‘Transport industry is one of the biggest employment generators in the country’
Simba Group has reiterated its commitment to empowering more Nigerians through its products and services. Business Head of Simba TVS, Mr Manish Rohtagi, speaks on partnership with some Microfinance Banks, while banks should lend more to customers, the business environment, economy and challenges faced by businesses operating in the country.
What is Simba Group all about?
Simba Group has been in this country for over 30 years. We started our business with bicycles and bicycle parts way back in 1988. We are present in several key sectors that are critical to the development of the Nigerian economy including transport, power, IT, agriculture etc. The office you are in is the headquarters of our transport business. We in partnership with TVS Motors India are the largest manufacturers of kekes (tricycles) in Nigeria and our two wheelers, also known colloquially as okadas, continue to reshape the Nigerian two-wheeler market.
How does the TVS brand help the Nigerian Economy?
Transport is essential to the functioning of any economy and is one of the main drivers of it. Our products address the last mile transport needs of Nigerians. It has been shown each tricycle or motorcycle sold creates employment for around four people as these machines not only require riders, but also mechanics, dealers and spares distributors etc. That’s even without considering our own employees. Hence this industry is one of the biggest employment generators in the country.
Along with that we have been running several programmes that empower the youth of the country. We have worked with several government agencies including National Automotive Design Development Council (NADDAC), National Directorate of Employment (NDE) among others and trained countless people into becoming keke riders or mechanics for free. We also try to partner with the State and Federal Governments so that we empower more and more youths.
Could you tell us a bit about Simba Group’s other companies?
As I mentioned earlier, along with transportation, Simba Group is into power backup. Our Luminous Inverters are the most popular inverter brand in the country, we are also heavily investing in the development of solar energy. Other companies in the group include Simba Agric where we focus on mechanisation which includes tractors and irrigation systems – both responsible for increasing agricultural productivity. Simba Cycles sells bicycles, SimbaNET provides business connectivity solutions to corporates and Simba Infrastructure offers Business Communication Solutions in partnership with Avaya. But basically, the focus area for me is transportation.
What have been the challenges so far?
We get lots of support from government institutions but there is still a huge opportunity for public and private sector financial institutions to increase the access to cheap and collateral-free borrowing, in order to provide a major boost to the industry, and the economy at large.
How many financial institutions have helped?
There has been much progress, and impetus from the Central Bank as well. But there’s still a long way to go before we really begin to see efficient financial models coming into play. There are few microfinance banks who have partnered with us and things are getting better. If many more banks can come and offer people loans to buys kekes and okadas at a subsidised rate or even collateral free, then things will move much faster.
What are your projections for the nearest future?
We see limitless growth potential in the country and the growth quantum can be much bigger than any other countries. Nigeria can be among the top 10 economies in the world. I truly believe that, and our investments in the economy certainly reflect that.
Is your organisation into any Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities?
CSR has always been integral to the Simba Group. As part of our group philosophy of empowerment, even our CSR programmes follow the same ideology. At the heart of our offering is our emphasis on training- something that we provide free of charge to mechanics and engineers who aspire to be mini-entrepreneurs or gainfully employed in the industries we represent. We have intervened in times of national disaster, such as our actions and contributions during the recent Kano floods, and have been praised for our contributions to the victims of that terrible atrocity.
We believe in wome empowerment very strongly, and our efforts to support the development of women, have taken two forms. Firstly, we have partnered with the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) to distribute cycles to girl students to encourage them to attend school. And secondly, we run the Queen Riders programme – a programme in which we train and certify women from under-privileged backgrounds to become Keke riders and help them on the path to self-employment by harnessing the ecosystem of financiers that we have created.