is into flexographic label printing, product and authentication labels, industrial/security printing among others.
With a staff strength of over 200 workers, Fayose, in this interview, posited that local production can yield high returns on investments, especially when the basic amenities that pose a threat to startups are adequately catered for by the government. For the serial entrepreneur, made in Nigeria bra nds are the ideal for any investor.
He, however, reveals the intricacies of his line of business, while also lending advice to prospective entrepreneurs and budding investors.
We have since upgraded our services. We now do flexographic label printing for pharmaceutical labels and the scratch card plant is much bigger now. We also do product and authentication labels, industrial/security printing and many more. We have employed over 200 people who go to people for scratch-and-win promo. We could have employed more but for some challenges. We can conveniently employ 1,000 people and we are achieving that very soon. Our products and services can be seen more on www.onaphtali.com.ng. I go on acquiring knowledge just to make myself better positioned with trends in business. Well, in education, I still see myself as far below a lot of sons of Ekiti. I remember that my HOD in school who is also my uncle told me that with a university degree, you are just a little above an illiterate. You know that’s what an average Ekiti indigene is known for. In the industry, I have found out that if you are not up to date, you will be lagging behind and that’s why you see me bagging different certifications, just to be up to date with latest trends in the industry. I am a fellow of the Institute of Quality Management Institute (FQMI); fellow, Institute of Direct Marketing of Nigeria, a council member and a nominee for Presidency for The Confederation of African Direct Marketing Association to preside over all direct marketing associations in Africa. I am also a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Cost Management Accountants of Nigeria (FCMA) as well as a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Brand Management (FIBN). Then again, I got an MBA from Netherlands. I must confess that we have been sailing on smoothly but not without the corresponding challenges.
On this particular aspect of the business, that is the scratch card printing hologram application, we started in 2004, when the government banned the importation of scratch cards, asking us to look inwards. I did not have the needed funds but I realised I could actually do this locally by tapping into my knowledge base as a Java and SQL certified programmer. I then partnered with a friend. For the first order we got, we used local inputs and that was how the demand started coming in gradually. I started small, but then, I can’t start comparing myself to some others, because I wouldn’t know what others have passed through, but it’s more of determination and dedication. In spite of all the challenges, you are glad you are able to keep climbing up the ladder.
You must always put a lot into consideration. The major challenge we face is power. Ours is an industry that thrives on power. Other challenges that stare us in the face include unstable exchange rate and importation of raw materials, because most of the materials we use are petroleum byproducts. The problem arises when the necessary infrastructure doesn’t allow those that would have started up to do so, maybe due to one unfavourable government policy or so. For us, we keep launching into different possibilities. We don’t rest on our oars and we keep trying to do better. For instance, there is a level of scratch cards usage that hasn’t been explored and that’s the direction we have just delved into, apart from scratch-and-win promos, telecoms cards, examination online registration scratch cards, and so on.
It’s a growing industry. Another of our printing plant is moving on well. That focuses on the hologram, authentication and graphics for pharmaceutical companies and other sectors too. So, many aspect of scratch card production is very ripe, right now, but then, the potential is yet to be fully satiated. If there is ease of importation of inputs we can always do better. Only that it’s capital intensive. It could be much better but we are getting there. A lot is happening already.
Lessons for entrepreneurs
Number one is that once you have a plan B or an alternative, you have already failed. Focus creates blindness and once you fix your eyes on other plans, you have failed. You must be ready to always give it what it takes, when you know the value of little beginnings. At each stage you pass through, you must avoid cutting corners and by that, you gradually move to success. Failure arises when people start cutting corners. Stop comparing Nigeria to America. We are not there yet. And when God is by your side in your youth, you can overcome all the challenges on the way. The business is capital intensive but can be very profitable. The future is very robust for it.
Made in Nigeria products
You see, I laugh when people say China produces more of substandard products. That’s not true. It’s what you want that you get. The problem is that quality seems to be eluding Nigeria because we don’t have a solid internal quality control regulatory system. When we have a parameter for measuring quality, there is no reason anyone would not patronise made in Nigeria products. I am a staunch believer in Nigerian products and that’s why I have not left this country to invest elsewhere. We have to pour in our energy here so as to get adequate returns on investments. As a country, we can begin to address the goal of promoting made in Nigeria brands through an efficient quality control system, enacting right laws and policies, adequate empowerment, creating an enabling environment, which includes helping SMEs to thrive. That’s how we can get there.