Just as Jesus Christ proved the saying,”can anything good come out of Bethlehem,” by being born there, manufacturers of wire and cable are doing the same in Nigeria, a country that hitherto imports everything, including tooth picks, by producing wire and cable that is now rated the best in the world.
This is the story of J&B Wire and Cable that started just few months ago and is today rated among the best in the country, thereby proving the saying that it is not how long, but how well to be true.
According to the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the company, Chief Kelechukwu Onwuatu, J&B Wire and Cable is now the toast of builders, not just in Nigeria, but in the other African countries like Ghana,Togo, Niger, among others.
In this interview, he spoke on how he transformed from an importer of wire and cable to a manufacturer of the same material, the challenges of competition with older wire and cable brands, as well as those facing manufacturers in Nigeria and on other issues. Excerpts:
How did you become the manufacturer of J&B Wire and Cable?
After my apprenticeship and I was settled, I began to sell electrical materials. When I stabilised, I began to import wire, cable and distribution boards. I was importing and selling the highest quality in the market because before I went into the business, what was at the back of my mind was that one day, I would become a manufacturer. So, I went for the highest quality to enable me have access to their factory and understudy what they were doing there. I did that for 10 years. When I felt that I have got enough knowledge, I imported the necessary equipment and built a factory at Kilometer three, Igbesa Road, Agbara, Ogun State, got together competent hands and we went into production of made in Nigeria wire and cable.
How did your customers react when you changed from importation to manufacturing?
Well, to be honest, some of them were skeptical initially. You know the mindset that nothing good can come out of Nigeria, but when they tested my made in Nigeria wire and cable, they discovered that it is of the same quality with the ones that I was importing and they were converted. The truth is that made in Nigeria wire and cable is the best in the world. In fact, the other countries in Africa look up to Nigeria for wire and cable. The Federal Government is doing a wonderful job in this regard. The Standard Organization of Nigeria is enforcing compliance and standard. They make sure that before they give SONCAP and MANCAP certificate to any product, international best standard must have been followed. This has paid off very well because today countries like Ghana, Cameroun, Niger, Togo, among others come to Nigeria for wire and cable.
How are you coping with competition being a very young company?
Wire and cable business is like automobile business. The age of the automobile company does not really matter because they are of the same standard. Where the difference lies is in the price. J&B Wire and Cable has been certified by Standard Organisation of Nigeria. We have our SONCAP and MANCAP. This is what the regulatory body requires. So, age does not really matter. What we are doing now is to try to create more awareness than the other brands that have been around.
What is your management and marketing styles?
I believe in delegating responsibilities. I know that the vision is mine, but I cannot achieve it alone. We want to be the best wire and cable company in Nigeria and to achieve that, I have recruited competent hands who I know would help me to achieve the vision. We have departments and each department has a head. The staff in the departments report to their heads. But if there is a problem that cannot be handled at the departmental level, it would be brought to my table. Another thing is that once every week, we hold departmental heads meeting, where each head briefs others on the goings-on in his or her department. We call that management meeting. So, I am more of a general supervisor.This is going well and today, we have customers nationwide and even beyond. For our marketing style, J&B is a company that was born into the Internet age, so we are taking full advantage. We are using the social media, newspapers, as well as mouth-to-mouth to advertise our products. Right now, our staff strength are in the hundreds .Our mission is to sell our products and also use it empower Nigerians. It is our mission to use it to reduce the teeming unemployed population in the country. Though we started small, but we are aiming big and with God on our side, we would achieve our goal.
What advice do you have for importers?
The advice that I have for importers is that they should try to go into manufacturing. It is true that Nigeria is not conducive enough for manufacturing, but they should see it as a sacrifice for their fatherland. To be honest, I was making far more money as an importer than now that I am into manufacturing because as an importer, I did not have legion of staff. All that I had was a warehouse, an office and few sales persons. But today, as a manufacturer, I spend millions of naira on salary every month coupled with very high over-head cost. The power supply is epileptic and as such not good for our machines. Therefore, we run on diesel every day. You know that in Nigeria, every manufacturer is like a local government. You have to provide every infrastructure by yourself.
What’s your advice to the government?
The advice that I have for the Federal Government is that they should try to protect young manufacturing companies like us. We need incentives to grow. In other climes, young companies are given tax holidays. They are given soft loans and other grants. The absence of this is the real reason mortality rate of businesses in Nigeria is very high. In other climes, manufacturing companies are being given up to five years tax grace to enable them become strong enough.This is because it is usually tough for companies to be growing and at the same time being taxed.
How do you see J&B Wire and Cable in the next five years?
Well, in the next five years, J&B Wire and Cable would be one of the biggest electrical company in the country. Our focus is on growth, so that the more we grow, the more people we have to employ. Our profits would always be ploughed back into the company. We will continue to do the right things, obeying all the rules and God’s willing everything would turn out right. For our teeming customers who are the reason we are in business, we will continue to serve them better and that is coming out with high quality wire and cable that are pocket-friendly.