“Dozzy Group started in 1980 as a very small trading company, that was into buying and selling of manufactured goods from within and outside the country.”
Amechi Ogbonna and Chinwendu Obienyi
Dr. Daniel Chukwudozie, an astute businessman, is the founding Chairman, Dozzy Group of Companies which started as an indigenous company and metamorphosed into a conglomerate under the name of Dozzy Nigeria Limited – dealing in belts and general goods imported from Europe and Asia.
As a workaholic and a man craving to explore new grounds in business, Dozie, who started his business career in international trading, later delved into the oil and gas industry.
He recently spoke to Daily Sun on his business pursuits, challenges confronting businesses in Nigeria and the need for Nigeria to look into its infrastructural development.
Dozzy Group started in 1980 as a very small trading company, that was into buying and selling of manufactured goods from within and outside the country.
As at then, we used to come from Onitsha to Lagos to get our goods with N5 and sometimes we would come for such transactions about three times a week.
However, in 1981, I conceived the idea to take the business to the international community and the United Kingdom (UK) happened to be my first port of call. The Dozzy Group business you are seeing today was started trading with a capital of N480.
I stayed in London for two years and discovered I could not make much profit on the goods I was trading on.
By that also, I heard about the Asian continent and when I probed further, I discovered that the countries there remained largely untapped in the area of the kind of business I was doing.
It then dawned on me that the best thing I should do in order to explore the opportunities in the Asian continent was to close down my business in UK and Asia and Taiwan happened to be the first port of call.
The flight ticket costs about N1,500 from Nigeria to Hong Kong because as at then, there was no direct flight to Taiwan and so to get to Taiwan, you would have to connect through Hong Kong first.
Borrowing to start companies
I used money that I saved to start the business. But as the business started growing there was need to take some credit facilities from a commercial bank at that time.
Indeed it was not very easy for me as I had not been to Taiwan before, neither had I travelled to any Asian country. But I saw it as a risk that should be taken to break new grounds in a place where they have a different lingua franca.
Earlier, I had met a Nigerian at the Embassy who was also heading for Taiwan. Even when food was served in the plane, I refused to eat because I did not know where I was going to and I was a little briefed on how to start business in an unknown country.
I slept most times in a hotel and when officials asked what my mission was, I told them I was in Taiwan to supply materials. When they asked for a specification, I told them I deal in leather and rubber belts.
But little did I know my details and explanations were published by the people making enquiry from me and the next morning, I started receiving calls from strange people who were Chief Executives of some companies.
I was able to understand what they were saying through an interpreter and they scheduled an appointment to see my supplies. When they came, they checked the samples I came with and we discussed. They liked what they saw and so, that was how we started. I bought some materials from them and only them alone, made my supplies and also made good money.
Then in 1984, I got a connection from Hong Kong that someone was to take me to China. When I arrived China, there was nothing on ground to start with. I mean China had virtually nothing to boast of. China that the whole world is celebrating today had no food to eat. It had no infrastructure to boast of but it had a population that was ready to work and do business.
Then by the level of poverty in that country, it was safe to say that when the United States coughs, Chinese would run under the table. But today the leadership of the Asian nation has reversed the trend to the extent that if US, shouts today China would readily challenge it.
When I arrived at China in 1984, it was just bicycles all the way, because only few corporations had cars plying the roads. But I was not discouraged by that country’s limitations, rather I continued with my business and this time round I added new items. Again, I must add that it was extremely difficult doing business with the Chinese as at that time because an individual must first deal with the people in Hong Kong before dealing with the Chinese.
However, I also made sure I spread my business across the Asian continent and it was by special grace of God and a stroke of luck in meeting with the right kind of people that brought me this far in life and business.
I started with group importation where some small importers would combine their goods in one container and share the freight cost.
They were also watching everything about me even though I did not know. At some point in time, one of the relations of the people I was doing business with then told their boss that I was an honest man with no fraudulent dealings. At a particular period, I had a cargo filled with supplies that was supposed to be combined with other people’s goods. They sent for me and asked me what I wanted to put in my cargo because they wanted my containers to be filled with what I was supplying to other countries. I did not have the money to pay for the additional supplies but to my surprise, they told me not to worry that they had started trusting me because of the information they had received about me. They said they would support me but that when I sell, I should return their money and so that was how I moved from group importation to my first ever full container supply
It was not all that smooth. There was a time I grew in my business and moved into another line of business, gathered so much money and paid to the company to handle the supplies for me. They failed to give me the supplies I paid for. For three months, I stayed without anything but by the special grace of God, it was the same people who failed me that helped me in the end.
Oil & gas
First, as an importer dealing with the Asian manufacturers, I was importing more than 1000 different items. Perhaps the only item I never imported was arms or weapons. And so after some times, I decided to move into manufacturing because when I was trading, there was nothing I did not import with the exception of ammunitions and drugs because I did not want to soil my hands with illegal businesses.
One day, I visited some factories of the companies supplying goods and saw the way they were produced. I believe that the joy I felt watching how some of these goods were produced motivated me to move to the industry. I also felt that if I should set up my own company, I can help to reduce the number of unemployed Nigerians. It was kind of a desire in me to help my country reduce the high level of unemployment.
Initially, I wanted to go into hospitality and hotel business because I felt that once you come to my hotel, I should be able to accommodate you at an affordable cost.
But I also discovered that running a hotel is not an easy business. No nation can survive without industrialisation.
Looking back at Taiwan and China, I have discovered that they channeled their resources to industrialisation and now they are booming in terms of economic development and, of course, trade.
Nigeria, unfortunately, is not on the same level because the infrastructure is not there. Power, for instance, has been the problem of Nigerian industries and when there is no power, then production and industrialisation won’t be possible.
I suffered so much but I was very lucky I had access to one dedicated line in Onitsha where light hardly goes off. To get to that dedicated line, however, I had to plead with the Chinese expatriates using that line for manufacturing to help me to connect to theirs; Although it took them time to allow me, but I must say they eventually did and today that line has many industrial users which has made it not that efficient as it was then.
Taiwan does not bring or sell fake products. We have three grades, A, B, C and even D and so the issue is that so many Nigerians would go to Taiwan and import the lowest quality of products back here and then start selling. Taiwan makes good products and even supplies products to Europe and North America. So if one want good quality from Taiwan, you will get the best. But what happens most times is that Nigerian businessmen out of some opportunism go for the lowest grade of their manufactured goods, leaving the customers to contend with low quality products.
Today, things have changed because the economy now is different from the one I grew up in. Our youths need to start doing something more like learning a vocational trade or specialisation.
I say this because learning a trade often does not require any qualification since it is more like you want to develop or acquire practical skills. I remember some of my mates who went to the university, came out and are still struggling to find their feet. I am not against education but I am more particular about youths who want to develop themselves through specialisation.
Chinese economic turnarounds
It is painful that most of the people at the helm of affairs today are not really working hard to develop our industries here in Nigeria.
As I said earlier, back in 1983, 1984 and 1985, China did not have infrastructure in place but now they have infrastructural development working for them. We need to go back to the history of China and try to correct some of the deficits we have in terms of power and security. With these two elements, foreign investors will swoop on Nigeria and development and industrialisation will set in.