In this interview with Akin Adewakun, the General Manager, Sales and Marketing, Crown Flour Mill, Mr. John Olaoye, bares his mind on the proposed Nigeria/China currency swap deal, the advantages of such deals for local brands and the readiness of the company’s brands to survive the competition, especially from foreign brands, that such deal may induce. Excerpts:
Nigeria/China Currency Swap: Survival tips for local brands
It would be a good one for the local market and the nation’s business environment, considering the amount of trade involving the two countries. But what it also means is that indigenous brands would have no choice than to raise the bar; since the latest development might attract a lot of foreign brands. With technology and other advancements, I can tell you the world has become a global village. So we, as local players, should always be ready for such competition. I also believe that the regulatory frameworks, from regulatory organisations such as the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the National Agency for Food Administration and Control ( NAFDAC) and others would just need to be more active. I believe if we put our quality management systems together and we ensure that we follow them, chances are that bars would be raised. I believe if the whole thing is well managed, it should be to the advantage of the local brands. Honestly, the currency swap should not constitute any headache for local brands. For us, we are more than ready for such the competition such deal might bring.
Why Nigerian brands don’t last long
I can tell you Alabukun is a local brand, and it has survived for sometime now. Dangote is another local brand, that holds a lot of promises. I know what you are talking about is surviving for about 50-60 years, or more. I can tell you the reasons such brands are not common in Nigeria. The making of a brand is such that you have to be strategic. You have to first define your vision and ground such vision on a purpose. Those two must be turned to a mission, while your values must also be defined. Once you’ve done all those, you need people. What usually happens is that most of the Nigerian brands don’t always have their visions properly defined. Sometimes, where it is properly defined, you see that focus becomes a problem. Unless you are focused, you can’t take the brand to that level that you are talking about. It can’t get to a level where it will survive decades and still be waxing stronger. Corporate governance is also remains an issue that is holding local brands down. I know that a lot of Nigerian organisations, behind some brands, don’t engage in corporate governance. The idea of corporate governance does not mean so much to them. And with such setting there is no way such brands would survive for decades. My advice, in a nutshell, is that to have a sustainable brand, you must ensure that your vision is properly defined, be sure it is grounded on a purpose. You must be sure you turn it into a mission, you must be sure that your core values are well-defined and not just defined, you must be sure you live those values. Once you are doing that, you will be able to sustain the business.
How the nation’s marketing institute, NIMN, should prosecute its war against quacks
Let me clarify a lot of issues here. There is a law that says you can only practice marketing, if you belong or are certified by the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (NIMN). And I will be honest with you, implementing that law has been a challenge because there were two bodies that were merged together by the national assembly just before the law was passed. Two bills were introduced by the then NIMARK (Nigerian Institute of Marketing) and the CIMN (Certified Institute of Marketing of Nigeria). Two of them introduced bills separately. But the national assembly in its wisdom, about 2003, insisted that the two bills must be merged and passed. This makes it mandatory for any would-be marketer to be a member of the institute first, before he starts to practise. For quiet some time, the two institutes had a challenge of coming together. But a lot of things have changed now. It’s one institute now, with one goal.
Now the institute is set to enforce that law, as time goes on, even those of you in the media will soon see that the institute is coming out strongly in the area of enforcement. This is very important because we see a lot of non-professionals, practising marketing, and it is bad for the practice.
What 2014 Master Bakers’ endorsement has done to Mama Gold Flour
In 2014, the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers, Lagos Chapter, endorsed Mama Gold Flour, the flagship brand of Crown Flour Mills. One interesting thing about the endorsement is that it came from the end users of flour. And, so long the end users see value in a brand, you can be sure that success has been recorded. Between that time and now, we’ve improved sales by 1,500 per cent. In short the endorsement has been very positive for the brand.
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We’ve increased sales in the north, despite insurgency.
Basically Olams Mills acquired BUA Flour Mills, which ordinarily, means increased capacity. The idea of BUA Flour is to enhance our brands in the north. We decided to add it because we discovered we couldn’t even cope with the demands from the north, despite the security challenges, in that area. Sometimes the report we hear in the media about security challenges in the north, may not really be a true representation of the picture of the happenings in the north. Northerners are still doing their businesses, we still do very well in the north, especially Kano and even Maiduguri. The fact remains that, people will always eat, irrespective of the situation.
Our survival strategies during the last recession
Olam International as a company in Nigeria is not just the biggest non-oil exporter. It is also a company that always aligns with government policies early enough. Before this government came on board in 2015, our structure was such that we were into export, so we were generating foreign exchange. So when the government came and drew up a list of 41 prohibitive items, they didn’t say don’t bring in those items anyway, at least our own major raw materials, wheat, was one of the items on that list. But we were already generating our own foreign exchange through export. We were into export of primary products, because we are agric business company. We had some of these agricultural products that we were exporting, and because we were doing that, we were able to get foreign exchange to import whatever we needed for our production. In fact we increased our market share of these brands during recession. For us there was no recession because our business model address whatever issues that came up with government policies.
We have not been quiet on marketing activities
We’ve not really been quiet. For some of our brands which are industrial products, such as flour, used for biscuits, noodles and others, we do a lot of below- the- line marketing activities. We are engaged so much in below the line activities. Even at that, we still call some of our customers to a forum in Abuja, last month. However, we want to be sure that as we go on, we want to consolidate on our B to Cs, which include Semolina, Mama Gold Wheat. These are brands that we are doing a lot of things for, presently. In terms of marketing, you will soon see a lot of marketing activities. For now, there is a lot of activation programs going on, and we are doing so many things to ensure that the brand has top-of-the-mind awareness.
Measures at ensuring our brands are not adulterated
Let me start with the Semolina, we’ve invested a lot on packaging. If you see Mama Gold Semolina package, it’s so unique that it is very difficult to adulterate it. But with the flour, we’ve seen instances when people try to adulterate. Since flour is an industrial product, we can call the master bakers together and sensitise them on this. We also have a product support team that is constituted into a task force that helps to work in such a way that the issue of adulteration is checkmated and reduced to the bearest minimum.