It is now about a month since members of the Experiential Marketers Association of Nigeria (EXMAN) came together to chart how to add value and remain relevant in Nigeria's integrated marketing communications space. Godwin Anyebe remembers.
This year's edition of EXMAN Brand Experience Summit which took place at Providence By Mantis, in GRA, Ikeja, recently in Lagos had experts who shared their experiences of how to navigate the storms on Nigeria's marketing terrain and come out outstanding.
Founder and Chairman of Coscharis Group, Cosmas Maduka who took the first shot at the plenary session, ensured that he set the right tone of engagement at the commencement of the summit.
Speaking on what he titled: “Building from Scale”, Cosmas Maduka who made his first million at 24, emphasized the need for entrepreneurs to build a sustainable business that can outlive them. He also stressed the need for entrepreneurs to leverage innovation and demonstrate strong corporate governance.
Citing his grass to grace story of how a small start-up business he founded with a meager N200 in 1977 has become a multibillion Naira conglomerate, the Nnewi born serial entrepreneur urged would-be entrepreneurs to be determined and see opportunity in every challenge.
“After losing my father at the age of 4, things became so rough for my siblings and me but I was determined to succeed. In 1976, years after serving my uncle as an apprentice, he gave me N200 as a reward for my years of apprenticeship under him. With a determination to succeed, that was enough for me to fly. Today that brand is worth several billions”.
Maduka also stressed the need for business owners to take actions with a clear strategy in place as one of the worst things to do is to do nothing at all, adding that the belief to succeed must be greater than the fear of failure.
According to him, one must have his objective in whatever he or she is doing in life written down and work according to that objective, using himself as an example, the Nnewi billionaire said; "my desire was for me to discover for myself my own purpose and run with it." Continuing, he disclosed that, "I was an altar boy and I served Mass in the Catholic Church. I started the Legion of Mary in our compound. At a time, we were told that Mary visited three children at Fatima. That blew my mind, and I felt that the kids must be children devoted to serving God. And, being devoted myself, I wanted Mary to also come to Nnewi."
"So, I went to the bush and knelt praying with all sense of sincerity, telling Mary to appear and reminding her that she went to Fatima earlier. She didn’t come, but that is the kind of sincerity with which I always seek God. I grew up with that hunger and optimism. Before I became an adult, it was difficult. My mother couldn’t cope with the challenges, so she sent me to her parents. I lived with my grandparents and managed their home. From there, I joined my uncle who was my mother’s younger brother who was a spare parts dealer in Ebute-Meta; specifically at Onyingbo bus stop in Lagos. He wasn’t even living in his own home. He was living in his uncle’s apartment on Apapa Road. His uncle, Frank Ikwuazor, used to work at Bhojsons." He added.
He further stressed that, "this uncle lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his wife. So, my uncle sleeps in the passage in the night. Both of us couldn’t sleep in the passage. What my uncle did then was to make sure he locked me up in the shop at Ebute-Meta. He would give me an empty bottle to use in case I wanted to urinate at night, and he would return very early in the morning to open the door for me."
By the time I was eight years and he was now confident that I could lock the door myself, he left me to be managing myself in that shop where I was sleeping. That was also when my friend, Chisco (Chisco Group Chairman, Dr Chidi Anyaegbu) was working for his uncle called Bestman.
That time, we both slept in the shop. Sometimes, we would go together to the Mai Shai (roadside Hausa tea and bread seller) to buy tea and egg, because we had to eat dinner anywhere before retiring to our store to sleep. We woke up as early as 5:00 a.m to bathe by the side of the road because there was no bathroom. We kept our clothes in a carton and changed from there.
That is the kind of life I consider the best university anybody can go through because it is a tough lifestyle. It inspires you and you imbibe unprecedented discipline that will prepare you to survive difficult challenges. In that situation, you don’t need anybody to tell you to save money. I did that till I turned 14. I was naturally a very smart and hardworking boy. My boss opened a branch in Jos and that was how I went back to Plateau.
Our store used to be at 4/5, Drimi Street, very close to the motor park. I stayed under a bungalow where we were not allowed to enter inside the compound. I did very well in Jos and he moved me to Sokoto. I managed his office in Sokoto, and from Sokoto, I went to a nearby town called Gumi, selling spare parts. From there, he recalled me to Lagos and got me to open a shop at Nnewi. So, I was managing the Nnewi branch when I was 13.
Maduka said as a young boy, I had my goals clearly written out, and I worked smart to make sure I realise the goals I set for myself before age 25 which I eventually did. It's not rocket science, but all about determination and resilience.
For him, "as an entrepreneur, every problem is an opportunity. It all depends on your mental attitude to see such an opportunity. Covid-19 for example brought opportunities that an app like Zoom took advantage of. Today, the value of Zoom is 10x that of American Airlines. The owner of the app was prepared for the opportunity and the challenges posed by Covid-19″.
While emphasizing the need to build a sustainable business, the Coscharis Group Chairman explained that financial discipline remains imperative in sustaining a business. He also advised entrepreneurs, especially, those with little or no formal education to recruit educated people with skills to complement their own practical skills. Drawing from his experience, Maduka averred that his decision to do away with the “apprentice system’ at some point contributed immensely to his success. He, therefore, advised entrepreneurs to re-think the model when they start getting their feet in business.
Also speaking on building brand experience for destination brands, Director, Africa International Operations for Dubai Tourism, Stella Fubara-Obinwa urged participants at the conference to build a brand that is providing solutions to maintain sustainability and build relevance.
Speaking on the importance of positioning and branding for businesses, Stella urged participants to draw on the example that Dubai as a destination provides. She emphasized that despite its location, meager resources and population, Dubai has through good leadership, effective branding and positioning, become one of the most vibrant tourist destinations in the world.
Making a case for strategic thinking and planning as a sine qua non to brand building, Fubara-Obinwa cited the “Dubai Tourism’ story of how a city literally in the desert about a decade ago, has today become a choice destination for tourists and businessmen around the world.