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Persistence, sustenance of quality made daily-need household name – Jolayemi

By Guardian Nigeria
26 June 2022   |   2:43 am
Otunba Oyin Jolayemi is the Chairman, Daily-Need Industries Limited, Lagos. Now in its 50th year since it began manufacturing pharmaceuticals and other household products, Jolayemi spoke

Jolayemi

Otunba Oyin Jolayemi is the Chairman, Daily-Need Industries Limited, Lagos. Now in its 50th year since it began manufacturing pharmaceuticals and other household products, Jolayemi spoke to AZEEZ OLORUNLOMERU on the journey of his life and how he has successfully run a world-class manufacturing outfit over the last 50 years.

You have been successful as an industrialist for five decades. How did your journey into entrepreneurship start?
Very early in life, as a child, I was determined to be successful, to be somebody in life. I never wanted to settle for less. So, as a village boy in Kwara State, I engaged in different kinds of business despite being the last child. I was into mat and basket making between ages eight and 12 years. I started making money. From childhood, I was always buying and selling, saving and making money. This was what eventually prompted me to move to Lagos at a very young age.

How old were you when you came to Lagos?
I was 13 years old when I first stepped foot in Lagos; I stayed with an elderly person from my hometown. I worked with him as an errand boy. We dealt in dusters and handkerchiefs, which were used then to wash cars. I hawked around Broad Street, Marina and the like, which were predominantly populated by white men at that time. They were believed to be the only ones that could afford those dusters and handkerchiefs. Not many Nigerians owned cars. This was in the late 50s and early 60s.

Gradually, I set up my own business in the same line. Later, I was able to get some money to rent a kiosk to put my goods in. This was at No. 4, Reclamation Street, Lagos Island, around where the Oba’s palace is now. After some initial business boom, the business became really slow. I added the merchandise of a couple of other things around Idumota and Balogun markets, including boxes and raincoats to my list to improve business. Miraculously, business improved and I gradually saved up a lot of money.

How did you venture into the sale of patent medicines?
Having saved money, I rented a shop for myself at No. 26, Dosunmu Street. I started to sell household items. The woman close to me was into patent medicines. So, whenever I didn’t have much to do, I would go to her and ask her what I could do for her. She taught me how to sell medicines. She would send me to Balogun Street to go get extra medicines whenever she was out of stock.

At a time, her husband travelled and she said once he returned from Mecca, she would move to her new shop at No. 49, Dosunmu Street. Unfortunately, her husband died in Mecca, so she had to go back to the village to mourn for three months. She then handed over the shop to me. She also handed over her kids to me to look after. I then begged her to give me her old shop when leaving for the new one. She promised to give it to me. After her mourning period, she returned and went to her new shop. After serving her for some time, she gave me the old shop. That was how I started selling patent medicines.

Did you see this coming?
Honestly speaking, I was already prepared for it. Before this woman returned from her mourning, I had gone to Yaba to meet one Mr Andrew Egbo, who was in charge of licensing patent medicines dealers. I paid for my licence so that nothing would hinder me from taking over the shop when the time came. That was how I found myself selling medicines. After three years, I got my own place at No. 18, Dosunmu Street, Lagos Island and moved down there. Fortunately, I became well-known. People loved me and would always buy from me. This was in 1963. On January 17, 1966, I laid the foundation of my first house at Bishop Crowther Street, Surulere, Lagos.

When did you get married?
I got married in December 1967. I just felt it was the right time to settle down, and I found someone I liked and we started the journey of marriage together. God disciplined me to get married to one woman. All my children are from one woman. I didn’t want any problem at all in old age, so I was conscious enough to stick to just one woman. In November of that same year, I bought my first car. In 1968, I had my first child. That same year I bought another land at Adelabu, Surulere, and I put another four flats there. My life started out too early, so I didn’t even believe I would ever come to this place where I would be this successful. I give all thanks to God for his kindness.

You are also widely travelled. What was it like the first time you travelled abroad?
In June 1970, I decided to travel abroad. I went to 16 countries at a time. I first went to Paris, France. I then went to Germany before going to Japan, and Hong Kong where I spent one and a half months.

I went for business. I had the ambition to go study how business was done overseas so I could come here and replicate the same in Nigeria. Travelling, they say, is part of education. I used to have a very good customer who I used to buy medicines from in Hong-Kong. I thought it was a very big company until I visited them and saw that it was just a small shop handled solely by a man and his wife. They had a very fine letterhead and made everyone believe they were big. I was learning the art of packaging. So, on return to Nigeria, I joined the Junior Chambers of Commerce at Apapa, Lagos, which took us abroad again for some months. We went to South Korea where my eyes were further opened. This was in 1980. South Korea was like Isale-Eko. The only difference was that they were white-coloured and we were blacks. That’s all.

Did you start out your business using the name Daily-Need?
No. It was the first Matthew Medicine Store.

At what time did you start using Daily Need and what inspired the name?
That was in 1970 when I opened Daily-Need Pharmacy at No. 34, Nnamdi Azikiwe Street, Idumota, Lagos. Before we began Daily-Need, Matthew Medicine Store used to buy a particular cream from a producer, UTC, Ilupeju, Lagos. It was a skin-whitening product. I had a lot of customers from the Benin Republic. Because a lot of Nigerians and Beninese then loved it, it was very profitable. I later decided to start making my own cream, ‘Paulina Beauty Cream.’ I took a loan of £1,500 from my bank, and got someone who helped me get the machine and the formula. So, I began my small factory at No. 12, Olufemi Street, Surulere. I rented two flats. I used one for storage and one for manufacturing. I used to have a friend at Niger Pack Company. I did the printing but I didn’t have any money to pay. One of the sales managers just decided to help me. He was my surety. This was around 1971.

It didn’t come easy being a competitor with a well-known brand. A lot of people claimed not to know my brand at the outset. But was persistent, I began to sell some of the products till my brand became a household name and even overshadowed the competition.

What is the difference between doing business then and what we have now? What are the challenges you are going through now as a company?
You know the answer when you look at the economy of the country. As we are seated here now, we are doing a lot of things that the government is supposed to do for us for ourselves. We dig boreholes, which is the government’s role. In this company, we have a gas plant of our own. There is nothing we get from the government. A lot of companies have closed down because they cannot afford to buy diesel to run the company at this time. It is impossible.

How much are we producing? How much do we sell? The problems are many. You cannot even obtain a loan from a bank. The interest rate alone will nearly kill you. How do we survive? We believe God will change things for good in the future? This is why I used to ask myself: Is there any chance for this generation to start up a business in the way I started mine with the way things are? I am only praying. There is a very slim chance. It is not easy.

What will be your advice to young people?
My worry now is that young people are making me afraid. They have joined cults, ‘yahoo yahoo’ (internet fraud), ritual killing and others. Bad attitudes! The youths are in haste. They want to have money right away. They should be patient. God will make a way for them when it is time.

At 82, what are you most grateful for?
I am glad that I have always seen the hand of God in my life. I don’t take it for granted. It has been God all the way.