Dr. Nair Satish, Managing Director/Chief Executive, Sunola Foods Limited, a member company of the Kewalram Group of companies. In this interview with Ibrahim Apekhade Yusuf, he speaks on the unprecedented consumer buying behaviour while making a purchasing decision vis-a-vis prospects and challenges of running a fast moving consumer goods company in an emerging economy like Nigeria. Excerpts:
Understanding Nigerian consumer buying behaviour
In the view of Dr. Nair Satish, who sits atop as the Managing Director/Chief Executive, Sunola Foods Limited, a subsidiary of the Kewalram Group of companies, Nigerians are generally discerning. “They appreciate top quality when they see it and that’s why any company that wants to make an inroad into the market needs to focus on producing top quality products.”
Nigerians, he reiterated, are very discerning.
“What I always say is that at the end of the day, the consumers decide what they want. So there is really no amount of cajoling you can do to change the mind of the consumer other than go out of your way to offer quality products. Therefore my message for Nigerian consumers is that they are the ones that would determine the quality they want. The only thing is that in choosing a product, the consumer need to know that a product may be cheap at this point in time but injurious to their health on the long run. So they must therefore ensure that they choose wisely. They need to ensure that the products are properly certified by the relevant authorities before they make a purchasing decision. It is the consumers’ responsibility to ensure that the products they buy yare of top notch quality. Much has the consumers need to be price conscious they need to be aware that quality matters even more.”
Nigeria economy, he observed, offers prospects for business growth in spite of numerous challenges besetting it. He also said the development explains why his company would remain in Nigeria and continue to add value to it through manufacturing of quality products that can match its peers outside the shores of the land.
Nair, who spoke recently at the sideline of the launch of Mom’s Curry Powder in Lagos, also described Nigerian consumers as innovative while urging them not to compromise in the purchase and consumption of quality products that can give them value for their money.
He informed that there are many products in the country that are genetically modified and are not fit for consumption; he however advised consumers that insisting on quality product could save them from health risks associated from consuming unhealthy products.
Nair, who said his company is customer-centric and purpose driven, added that the launch of the new products was designed to give consumers new range of flavoured and quality aroma of curry.
While emphasising the role research and development play in the development of new products, Nair disclosed that his company carried out extensive research that lasted for six months, which enabled the firm to create unique products that appeal to consumers.
He said Mom’s curry powder, Sunola rice and Sunola sugar are products with competitive prices and customer appeal.
He said a mobile kitchen would soon be deployed to strategic markets in the country to allow consumers and traders experience the taste and aroma of its curry seasoning.
According to him: “One of the reasons we named the curry powder Mom is because of its distinct aroma that does not only appeal to the consumer, but reminds them of their mothers good cooking while growing up. We are bringing that sense of freshness, ecstatic feeling and alluring taste into one package.”
While noting the crucial role research and development play in the development of new products. According to him, the company carried out extensive research that lasted for six months, which enabled the firm to create unique products that appeal to consumers.
He described Mom’s curry powder, Sunola rice and Sunola sugar as products with competitive prices and customer appeal. In the coming weeks, Nair explained that a mobile kitchen would be deployed to strategic markets in the country by the company in order to allow consumers and traders to experience the taste and aroma of its curry seasoning.
“The reason we named the curry powder Mom’s is because of its distinct aroma that does not only appeal to the consumer, but reminds them of their mothers good cooking while growing up. We are bringing that sense of freshness, ecstatic feeling and alluring taste into one package,” he said.
As part of plans to get the products out there, he said there would be display contest in various markets in the country starting with Lagos.
According to him, this will allow the company to engage with consumers and traders across the country and after a grand finale, the Mother of the Year would be crowned with fantastic prizes.
Nair who has been with the Kewalram Group in the past three years, further revealed that he once worked at the company’s Dubai office before moving to Nigeria in 2017 December to take over at Sunola Foods Limited.
Nair who has been involved in the area of the fast moving consumer goods industry in the last 20 years, has also worked extensively on food products and specialises in supply chain management.
He also stressed that the company has mapped out various strategies to get the products in the hands of consumers.
Specifically, he said that there would be display contest in various markets in the country which would take off from Lagos.
He explained that the development would allow his firm to have interface with consumers and traders in Nigeria following which the Mother of the Year would be crowned at the grand finale, and this comes with good prizes.
He further noted that beyond experiential marketing other measures aimed at popularising the products would be adopted.
“We are going to take to get the products put on the streets. Apart from we will do some display contest, concentrate on merchandising, and then we will be travelling to different locations in Nigeria to create awareness for the products. We are starting with Lagos initially and later move to other parts pg the country. Our target is 12 months. We will be doing some other activities. Anybody who likes their mother’s cooking would naturally like Moms.”
On the composition of the ingredients in the Mom branded curry powder, he said, “they comprise blended recipes that suits nearly every Nigerian menu. We have something for people in Ibo land, Hausa, there is a commonalty in the product. There is one thing common with Mom’s range of products and that is its uniqueness.”
On the fear that the products may have genetically modified ingredients, he said such fears are unfounded.
“That is a very good question. Our products don’t have genetically modified ingredients. Our products are 100 per cent ingredients selected from different parts of the world and blended into a formula. They have perfect texture of ingredients. Curry products is one of the brands we are launching under the Mom’s brand of products. Sunola is already a household name in Nigeria. It is a product for the masses, it is not a niche market. It would go to each and every nook and corner of the country as well as the big and small market. In terms of pricing, we will have competitive pricing. It will not be low it will not be too high.”
The blend of the various ingredients that is added to that makes it a must-have in every home, he boasted matter-of-factly.
On the unique selling points of the products, he said, “The aroma does not go away. The spices used are top of the range. They are not an artificial based enhancer. Like the monosodium glutamate that people use for certain products which artificially enhances the tastes of these products. No. These products are made up of purely organic raw materials, especially the curry powder. Mom is a kitchen range of products we are launching in the market. There are more of Moms products that would come. The research and development took more than three months because we wanted to get it right. We have Sunola oil which is completely manufactured in Nigeria.”
While emphasising that some of the products under Mom’s range of products, especially curry powder is basically packaged in Nigeria but imported in bulk with some kind of processing done here and then packaged, since according to him, all the ingredients are not available in Nigeria hence the need for value addition, he was however optimistic that as part of the backward integration policy of the federal government, he said plans are afoot to ensure that some of these products produced here in the country.
But then he gave a caveat: “We are going to produce all our products here, in the future once all the raw materials are available.”
Naturally as a business involved in the fast moving consumer goods, chances are that your products may be counterfeited by some of these unscrupulous individuals once the brand makes headway. What are going to do to fight products counterfeiting?
“We are aware of this problem because there are lots of people just waiting to see how this product gets popular in the market and then go about counterfeiting it by tweaking in the name and all. But having said that we are launching a product that meets al quality and standards. SON has given its approval for the manufacturing of these products just as NAFDAC has certified it okay. So we have all these big agencies that have endorsed our products. I am sure if these products gets counterfeited these agencies would help to guide against that. We are also not relenting.”