by Chinedu George Nnawetanma
Disclaimer: This piece is not an advert of any form, neither was it paid for by anybody associated with Innoson. But it doesn’t take away anything from what I have to say.
If IVM is to win the trust of Nigerians and stand the test of time, it must prove that it is different from what we are already used to. This it must do by convincing us of the safety, durability and performance of their products.
It was some weeks back that the Chairman and chief executive of the Innoson Group of Companies, Innocent Chukwuma, broke the cheering news of his company’s intention to roll out its first set of made-in-Nigeria cars and SUVs. This effort is the first of such in the country. Though Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company (IVM), Innoson’s vehicle production subsidiary and Nigeria’s flagship indigenous vehicle manufacturer, has over the years been into the production of passenger buses and trucks, they’ve never delved into the production of cars and SUVs on a large scale. This expansion into the automobile industry is a welcome development for both the company and Nigeria.
The need to encourage, develop and grow our local manufacturing sector can never be overflogged. Economic figures reveal that only about 15% of Nigeria’s annual GDP is contributed to by the manufacturing sector. When compared to the 21.5% of India, 27.5% of Brazil, 40.6% of Malaysia, 31.6% of South Africa and 45.3% of China, this becomes a paltry figure.
An emerging market is spurred by its manufacturing sector, not the service or agricultural sectors. The service sector, itself being mainly serviced by proceeds from the manufacturing sector, and agriculture (which contributes a whooping 30% to our economy) cannot drive the economy of a large poor developing country like Nigeria. China, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Africa, Mexico among others–still very much developing countries–got where they are today because of the strengths of their manufacturing sector. Nigeria is often included in the list of emerging markets along with those countries, but its production industry is yet to kick off. The economy still very much revolves around the service sector, agriculture and petroleum, and we produce less than 10% of what we consume.
Many forward-thinking countries with a huge oil wealth have started looking away from the commodity by adopting various measures. Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates transformed their lands into tourist havens with revenue accrued from oil sales. Norway utilized its own petrodollars in boosting its production industries, leading to the emergence of many engineering and construction companies. At this point in time when oil proceeds are dwindling the world over, Nigeria should be working towards a bright future without oil. This, I would love to believe, the government is already looking into,at least going by some of the recent initiatives they’ve put in place that are enabling local businesses to thrive within the country. Innoson is itself a beneficiary of such initiatives.
In Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company (IVM) lies one of the biggest opportunities yet for Nigeria’s indigenous large-scale manufacturing industry to really kick off. Now that the government has laid the foundation, what is expected of Nigerians is our encouragement by patronage, kind words and constructive criticism, not skepticism and malicious dismissal. The bitter truth remains that if we do not patronize our locally-made products, no-one else will. India’s most internationally visible brand, the Tata Group, started like Innoson and many of our local manufacturing companies. Same with Japan’s Toyota and Nissan, the USA’s Ford and many others. Their initial and sustained success depended not only on the ingenuity and determination of their founders, but also on the support of the populace and this made the economic transformation of their various countries possible.
However, it goes without saying that the biggest determent Nigerians have in patronizing made-in-Nigeria-and-by-Nigerians products is their peculiar shoddiness. This inapt reputation has often led to the agelong preference of foreign products over locally made ones. If IVM is to win the trust of Nigerians and stand the test of time, it must prove that it is different from what we are already used to. This it must do by convincing us of the safety, durability and performance of their products.
In addition to that, I share in the concern of many about IVM’s marketing strategies or an apparent lack of it, especially online. I recently googled in futility for keywords like “Innoson vehicle showrooms” and “Innoson car brands.” The resulting information was scanty and brushed over. There is also little or no a television advert promotion, billboard push or newspaper placement. I remember seeing tons of front page newspaper adverts by popular brands like KIA, Ford and Hyundai announcing their entries into the Nigerian market many years back, now they are household names. You can’t count five cars on our highways today without encountering one of them.
In today’s highly competitive and innovative business world, marketing is king. These are the signals customers and potential investors are on the lookout for. We are in the internet age where no online presence means no credibility. Mr. Chukwuma and the entire management should start thinking global and take advantage of the possibilities that abound in the internet in wooing investors home and abroad. He needs to stop thinking of the business as a personal enterprise or what Nigerians call a “one-man business” as well. The possibility of listing the company in the Nigerian Stock Exchange and selling its shares to willing members of the public should be explored.
If the company is successfully listed in the NSE, I’m sure that a lot of Nigerians will be interested in investing in a promising marque such as IVM. With that comes more money and with more money comes greater opportunities. The company can then move into automation, decrease the near 100% reliance on manual labour and open up more factories across the country.
For Innoson, the success of the IVM brand can only mean more progress. For Nigeria and Nigerians, this means a more competitive automotive market, lower cars prices, promotion of indigenous companies, more foreign investment, the emergence of a potential internationally recognized Nigerian brand, more jobs and ultimately more development.
Chinedu George Nnawetanma is a social commentator.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.