–Arun Ghai; MD, Agro Allied Development Enterprises Limited
By AYO ALONGE
Managing Director of Agro Allied Development Enterprises Limited, Mr. Arun Ghai, speaks on the success and corresponding challenges faced doing business in Nigeria. Ghai charges Nigerian entrepreneurs to invest locally, while advising government, at all levels, to leverage on technology for economic growth.
In this interview, the Indian investor fields questions bordering on business and the Nigerian economy.
How long have you been in Nigeria running the company?
I am from India but I have been in this country for the past 17 years now. I love this country so much because it is granting me so much success and love. The people are very good and cooperative. They seem to understand the sector of the business economy we have found ourselves.
Why did you choose to leave India to come to Nigeria to start your company?
Basically, I studied the atmosphere and slowly came in. My hobby has always been to travel around and when I came and saw the opportunity the country has to offer, I just chose to establish here.
What are you into?
Yes, we Agro Allied. As a company, we started with cocoa business after which we delved into importation of fishes into Nigeria. We have also delved into the power sector and there are other businesses we do in the country.
In what areas are you benefiting from doing business in Nigeria?
We do business in so many sectors. We have invested in so many sectors. We only need this country to make the policies for us to succeed in business. Without the policies, you cannot succeed and we can say that we can achieve a lot, if we face other sectors. We deal with specialised people in the different sectors; people who have got the experience. We also deal with institutes and that makes us progress. We build a relationship with farmers to sustain farming as an activity. We only need the sustainable policies which will match international standards. Indian government is not usually far away from health and technology and that is why today, the country is doing great along that line. The major diseases that affect farming can also be cornered if we have the right technology in place.
Whay are these policies you are talking about?
We have to first look at the strength of the nation. We have doctors, lawyers and other experts, and we only need to consult them for suitable advice on certain policies for agriculture where we can consult technocrats and some experts who would strengthen us. Nigeria has the potential to meet that expectation. You will soon have the sectors strengthened and you only need to discuss with farmers and see where their strength lies. With that, things would work out fine.
What specific policies are obtainable in your home country that we don’t have in place in Nigeria?
Very fantastic. First is the live equipment which is not available now here. The major tractors for farming too are not available. Crops grows easily here but where is the technology? Also, even when the farmer does not know timing and seasons for certain crops. This situation is very critical and it all requires good quality in farming. There are just certain policies we need to adopt.
You have been in Nigeria this past 17 years employing Nigerians to work for you. How do you feel about such feat?
It is very simple. We only understand the system. It is all about understanding the system, else, you cannot do business in Nigeria. It is not about reading books from the colleges. It is about understanding the polices of government and you are fine and at home in business.
How many Nigerians have you been able to employ?
That is over 600 people.
What challenges come with that, for you?
The challenges are in all sectors. First is about government’s policies which is usually very slow. Bureaucracy is the main challenge we face from government. Another is that the interest on loans is very huge in this country. The system is not running as smooth as we have in India. In India, we have the ministry that gives loans to companies and government rests assured that employment opportunities are coming. Land is often given for free and tax is first done away with. Whatever you are making, nobody asks you for taxes until later. That encourages investors to troop into the country.
How about import duties that you pay here? Do you consider that friendly enough for your business?
That can be addressed too. I feel that this country can even stop importation completely. Let us bring in the technology instead and everything else can be sourced here. Let us buy the technology. Small scale enterprises are also very necessary. India does not joke with that and that ranges from pharmaceuticals, food, and the rest sectors.
The world is going through a global economic hardship and how is that affecting you as a company in Nigeria?
It is affecting everybody and we are having our fair share of it. CBN has not been friendly with the distribution of the dollars and inflation rate is very high too. GDP is also on zero degrees. My own is very simple. Don’t buy the products, just buy technology. With that, you are buying growth into the economy.
What are the criteria you set for employing our people, aside the usaual academic qualifications?
There are different sectors. We employ people that can develop themselves and make them go and grow themselves within a certain time. We employ you, train you for a certain time and after working with us, you are free to go if you want. That makes them successful in life.
What is the financial worth of Agro Allied?
That is difficult to know and I cannot say now.
How fast is the company growing?
You can ask yourself. When you make good policies, it will rub off in growth on the economy and the company. The youth need the opportunity and the government must bring it through the technology.
What exact technology are you talking about?
You people have the agricultural land but not utilising it. Your soil is fertile for any crop or agricultural produce, and even rice. That kind of knowledge is crucial. So many places here have watery lands that is very good and rain is very frequent in Nigeria. Scooping of the water requires a form of the technology. You also buy some of the tractors. The tractors we even use here are useless, when taken to a country like China.
Can you relate your experience in importing most of the fishes we consume in Nigeria against the backdrop of what we can learn as a country?
Fish is rich in proteins and that is good for all human beings. Without it, nobody can survive. I see the deep seas all around Nigeria and no need to continue to export fishes from overseas. The technology for fishing is very effective in Malaysia and if we can take a cue from that, it would be fine for Nigeria.
Are you saying the government of the day can afiord to stop the importation of fishes into the is country?
Yes, it is very possible but not now. Maybe in the next seven to eight year when you must have imported the technology. This is not just with fish importation but can be applied in other sectors too. The technology improves the functionality of your senses and brains.
What is your advice to Nigerian entrepreneurs who are obviously shying away from investing in this country?
I challenge them to coordinate the youth. In India, you see entrepreneurs coordinating the youth and giving them specific trainings for the specific sectors which is useful for the growth of the country.
How do we address the incessant rate of unemployment, as a country?
Investors would troop in to create jobs if the needed technology is available. Investors would only need to go into a freelance agreement with the government, build the industries and employ people. Government should sit down to discuss with investors and unemployment would suddenly diminish.
Would you continue to invest in Nigeria, if you have your way?
Why not? Don’t envy other countries because they have their own challenges that they are dealing with. Your country is blessed with everything and you people don’t know. You people don’t have earthquake and tsunami. You have harmattan which fertilises food produce. You are also blessed with abundant rain. I look around the world and I see that Nigeria is the most blessed. Give people inducers which will encourage investors to come in. Just make that happen and with time, you see the country grow.