By Ebele Orakpo
There is no doubt that given the right push and the Â Â Â enabling environment, Nigeria could rank among the greatest in the world with her array ofÂ human resources. Nigerians are all over the world doing great things in every field of endeavour and many are willing to come back home and help the economy grow. The only thing they ask for is an enabling environment chief of which is power supply.
One of such Nigerians is Mr.Â Chux Mofunanya, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Central Motor Works, a premium automobile body garage established primarily to cater for vehicle body and upholstery work needs. The Political Science graduate from the University of Ibadan had a chat with Financial Vanguard recently in Lagos. Excerpts:
Mr. Chux Mofunanya said he was inspired to set up Central Motor Works, described as the only one_stop body garage in this part of the world â€œbecause it was obvious that there was a huge gap in this sector. Nigeria does not have any real auto body garage properly so called, fully automated and equipped with well trained staff, such that exudes enough confidence to make you want to take your premium auto there and go home and sleep, rest assured that your priced automobile will be fixed perfectly.
We have a lot of adventurists who because they sell cars or have the franchise of some car manufacturer to import cars have also ventured into body reworking or recovery. There is also the second group, these are entrepreneurs that saw the vacuum in the sector and decided to set up just the spraying boot/oven, but thatâ€™s just less than 20 per cent of the whole story.â€
Mofunanya who started his journey from the University of Ibadan (UI) said: â€œI graduated from the UI at a time when there was this craze among the young and restless to travel abroad in search of the so-called â€˜golden fleeceâ€™. Somehow, I found my way to the US where I picked up a job with General Motors (GM) as a workshop managerâ€˜s assistantÂ Body Division.
This was a position I held for about three years. Apart from the fact that I am passionate about cars I love cars – I have always been a very detailed person and somewhat a stickler for perfection naturally, but I can say that my work in GM kind of exposed me to a lot of things as relates to knocking a car together; painting; fabrication and repairs; maintenance and customization. The experience helped prepare me for what I am doing today.â€
Mofunanya stated that on his return to Nigeria, he was hit by the harsh realities on ground and so had to
defer setting up his business as he needed to make some money first. This took him eight years as he got a job in the banking sector which was the most paying job at the time. According to him: â€œI have a brother that was working in a bank and he appeared to be living well, besides, the banks were the most paying jobs at the time.Â I was in the banking industry for about eight years and got to the level of a manager.
I took my annual vacation sometime last year and travelled to Holland and had a six weeks crash programme with Sikkens on Auto finishing. The training covered areas like, at what temperature to spray different colours of paint to get the premium effect; the heating point of different metals used in vehicle bodies; the chemical treatment you must apply on accidented panels to kill the effect of body fillings before you paint so that the car retains its sheen throughout its time and indeed, a whole lot of maintenance-related topics. When I came back, I knew I was ready, so I resigned my appointment with the bank to set up Central Motor Works.â€
The company which is barely a year old and employs about eleven permanent professionals drawn from several nationalities in Africa, aims to be the best rather than the biggest. â€œOur service culture and market focus enables us to charge a market premium and to rapidly break new grounds in markets which to the conventional eye would appear saturated.
The Anambra State-born entrepreneur said if he was not into auto body repairs, he would have been a Race car driver or a Brand strategist. Said he: â€œ I am a man of diverse interests most times relying on opportunity for direction. Maybe I would have been a Race car driver or a Brand strategist. I have been involved with a lot of brand repositioning, brand image engineering for a lot of big companies where of course my name will not be mentioned because the contract was never mine in the first place. I love brand management and I still do a bit of that.â€
Speaking on the initial capital, Mofunanya said the ultramodern garage that hosts some of the most sophisticated equipment in auto body care, maintenance and repairs, was started with â€œan initial capital made up of equity funds and of course, loans, was somewhere in the neighborhood of about N30 million, but we have grown since then and we are still growing.
I canâ€™t tell you exactly how much we are worth at the moment as I donâ€™t have a precise figure, but whatever it is has been achieved through steady organic growth with a devotion to technological innovation and an uncommon appetite for details. Our philosophy has been â€˜focus on the car and all else will follow.â€™ And as for our annual turnover, I will have to wait a few more months before I can answer that question. The company is less than a year old,â€ he said.
The Central Motor Works boss named power supply as the primary challenge faced by the company.
â€œMy workshop uses diesel and gas-powered machines because we do not have a reliable public source of power supply. And as you can imagine, this factor alone has always threatened to erode whatever profit is coming to us. I am not the sort of person that will sit around and blame or wait for government, they will come round one day (we hope) you know, one thing you learn in the US is that, you snooze, you lose. So I do what I can.
Fifty per cent of our total running cost goes to diesel and gas. Solar energy has been suggested by some people, but the truth is that I donâ€™t know one place where this has worked effectively in this country. Maybe itâ€™s me, but I think there is something we are not doing right about this solar thing. If solar systems can work in European countries with little or no sunshine, why not here? Till we get it right, I am sticking with my gas and diesel even if itâ€™s costing the company an arm and a leg.â€
On partnerships, Mofunanya said: â€œAt the moment, I have a working relationship with Sikkens of Holland.
I rely a great deal on their technology to the extent that my spraying boot/oven was procured from, installed and equipped by Sikkens engineers. They train my staff and also keep me abreast of new developments and breakthroughs in auto body care. Besides, all my auto paint, accessories and finishes come straight from Holland. As my technical partners, a set of my staff have just returned from Holland after a one_month training programme on how to replace broken windscreens. You will agree with me that this has been a sore spot in Nigeria panel beating. But I can assure you that we have perfected this act.