By Clifford Ndujihe
MRS Folashade Okoya, deputy managing director, Eleganza Industrial City Limited and MD/CEO, Eleganza Fashion Products Limited, is not happy with the prevailing epileptic power supply in the country, which she argues is hurting industries and adversely affecting the economy. Folashade, wife of Business Mogul, Chief Rasak Akanni Okoya, is also sad over the unfriendly business climate in the country and tasked the government on urgent actions that will create an enabling environment.
She spoke to Saturday Vanguard, in Lagos shortly after a press briefing organised by EOM Business Network, recently. During the chat, Folashade also spoke on the state of infrastructure in Nigeria, how multiple taxes and tariffs affect industries, government’s efforts to support small scale industries, what she would like to be remembered for and the contributions of Eleganza Group to corporate Nigeria among others.
Challenges facing industries
Asked what she considers as the main challenges facing industries in Nigeria, she said: ‘’To me, they are policies. I want government to look critically into this. As manufacturers we get our raw materials from abroad and the policies sometimes affect our operations as you have to wait to get it cleared. I want government to wade into it so that manufacturers don’t have to suffer…
‘’Nigerians are very hard working people. If we are given an enabling environment we can do more and even better. Nigeria’s industry is faced with a lot of constraints which I believe if government can help tackle some of the challenges, we shall overcome. For instance, the issue of power is something government should look into because if electricity is available it will improve and boost the nation’s economy. So, as a manufacturer, I want government to do more especially in the provision of energy and pump money into technical institutions so that the youths can be empowered.’’
Mrs Okoya, who disclosed that Eleganza has over 2,000 workers, stressed the need for the government to support small scale industries as is being in rapidly developing economies like china. ‘’In china, small scale industries are everywhere and every person is his own boss. In this regard, the small scale industries are supporting the government in their own little way. What matters is for government to provide an enabling environment for them to thrive.’’
Folashade also stressed the need for manpower development in the country, which she said Eleganza does not joke with. ‘’Manpower is key in virtually all the sectors of the economy. We don’t compromise on that because we believe as a company, knowledge is power. We have well-trained staff and we also employ well-experienced professionals to man different segments. The issue of training of staff to keep abreast is something we take very seriously.
‘’The onus lies on the doorsteps of the different tiers of government to ensure there is skilled labour. There are established polytechnics and technical institutions. Not all can have university education. If all these schools are empowered by the government, the youths will be technically inclined. The knowledge acquired in these institutions can be useful for them in terms of self-reliance and also be useful to the society at large.’’
What Eleganza industrial city is all about
Asked what the new Eleganza Industrial City Limited is all about since Eleganza has been around for over four decades, she said: ‘’I am currently the deputy managing director of the company and my husband is the chairman. It is a new company which is less than three years in both construction and set-up. It’s on 35 acres of land located somewhere in Ibeju-Lekki on Lekki-Epe Expressway. As you know, Eleganza is a family business that has been around for over 40 years. The whole idea of the newly established EICL is to have household items in one compound. Not only that, we want to be able to give Nigerians and West African countries what we produce locally at affordable prices.
‘’One of the dreams of the chairman, and my husband, Alhaji Rasak Okoya, is to see that items being produced in the new industry become a household name. We produce luggage/bag that can be branded for companies, pilgrimage, government parastatals and family trip. We also manufacture over 68 different designs of standard chairs for churches, parties, eateries, hotels etc.
We also have sets of coolers and food warmers in different shapes and design. We manufacture baby diaper, sanitary and footwear for ladies and beauty products. All these products are in my house as I use them. We are a family company and we believe in making other families happy.’’
EICL unique selling point
Mrs Okoya identified quality and affordability as the unique selling points of EICL products. And to maintain the momentum, she said: ‘’Our new products are modern-day items different from the Eleganza of old. The quality still remains the same and customers get value for their money. It is affordable. Also, we don’t compromise on quality. In terms of personnel working in the factory, we have both experienced expatriates and Nigerians. All the products are carefully and professionally made under experienced hands. We are planning to push beauty products for ladies and babies into the Nigerian market very soon. We have over 21 designs of soap that we want to push into the market as well. The beauty of it is that anything my chairman set out to do; he does it in a unique way.’’
According to her what has kept the company going over the years is consistency, no compromise on standard and quality. ‘’My husband who is the chairman is a workaholic who is passionate about what he does. What keeps him going is to see his products in every household. This keeps him motivated to do more. I shop in Europe and I know sometimes it costs 200 Euro to get a chair. You can imagine getting the same standard in less than N3,000 locally. So, Eleganza is about touching lives positively.’’
Corporate social responsibility
Asked what Eleganza Group of companies had contributed in terms of corporate social responsibility, she said: ‘’Eleganza is synonymous with charity. We have touched lives in so many ways. These days, many of my husband’s activities now revolve around religion and service to humanity through his philanthropy. These cut across the various sectors of the society. At various times, he has supported medical establishments and hospital homes by donating life-saving equipment. His contributions to the manufacturing sector and the economy in Lagos are immeasurable by giving employment to thousands of people. We have over 2,000 under our employment. He has also assisted many people in establishing various business ventures. We organise annual pilgrimage for Moslems and feed over 2,000 under-privileged every week.
‘’My husband strongly believes in quality education and has a foundation under his name. In recent years he has thrown his weight in support of the Nigerian educational sector. 40 undergraduates benefited from his Alhaji Akanni Okoya Scholarship Awards a few years back when he gave out N100,000 each to 40 extraordinarily brilliant undergraduate students picked across four tertiary institutions in Lagos State. My joy is to see more people being employed and expanding more, touching lives.’’
Her assessment of Nigerian career women
Mrs Okoya urged women to not remain idle and should improved on their careers. ‘’I am impressed with the way they are going. They are wonderful, hard working and industrious. Nigerian women of these days don’t sit at home like the women of yesteryears. I am lucky to belong to the generation of hard working women. It means you can become somebody if you are focused and work on your dreams. With little or nothing, if you have passion for something and you do it with dedication and commitment, sky is just the beginning.’’
On why she was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Science in Business Management and Corporate leadership by the European American University, recently, she said, ‘’the award came as a result of what I am doing in Eleganza. It was a worthy recognition and I am grateful for it.’’
On life as the wife of one of the richest entrepreneurs in Nigeria
‘’It is being awesome. It is being wonderful. The marriage has been smooth. I have been enjoying my marriage. He is my best friend. One good thing about him is that he doesn’t lie. When I met him he said if you want the marriage to work I have to learn the ropes. Learning the ropes means I have to imbibe and embrace hard work. As you know he is a workaholic and every moment with him has been wonderful. I pray to God to spend many more years together.
How she sees her husband
Asked how she would describe her husband, she enthused: ‘’He is my husband, my friend, my role model. He is a wonderful man. He is very industrious. He actually employs me because if he didn’t have the foresight I won’t be here doing what I am doing now. He is a very hard working man who has contributed his quota and still contributing to the social economy development of the nation, reducing unemployment. Nigeria needs more of him.’’
What would you like to be remembered for?
‘’It is a family business which has been around for over 40 years. Our dream is to see Eleganza move from generation to generation and continue to touch lives. I want Nigerians and Africans to sit back and thank Eleganza for impacting on their lives.