By Ebele Orakpo
Mr Nzube Odina is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Pomegranate Distributors and Company Limited, a food distribution outfit based in Abuja. In 2000, he obtained his first degree in English Literature from the University of Benin and thereafter, did his one year compulsory service to fatherland at the Central Bank of Nigeria.
On completion of the youth service program, he worked with a furniture company in Abuja for about a year and some months and resigned because according to him, there was no job satisfaction, he wanted to do more.
“I started thinking of what I can really do to add value to myself and society at large and I felt the best thing was to follow my mind which is entrepreneurship. We conceived Pomegranate Distributors and Company Limited because we wanted to go into manufacturing, that is the ultimate goal.
We felt we should first of all gain some experience from those already in the business of manufacturing. We will distribute their goods and learn the intricacies.”
Why I chose oats:
“I thought about what everybody needs everyday, something that people will always want, that you don’t necessarily have to go begging people to buy. “I narrowed it down to food because I believe that food is very important, everybody needs food. So I did a Google search on companies that are doing well in food with whom we would partner and start distributing their products for a start.
I came across a company in the UK known as Morning Foods Limited. I did a check on them and their history was very interesting. The company was started in 1675 by their forebears. Basically, they are into oats and again, oats struck me because I love porridge oats and at the same time, I was thinking about something that cannot readily be produced in Nigeria.
My ultimate goal is to produce here in Nigeria but I thought I needed a leverage, I needed to gain experience in distribution, about networking, knowing the psyche of consumers and all that. I felt that oat is good. It does not grow in Africa but mostly in temperate region.
“So I sent them an email and after two days, someone replied me, one of the grandchildren of the founders. He said yes, that he is interested and that we could do something together but that it would be nice if we could meet first.” And so, Odina started working on his visa. He said it took him quite some time before he could get finances ready so in November 2012, he travelled to the UK.
“We met and discussed at length, I told them my plans and vision, that basically, I want to start with this but the ultimate goal is to produce here in Nigeria. We agreed on all these. When I came back to Nigeria, we organised our private label called Nochiz which is a mixture of my name and my wife’s name – Nzube Odina and Chibuzo.”
“We got in touch with NAFDAC and began the process of registration. It was tough because there were so many bottlenecks. It was kind of clumsy but thank God, we were able to go through it. It took us about seven months to get the registration done, paid all the fees etc.
“Our first consignment came in last year and ever since, we have not looked back. But as I said, the target is for this to be a learning curve for us, we intend to have an assembly plant in Nigeria where we can bring in the products in bags and repackage here and also go on to produce foods like cornflakes and a whole lot of things that we can use our locally sourced raw materials to do, especially with our relationship with Morning Foods.
They will also give us their expertise. These are the things we hope to achieve in the very near future.,”he enthused.
Unique selling point:
Most oats in the market are plain oats so we thought of what could stand us out. We did not just want to do what every other person was doing so we brought in something a bit different from what could be regularly got from the market. We brought in oat that has two basic components – soya lecithin for the protein and it does not allow the oat to boil over and spill. For us, that is an advantage. Secondly, we added golden syrup which makes our oat quite unique.”
For now, we have an outlet in Lagos with distributors. We also have distributors in Ogun State and Abuja. We also do door-to-door delivery to supermarkets and stalls. I think government needs to do a lot especially in the area of regulation.”
What govt should do:
“The bottlenecks in registration by NAFDAC should be made a little bit easier for people – from the fees you pay to the level of inspections. We thought there are some things that could be done online, you don’t necessarily have to physically go there. Although they make provision for online but you are never able to register online.
Some registrations should be done online, it makes it easier. For instance, when we wanted to register Nochiz, we had to travel to Lagos, we couldn’t do it in Abuja. We were going to Lagos every two or three weeks to be able to register. So I think in terms of regulation, they should imbibe this online culture that is trending all over the world now.
We should be able to submit our certificate and get verifications online. May be for physical inspection, they could come but every other thing should be done online.”
Government can also work to improve on infrastructure. Each time you travel by road, you see a lot of arable land but you find out there are no infrastructure, you see rickety houses, no roads, people fetch water from far away streams. If government can provide roads and if in every region we have a cargo port, when these farm produce are ready, they can easily be moved.
Government can also help in providing mass storage facilities because it is heart-breaking that each time you drive through these places, you see a lot of fruits rotting away. But if we have something like a mass storage provided by government and people are charged for using it, it will help businesses to grow.”
In the next five years, we hope to see Nochiz as a company that is producing cereals in Nigeria. We have a lot of cereals we could work with such as millet, maize and soya. In partnership with Morning Foods, we intend to start manufacturing cornflakes locally. We also want to use soya to produce good morning cereals that families will enjoy. “