By Vincent Kalu
In line with Federal government’s policy of job creation and producing locally some of the imported goods, Chairman and Managing Director of Vine Morris Klink Ltd, Chief Obiwule Divine Obiora, has concluded arrangement to set up a factory to manufacture Dorco shaving sticks and other Dorco brands of household items in Nigeria.
Chief Obiora’s drive was anchored on the performance of the brands in the Nigerian and West African markets. He holds the franchise of Dorco brands of products in Nigeria and West Africa.
In an interview with Daily Sun, he said that though there are challenges in doing business in Nigeria, the country remains a fertile ground for discerning businessmen.
He also highlighted how his firm was able to accomplish the feat of winning the African Brand Congress (ABC) award 2016 in the African Premium Shaving Stick brand.
On how he started, he said it was sheer diligence, doggedness, industry and forthrightness, and more so, not belittling humble beginning. He started by trading in articles and household items. To manage the big enterprise, he has equipped himself by undergoing trainings on entrepreneurship and seminars in Nigeria and abroad, even as a Law student at National Open University of Nigeria.
How was your beginning?
After my secondary school, I came over to Lagos and started trading on various articles (articles are those products that are in daily use both at homes and offices). I picked interest in Dorco, which is a brand from South Korea. It has been in the market since 1965. I looked at the product and realised that it was a great brand all over the world and that if we bring it here, Nigerians would embrace it.
We conducted market research, and discovered that there was a gap in the shaving industry and this gap has to be filled.
We also found out that people were not getting shaving satisfaction; or when they shaved they have irritations, burns and the risk of having skin cancer.
Overtime, we also discovered that the solutions to these shaving problems may be found in Dorco shaving stick. So, we decided to bring and establish the brand in Nigeria to meet the shaving needs of our people who hitherto were not getting shaving satisfaction. We made sure that it was at the reach of everybody. Having tasted it, it turned out to become a must in every home – whether man, woman or children, so long as you have hairs.
Some people had argued that they use cream or shaving powder, yes, but it has its inherent dangers. If you go deep in to research about the chemical components of these creams or powders, you would discover that there have side effects and that is why many have abandoned them for shaving sticks.
Success doesn’t come very easy, but because of hard work, we have been able to establish Dorco as an essential need in every home, when it comes to shaving.
Why you pick sharing stick business?
It is a very long story. We have done business with Dorco for over 15 years. We started business with them in 2001. After our ten years with them, they started looking for a Nigerian who is credible, trustworthy, and honest and has integrity to protect their brand; a Nigerian whom they can partner with, and they tried us for over 10 years. But they didn’t tell us that they were monitoring us. They just allowed us to flow and run our business the way we liked; did our purchases from them and made our payments.
So, after 10 years they found in us what they were looking for in Nigeria and decided that Vine Morris Links Ltd, is an integrity company to have their franchise. Giving somebody your franchise means to give him your image, to be able to represent you and stand as your authority in everything that has to with the product in that country.
We have worked hard to make sure that it is accepted and it has been endorsed by many organisations and agencies. The Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has endorsed it. Not only SON that endorsed it, Consumer Protection has also done the same. The International Certificate Organisation (ICO) equally recognized it. We also received an award recently from African Brand Congress (ABC), which rates Dorco as the number one shaving brand in Nigeria.
All these make you to appreciate the virtue of hard work. Because of its mileage, our branch of Fidelity Bank also acknowledged Dorco and in 2014 they gave us award as the Customer of the Year.
The Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Air force have embraced our brand because it gives them that satisfaction. In the next ten years and beyond we will still maintain our position. We are so grateful to God and the customers.
The challenges are many. It is said that for every good brand there is always a story to tell. Our story may not be different but the journey may be different. We have our own challenge, which some people see as normal and a daily thing in Nigeria, but we are fighting it seriously. It is the issue of fake; cloning and counterfeiting, which kills every industry; which kills every brand and destroys every business. This is a serious issue for us. We had gone to an exhibition and people came to complain that, ‘we knew your brand and we have been using it but of recent, it didn’t give them the usual satisfaction as the quality is not the same’. You feel bad over these complains because you must have known that the customer purchased a fake shaving stick and didn’t get the usual satisfaction. When you get such complaint, you begin to get worried because something is eating deep into you. The issue of counterfeiting is such that if the people behind it can’t kill your brand they may want to kill the owner. It is a very big challenge on our side. However, we give kudos to the SON that has stood and still standing to make sure that standard is maintained in the shaving industry.
They are making sure that innocent Nigerians who are not even aware of the difference between the fake and the original do not suffer because a fake shaving stick may cause somebody a lot of problems. A shaving stick you bought for N100 may end up destroying your life by causing skin cancer, and you start looking for donations to raise millions of naira for its treatment.
We have our challenge and we believe God that for every cause there is always away out. We believe God that one day, the story will be different. We know it can never be wiped out completely, but it may be reduced to the barest minimal. I cannot talk about the issue of counterfeiting without applauding the judiciary and the law enforcement agency, especially the police.
The police have been doing a great work in collaboration with SON to make sure that identified fakers are not allowed to go free. Some of the fakers that have been caught have written an undertaking not to clone our products anymore, while others have been prosecuted, and some are still facing prosecution. I know some will still face prosecution because they are looking for ways to clone our products. Criminals can never stop. I applaud these agencies because they are trying their best to stop counterfeiting and I know they would do more if they were well equipped and motivated.
How do you describe the Nigerian business environment?
There is no importer in Nigeria that is finding it easy today because of the foreign exchange. It has not been an easy road for us; it has been so rough because we have contract with our partners, and it is contract you must fulfill; and in making sure that you keep your own part of it, two things are involved – making sure that the distribution and the sales go on well and the other side is to make sure that the payment is remitted to them. By the time you could not remit the money to them, there would be a breach and if such thing happens they may be lose of confidence; your integrity is at stake. So, we have one obligation, which is to make these products available for our users. We can’t tell them that the issue of dollar has made us not to meet up with their demands. We sacrifice many things to make these products available and still affordable to them
What are your future plans? The Federal government is warming up to ban importation of products that can be produced locally; do you intend to set up a factory in Nigeria?
Before this time, we have our business plans and proposal sent to our partners and we have reached an agreement, and very very soon we are going to set up a manufacturing plant for Dorco products to among other things make sure that the distribution of the products in Africa is done very well as well as create both direct and in direct employment for Nigerians and other Africans and at the end the issue of Forex will no more be a strong issue, as it will be only for raw materials, and not for finished goods.
Because of Nigeria’s population, and the market size, our partners have realized that Nigeria is a fertile ground for the brand. So in the nearest future we would be giving jobs to many Nigerians. We are working seriously towards it and the little challenge we have is the issue of counterfeiting, and by God’s grace it would be taken care of.
In spite of the issue of foreign exchange, Nigeria still remains a fertile ground for business, considering our size and clout as the biggest and largest black race.
It is not only the shaving sticks that we would be manufacturing in Nigeria. Dorco has more than 30 product lines, including cutleries. These are the items we shall be producing in our country.