By Ebele Orakpo
There are people who believe implicitly that Nigeria will one day become great, a nation to be reckoned with among the who is who in the industrialised world despite all that is going on at the moment.
These people are forging ahead, contributing their own quota to actualise this dream of Nigeria becoming an exporter and not a chronic importer that it is now. Little wonder then that despite poor power supply, lack of basic infrastructure, high cost of production etc., Mr Tunde Okoya, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Lange and Grant Commodities Ltd., still does what he knows how to do best – providing solutions to various sectors of the economy, from food and beverages industry, to telecommunications industry, to Financial sector . Okoya, a Philosophy graduate of the University of Lagos spoke to Vanguard in Lagos recently. Excerpts:
â€œI have always been at the background in the industry. My family has always been in the industry and manufacturing particularly, and I possibly donâ€™t see any other area of business for me to venture into apart from manufacturing because I believe passionately that, that is what would launch Nigeria into the 21st Century this day. Our future is industry in terms of creating gainful employment, in terms of improving our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in terms of making us self-sufficient without the need to import,â€ he said.
Mr. Okoya who named power, infrastructure and funds as some of the challenges faced by industries said: â€œThe number one issue is power. That makes Nigerian products particularly uncompetitive because in your quest to supply your own power, you invariably increase your cost of production significantly. There is infrastructure problem in terms of road distribution network, and then manpower.
It is getting harder to get skilled manpower because they need exposure and training. Basically, we train our workforce. Another challenge is funds. Though funds are available but they are short-term and expensive. Such funds cannot be used for developmental projects. They are easy and available for traders but not for manufacturers because a manufacturing setup would take at least five years to yield returns and these funds are not just available for such.â€
The Lange and Grant Commodities Ltd. boss noted that the company not only manufactures sandwich panels which are used in the construction of cold rooms (both small and industrial), but also â€œmanufactures portacabins of various types.â€ Continuing he said: â€œ We pioneered the construction of mobile ATM kiosks for the banks. We deployed hundreds of such kiosks for different banks in Nigeria.
We see ourselves as a company that provides solutions. Our core business really is modular building systems so we are in the business of managing space for our clients to allow them to be more nimble in delivering their products to their own clients. For instance, banks realised that they get more traffic in their ATM machines if they are positioned in areas with high demographics to suit their product offering so when we initiated the mobile ATM kiosk, it allowed them the flexibility to position their kiosks in areas where they can achieve the highest traffic to their ATM machines.â€
Lange and Grant
Commodities Ltd., according to Okoya, is not confined to any specific industry as they work with several telecommunications companies. â€œOur panels and modular building systems are used by mobile phone companies to build their base stations and for the shelters. We manufacture the retail kiosks and at the moment, we are deploying retail kiosks nation wide for one of the big players in the telecommunications market. We are working with several companies in order to provide In-Store-Furniture (ISF).
This is basically a platform for companies to interface with clients at the retail level. For us, we believe retail business is king so we are constantly looking at basic ways to create platforms for companies to interact with their customers at the retail level which is basically what we are doing. We are currently working seriously to provide retail solution for distribution of agricultural products,â€ he said.
Mr. Tunde Okoya stated that what actually drives the solutions the company provides for its clients which cuts across the food and beverages industry, the telecommunications industry, financial sector etc., is mostly innovation.
We pride ourselves on being a solutions provider.
The consummate industrialist noted that â€œif really we want to think out of the box, we have to be innovative. We have to look for new methods to meet the increasing challenges and demand,â€ adding:
â€œWe are also into pre-engineered steel building (PEB). This is basically a solution that we provide for large commercial properties like shopping malls, storage warehouses, lock-up warehouses etc. We are currently providing lock-up warehouses for the traders association in the Trade Fair Complex. We are also working with various industrial parks in Nigeria to provide warehousing because we are going to have an industrial revolution in this country.
Part of what â€˜create incubation centresâ€™ will require most essentially would be warehouses so we are in the business of building warehouses. Itâ€™s pre-engineered because it is something you buy off the shelf, very economical, quick and fast to install.
The old method of building warehouses is that you go to the market and buy fixed standard hot-rolled sections but inÂ pre-engineered steel building, the warehouses are tailor-made. They are bespoke to your requirements, thus reducing the need for heavy foundation and yet, without compromising the integrity of the structure itself,â€ he said.
Speaking on how many people the company has been able to take out of the unemployment market, theÂ Lange and Grant Commodities Ltd. boss said: â€œ
We have at the moment close to 50 employees, that is because we outsource a lot of what we do. We have a lot of outsource partners. But if we look at all of our outsource partners combined with our core employees, we probably have in the neighbourhood of 200-300 people involved in any of our various projects at any point in time so we try and keep our operations very lean and efficient,â€ he concluded.