By Ikenna Emewu
The reward for hard work is more work. That is the popular saying at work places, but proves most apt with the Beloxxi Industries Limited, makers of the Beloxxi Cream Crackers.
The outfit keeps stretching and bending backwards with innovation, creativity and expansion to solve a problem it created 10 years ago when it started operation with one production line in Ikeja, Lagos.
That task it set for itself was positive, however, and that is the delight to make a good product and sustain it. And to a large extent, the company seems to have kept the mandate with sustained quality standards that earned it an ISO standardisation accreditation recently. The product has not lost an inch of its quality, therefore, consumers have not relented in keeping faith with it.
What the spill-over effect has been is the movement from one production line to six within the period and expansion in several areas like storage silos and other raw materials plants, alternative gas power, and a target to go integrative and composite – making all allied products for the biscuits plant – cartons, wrappers, which all come under packaging, and some other affiliated productions to make the task easier.
At the premises of the factory in Agbara, a beautiful environment, the Chief Executive, Obi Ezeude, pointed at a queue of trucks and explained to Daily Sun that they were waiting to load and move the products to the Apapa Port for export to some ECOWAS countries with landing in Ghana. He said: “It is very official and we are tapping into the benefits of the ECOWAS community on movement of goods, and if other parts of the world would export their commodities to our region, there is nothing wrong in us doing the same to our neighbouring countries rather than the illegal movement some agents involve in. And with time, when we would have overcome the production pressure that stretches us, we hope to take it further to the East and Southern Africa.
Beloxxi Industries, as part of its efforts to consolidate and make more progress to meet the demands of the market, on August 1 last year, sold minority shares of $80 million to a consortium of some foreign firms, proceeds of which the management said had been integrated into the expansions and yet to make the needed impact of satisfying the consumer base.
The latest of the efforts to take its operations higher, Ezeude said last week, was that the management of the organisation concluded plans to commence another expansion phase that budgets to boost the company with N6 billion or $18.5 million and after which the workforce would rise tremendously to 5,500 from the present employment pool of 2,500.
Also, from the current six production lines, the factory would stretch to nine lines with boosted production capacity of 80,000 metric tonnes of biscuits per year from the 50,000 metric tonnes today.
The new steps would be announced on May 1 and meant to serve as impetus, according to him, to make Nigerians invest more as a way of reviving the economy away from recession.
While taking Daily Sun round the premises, the master baker and Head Operating Officer, Mr. Cyril Ani, who started with the factory from inception, revealed in response to a question on the workforce that the factory floor has a little more than 1,800 workers who work in batches to ensure steady production. The workforce has been expanding in line with the expansion of the production volume and capacity and the coming on board of the affiliated production outfits.
Very important to note is the truth that apart from the machines made overseas, mainly in Europe, the entire expertise pool is totally Nigerian.
When the factory started, the master baker was an expatriate but left in the first one year of operation to be replaced with a Nigerian.
Up till date, the manufacturing has been solely a Nigerian affair even with the Head of Engineering and most of all to the fabrication of machine spare parts made through improvised means by Nigerians. Ezeude and Ani admitted the feat is remarkable.
The CEO told Daily Sun that he is a believer in the ability of Nigerians to grow and develop Nigeria. “Whereas we can never live in isolation, I believe primarily in the ability and acumen of Nigerians to do things and lift the nation. As far as expertise base is concerned, I believe in trying Nigerian hands first. This came from experience and my natural faith in Nigeria and Nigerians. When we started production, I engaged foreign experts and later found they don’t actually do it better, and my experimenting with Nigerians has proven me right.
“Recently, I delivered a talk at the London Stock Exchange on Africans making impact on leadership of the young people through investment and enterprise. And I made it very clear that my philosophy is championing the provision of opportunities for young Nigerians to find expression for their qualities and here in Beloxxi, the experiment has been accurate.
“That is the best role an investor should play for the younger people, otherwise the benefit of training and graduating hundreds of thousands of them from the schools every year makes no sense. It is true that every country needs others to grow, but the growth must be measured on the lifting and improvement of the individuals of that country. We can get assistance from the world, but until we translate them appropriately in enhancing the skills of our own people, we would have achieved nothing.
“In Beloxxi, we have it like a culture to cultivate our workers. We have many of them that joined us as factory hands and today, they have graduated and become experts. Most of them remained in our employment working on holidays during their undergraduate days and we have retained some of them for youth service and even beyond. So while we make profit to remain in business, we also champion the enhancement of Nigerian young people and the future.”