‘Why Nigerians should create truly indigenous brands’
Nations are known for their brands and contributions to the world. Nigerians have been called upon to stop complaining and start tapping the opportunities in the nation to create truly Nigerian brands that will be a pride of the nation, boost the economy and alleviate poverty.
This was the submission of Group Managing Director of Genesis Group, Dr Nnaeto Orazulike, on behalf of the recipients of honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Port Harcourt recently. Orazulike noted that the fact that foreigners continue to establish new businesses or expand existing ones in Nigeria is a testimony that they see what we don’t see in our country and economy.
According to him, “We need to change our perception about our country and start looking at the opportunities and how to harness them. I am not saying that the challenges are not real, but beneath every challenge lies legitimate business opportunities. It was this desire that inspired the Genesis Group.”
Orazulike frowned at the tendency of many Nigerians to focus only on the negative side about their country and hype them without looking at the positive side, noting, “We are inundated daily with a lot of negative news and feelings about our great nation. News about Nigeria both within and outside the country is awash mainly with the difficulties and challenges of doing business in the country. The list of the challenges is endless, ranging from infrastructural deficit, to near absence of power, insecurity, low ranking on some global indices like ease of doing business and transparency issues etc. These, unfortunately, have impacted negatively on the psyche and perception of many of our young people such that many of them have accepted defeat even before graduation.
“On the other hand, many fail to see, from the same media that the multinationals already in the country are increasing their investments and deepening their shareholdings in their various business interests in the same Nigeria.
“Amidst the same challenges, you would observe a number of foreign businesses opening shops every day, and the existing ones extending their reach in many more cities. Look at what is happening in the retail landscape of our economy and the great inroads being made by the likes of Shoprite and Spar. It is much the same in the telecoms industry where MTN, Glo, Airtel and Etisalat have continued to grow and excel. The opportunities were not created by these businesses. All they did and, continue to do, is take them where many did not see the opportunities neither did they dare to even take them when they saw them.”
It was the same spirit that made him start the Genesis brand at the age of 21, Orazulike said. Today, the brand which started as Genesis Restaurant in Enugu, has grown to become a conglomerate spanning different sectors and employing about 2,500 people. Within the Genesis brand are to be found names like Genesis Restaurant, Genesis Deluxe Cinemas, Genesis Fill-up, Genesis Bread, Genesis Sojourner and more. Interestingly, the Genesis brand – which currently spans restaurants, hotels, catering, cinemas, real estate, bakery/confectioneries, facilities management and lifestyle centres started shortly after he graduated from the university.
Upon graduation from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1990 and completing his National Youth Service Corps scheme in 1991, young Orazulike started work in a bank. On a certain day, he took a female friend out on a date but was disappointed that he could not find a fine dining restaurant in Enugu that met his taste. Because he did not find satisfaction in his banking work or practice accountancy that he studied, and because the entrepreneurship drive in him was pushing him to do something new and creative, he decided to provide Enugu with an upscale restaurant that same year.
Orazulike said he started the Genesis Restaurant in Enugu even without knowing how to cook or how to manage a business. The situation was not helped by the fact that Enugu was seen as a city of civil servants, lecturers and students, which made everybody assume that the restaurant would not be well patronised. But Genesis Restaurant was an instant success. A brand was born. So Genesis brand was created to fill a gap and solve a need.
As he put it philosophically, “Nigeria is a typical example of a glass of water that can be seen as half full or half empty. The mindset of the person looking at it will determine what the person sees. Those who see only doom always see it half empty, while those who see the great opportunities in Nigeria usually see it half full”.
Unfortunately most Nigerians prefer to see the negative side of Nigeria and concentrate on that side, which has led to the lack of faith and constant spread of negative stories about Nigeria. This mindset is what Orazulike says must stop for Nigeria to grow.
The Genesis boss promised to mark the honoris causa by building and donating a befitting science laboratory to the University of Port Harcourt in its continuing education centre as well as a Genesis entertainment centre within the university to create a balanced life in the university community. He added that the enduring legacy of Genesis Group would, however, be to build a Genesis School of Hospitality in the university, which would create a large workforce that would revolutionize hospitality in Nigeria and continue his dream of a better Nigeria.
Orazulike concluded by saying, “My parting words to us today is for us to look at the brighter side of Nigeria and view it from a different perspective and be prepared to take the opportunities staring us in the face. This way, we can help in alleviation poverty in our country. If every Nigerian can commit to propagate one positive thing about this great country, especially when we are abroad, our story will begin to change. Like I always tell people who care to listen, no one can love us more than ourselves.”
In addition to many accomplishments, Orazulike is a member of the board of Fate Foundation as well as a non-executive director of Fidelity Bank Plc.