‘Young people should drive Nigeria’s economic activities’
Sir Chigozie Okafor is the MD, CEO of Dynatech Group. In this interview with DEBO OLADIMEJI, the young entrepreneur, who was recently inducted into Rotary Club of Festac Town, Lagos, spoke on his journey into the world of entrepreneurship and why young people should get involved.
Tell us about your background?
I was born into the family of late Sir David Okechukwu Okafor and Lady Evelyn Nwamaka Okafor who are from Nnewichi, Nnewi North Local Government Area of Anambra State. My late father was a trader in Onitsha; he was dealing in padlocks and building materials. My mother, on the other hand, is a retired teacher at the moment.
I was born into a business family; I got involved in it at a very young age because of the kind of environment that I found myself. As you know, Onitsha is one of the biggest central commercial cities in Eastern Nigeria. Any person that grows up in Onitsha will have some business traits in him. However, I’m a graduate of Nnamidi Azikwe University, (UNIZIK) Awka, Anambra State. When I was a student, I was always around my late dad, who happened to be my mentor in business.
How did you get into the line of business that you are doing?
Before I gained admission into Unizik, after my secondary school education at Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, I had support from my father, who exposed me to business and mentored me. With his support, I started visiting China and the United Kingdom (UK) from year 2000, when I was just 17 years. In visited China to get acquainted to their technology and the business in China; I stayed for like six months the first time I visited. As of then, the Internet was not common; business transactions were done on one-on-one contacts. So, I was in China then to make contacts with some businessmen, who were into importation then. Before my father died, I was already established in my business.
How did your background influence your profession?
As a child, I have always been interested in going into different kinds of businesses. I always had it in mind that I will one day end up to become a successful businessman; that has always been my dream. I saw it coming to pass by securing my admission into Unizik to read Business Administration; I was motivated to combine school and business at the same time. It wasn’t easy, but I managed it; I came out with Second Class Upper. It has been a source of inspiration.
What informed your decision to go into production of toothbrush and shaving sticks?
These products are household items that you can’t do without; no day passes without people using toothbrushes or shaving sticks. I studied the business and I realised that it is a good one, as far as we can ensure high quality at a very competitive price. I believe if we are very consistent with our quality and price mechanism, importation of toothbrushes to Nigeria will soon become a thing of the past. As soon as we are done with our consolidation in the industry, the importers will not be able to compete with us; that I can assure you.
It seems a lot of people are more comfortable brining inferior products from China as against establishing their own production lines here?
I will not say Chinese goods are inferior or not, but of course, any contract that you are establishing with any company should have terms and conditions. Let me use myself as an example, most of the products that we have their franchises in my company, we regulate their production and we ensure quality control; it’s what we agreed with our suppliers that they give us; if you want something good, they give you the price of something good. So, we have our background checks for cost of material or economic situation before we fix our prices.
What are the challenges so far?
The major challenge we experience in production is power supply. However, we have our independent source of power supply, so, we manage that. Everyday, we are advancing on innovation and strategic planning to reduce the number of items that we import from abroad and to increase our production capacity. That is what we are working on everyday to see how we can reduce the number of items that we import. By His grace, before the year 2020, it will be achieved. Our factory is in Onitsha where we produce toothbrushes and shaving sticks. We have three different factories in Anambra State, independent of each other. We have where we do recycling of plastic, we have a place where we do injection of plastic and we have the packaging line; they are three different places.
By the time we finish the bigger factory, which we are using about 25 plots of land to do at my hometown Nnewi, we will bring the factories under one portfolio.
What makes your products unique?
I think people will patronise us because we trust our quality; our quality is always the best and we trust our price. Our price is the most competitive price in the market, because we work so hard to reduce the prices of our products. Even the common man can easily afford to buy our products.
How are you coping with competition in the industry?
Any business without its challenges and competition is no business; you will consider a business as a successful one when there are competitors and challenges in that business. You can’t count success without competition and hiccups; we are managing competition as much as we can and of course, we are advancing on the quality of our products every day.
What role do you think the government can play to support entrepreneurs like yourself?
When our bigger factory site is completed at my and we commence production, we are looking at partnering with the Bank of Industry to expand our capacity with more employees. Right now, we have about 130 workers working with Dynatech Group. By the time our new production facility gets ready, we hope that we will do three times our strength; we will have up to 300 workers working with the company.
How did you manage to raise your startup capital?
It was just a support from my father. When you a businessman as your father, who can support you to start a business, you don’t have any option than to do well. Like Donald Trump, the President of the United States of America, he had support from his father and that is why he is where he is today. When you have support from your uncle, father or family, that means you have a good foundation. I will say I have a good foundation that I built on. Today, I see myself as a successful entrepreneur.
What informed your decision to cite your factories in the southeast?
We actually have a mini factory in Lagos; our headquarters is in Lagos and we have a packaging line here. Sometimes, we do the finishing of our products in Lagos. However, we are clamouring for restructuring in Nigeria. As people who are clamouring, you have to show it first in whatever you are doing before talking to the government to make restructuring work. My drive for citing my factory in the East is because I’m a fan of restructuring and I want Nigeria to stand. I want to employ my people. I want to see that my people from Anambra State and Nnewi are gainfully employed. It gives me credit before my people. Of course, any empowerment that I have to do should come from the grassroots. So, I’m trying to empower people; charity begins at home.
What’s your advice to the young people?
My advice to the youth is to sit up and drive Nigeria’s economic activities; they should get close to the government. They should get their PVCs to cast their votes during elections and ensure that their votes count. Whatever businesses we do, we have to be positive and to be focused to get a positive outcome. This is the only way to bring in good leaders that will represent the interest of Youth and the Nation.