Doing business in Nigeria has never been an easy prospect, in view of unfriendly government policies, hostile environment and many attendant problems. The situation becomes worse when your business is manufacturing, as many in this sector of the economy have closed shops and sought survival in other areas.
But this is not the case with a young entrepreneur, Lawrence Ngene, the Chief Executive Officer of No Limits Furniture, Jos, Plateau State. He says he has the government in part, to thank for the change of fortunes in his business.
“The furniture business is very lucrative now, no doubt about that especially if one knows what they are doing. Ironically, the government has also indirectly encouraged we, local manufacturers, by increasing the tariff on imported furniture. So now, our products can compete favourably with the imported ones.
“Right now, every home in Nigeria needs one piece of furniture or the other; there is hardly a home without some pieces of furniture.
“Yes the economy might be harsh, but we have been scaling through, by adopting various strategies: producing high-quality furniture that can stand the test of time, making our pricing very affordable for all, bringing up contemporary and unique designs, providing sales promo during festive periods – these and many more are some of the strategies we use to try to break even in the industry,” he said.
Ngene who studied Business Administration at University of Jos said he first opened his showroom in 2011 in Jos noted emphatically that the pendulum has swung in favour of the local furniture manufacturers, adding that he foresees a bright future for the furniture business.
He said: “The future for furniture business in Nigeria is very bright; people are beginning to see the gold mine in it. Even people who have no idea of the business are venturing into it with their money. The government too is also encouraging the industry by imposing high tariffs on imported furniture; but again more needs to be done by the government in the area of power, and other infrastructure.
“Dearth of infrastructure, especially power, is a major setback for virtually all manufacturing firms in Nigeria.
For example, the amount of money I spend on gas for factory purposes is extremely draining. This is a major challenge to us, but we are hoping things would get better in the future.
“As for the average Nigerian attitude towards local furniture, honestly it’s very encouraging; our market, for now, is local, and we are getting patronage from our fellow Nigerians too. And we expect more and more patronage; I can see in the near future that foreign furniture will soon have little or no patronage.”
Unlike many who delved into the business for investment sake, Lawrence Ngene says he was born into the furniture business. He says his grooming for the business started at a tender age in his father’s local carpentry workshop.
“I was born into it,” he says.
“My dad was a local carpenter who toiled by the roadside; so during my primary and secondary school days, each time I closed from school, I always headed for the workshop to help my dad. So gradually from there, I developed an interest in the business.
“As the days wore on, I took interest and became good at drawings and painting in school; so those became added advantage to me. It helped my type of furniture; it is one that requires thinking out of the box and being very creative.
“My breakthrough was after I finished my secondary school; I was at home for about eight years, and that was the period I became fully active in it.
“After I got my first showroom, in 2011, I decided to go back to school – The University of Jos – to read Business Administration. I was combining both studies and business at the same time.
“Yea, and after my NYSC, I had the time I needed to face my furniture business, and that was how I got to where I am now,” he added.