By Ayo Alonge [email protected]
Rilwan Raji is the Chief Executive of Dekoraj Farms, an agribusiness startup with specialty in poultry farming which focuses on agricultural and industrial engineering services; construction of battery cages for birds; birds sales, sales of agrochemicals, farm setup and consultancy services.
The entrepreneur, in this interview, explains the crux of the business and its challenges, while affirming that it is very profitable.
The business was my father’s and I was born into it. Immediately after I graduated, I just took up the business because my father is late. I chose to do this, rather than getting a white-collar job in town, because it’s our upbringing. I have always said I cannot work for anybody. After NYSC, I started saving to get modern machines for agricultural equipments fabrication and farming business, since my father’s workshop was still available for me to start.
Scope of startup
In Dekoraj Farms and Equipment Company, our services include general farm setup, building, training and consultancy services. We also look into sales of battery cages, both imported and locally fabricated ones. We have feedmill machines and catfish oven. We sell poultry birds and chicken processing equipment such as de-feathering machine, chicken cutter, killing cone, scalder, cassava grater, presser, automated incubating machine of different sizes and capacities, de-beaking machine, transport cage, egg crate, feeder, temperature and humidity metre, automatic syringe, gas brooder transport crates, ice fog machine, etc. We also sell drinkers and feeders.
How to start up a poultry business
The most important thing is passion. People that are not passionate about it fail in the business. It is not a business you can just go into. If you are not naturally passionate, develop it. It also needs attentiveness. To be successful in the business, apart from passion, you need capital. It is capital intensive. It is a business of numbers. The more birds you do, the better the business for you. If you are doing like 100 birds and another person is doing 1,000 birds, you cannot compare your profit margins and the cost of running both may not be too different. If you want to buy the feeds, on transporting feeds, you are both likely to spend the same. You must also be mobile. You either need to get a vehicle or get someone that would always be moving things for you. Another thing you have to consider is managerial acumen as well as insurance. You must insure your birds. I tell my clients that they must insure their birds. If you don’t, a disease can break out and you lose all your birds. For someone doing 15,000 birds, when bird flu strikes, automatically the person is out of business already.
There are ways to counter that. Thank God for advanced technology, there are so many vaccines now. Bird flu is not really a major issue now. If you look back, as far back as 2001, bird flu used to be a major problem but because of the biosecurity measures people take now, it has abated. That is why people first disinfect their farms before starting. Government is also giving people the orientation on how to protect their farms from bird flu. The agricultural sector is really equipped, especially in the area of how to cure sick birds. Bird flu comes from the birds that live on water like geese. It is also airborne. That is why you are advised to give a minimum of 100 feet distance between your farm and another farm. You must keep that distance. The longer the distance you keep, the safer your birds are from infection. You also tell your staff to always wash their hands before entering the farm. If you touch any sick bird, ensure you clean your hands very well before attending to the healthy ones. You must also have a veterinary doctor on ground that would help you out. What people do now is self-medication. Quacks would come and tell them to do all what not. They don’t want to pay an expert who may be charging them, maybe on a monthly basis.
Being a young entrepreneur, it is always difficult dealing with first time clients, coupled with the belief about some youths being fraudsters. Based on the fear of being duped, due to the general mentality, they bring stringent conditions, being first time. After feeling our products and services, they now trust us and start referring more clients to us because of the trust they have built. Also, one of challenges we face is imitation on the equipment we newly design. After fabrication, we start seeing people gradually doing it but they don’t get it right. Most clients fall into their hands and get bad products. Some people upload our products and start disguising as Dekoraj Farms and duping people. They open Facebook accounts in our name and start to commit all forms of cyber frauds. Loan accessibility is another challenge we face. Loans are not easily accessible, yet there are too many conditions with a very high interest rate.
Farming business is very profitable. For instance, poultry farming is a business that does not need too much introduction. The funniest thing is that it can still be referred to as untapped because the few ones we have in the country are badly managed. It is a highly profitable business. The rate of poultry egg consumption is very high in Nigeria, being one of the cheapest source of protein. Any farmer who goes into egg business will never regret it. It is another goldmine. Poultry birds processing is another super business in poultry which is still not tapped yet. About 75 per cent of what is consumed is still being smuggled into country. With the smuggling plus locally produced ones, it still has not met up to 30 per cent of what is required. The recent government fight against smuggling and agricultural interventions will really boost the business for investors. Note that rice farming, cat fish farming, snail farming are all still not fully tapped. Agriculture is very lucrative.
I train and guide people on regular basis. I take them for farm visitation. We value our integrity and customer satisfaction so much that we don’t compromise. We set up farms for people and help them from start to finish. I am always with them so they don’t make mistakes. We are professionals in the farming business. I travel nationwide so as to ensure spread of our quality services. There are some basic knowledge one needs to have to go into the business. We handle that for you with all the passion in us.
Farming in Nigeria, particularly, is an opportunity for big businesses and investors. Recently, farming in Nigeria has become the new crude oil with a lot of untapped opportunities for entrepreneurs who want to venture into it. Every year, millionaires are made through farming. Farming has created a lot of direct and indirect jobs, and the truth is that there is no end to the prospects of creating more wealth through farming in Nigeria in the coming century. Farming will always do very well in Nigeria. For Foreign investors, Nigeria is a country that treats foreigners like family – no racism. We have a high population of more than 200 million people which makes farm produce demand high for a population which is times two or three more than what we have in some other countries. Yet, birth rate is still increasing.