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Interview: Food Business and Career in Nigeria

Food Business and Career in Nigeria

 Segun Aluko

Head of Business Development – Delon Apps, Lagos

 

Today we’ll be speaking with another guest (Mr. Adebayo – CEO of Plantation Foods Limited, a food manufacturing company based in Osogbo, Osun State but with presence in other states).  We’ll be talking about food business in Nigeria, supply chain management, government policy and of course career development for fresh graduates and students in Nigeria.

Before we start, I like to remind our viewers that jobs.delon.ng is Nigeria’s top job website where employers can easily post your jobs free of charge, but our biggest value is to help job seekers gain easy and free access to latest jobs in Nigeria 2020.

Our vision is to help lift one million Nigerians out of poverty through our classifieds and job site.And we have the largest and most diverse database of current jobs in Nigeria.

We’re unique because we also publish articles to enhance people’s career, business promotion, job search, as well as economic, business and policy awareness.

Again, I like to thank you for joining us and you are welcome again. Please tell us about your career till date

I am so happy and honored to be here on this platform. From the mandatory NYSC programme till date, I must say it’s been quite interesting. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur and was never keen on working for someone. Rather, I was always interested in becoming a job provider while contributing my quota to my industry and the country’s development as a whole. My internship experience at Flour Mills Nigeria and my degree in Food Technology from the Premier University in Nigeria, the University of Ibadan helped in no small way to prepare me adequately.

As an entrepreneur in the food manufacturing sector, it’s been quite a journey particularly when you factor in how Business can be like in Nigeria as a whole. With my fellow co-founder, we have been able to employ and manage people in the business while thriving and looking forward to becoming a notable name in the Agricultural sector. We firmly believe that indigenous businesses can grow the Agricultural sector while reducing our reliance on importation. We are at a level where if interest in the sector is sustained and fully supported, more can be achieved.

 

Everybody talks about Agriculture as a solution to Nigerian’s problems, even as we already know food is critical. Before we go any further, can you talk about Agriculture and how you personally feel it can be an essential tool to revamping our economy?

Oh yes, you are right. In my opinion, It is certainly an essential. Our country for me has relied for so long on Oil. Oil in my opinion has brought both gains and anguish for Nigeria and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have further brought the need to fully diversify and focus attention on other areas.

Agriculture used to be the backbone of our economy in the years gone by. Nigeria exported Cocoa, Palm Kernel, and other produce of various kinds to lots of countries. We were indeed a force to reckon with in the hay days. What then happened? How did we go from been able to adequately produce food, crops to feed the whole nation and export at the same time to now been able to do the former!

A lot has to change. The Buhari government has done quite a few things to boost the sector but more needs to be done. It isn’t just about providing fertilizers, crop seeds to farmers, more needs to be done. We need to look at accessibility to loans, friendly interest rates, strategic partnerships, high cost of production challenges and more. I believe in Nigeria, we can be great again!

 

Before I delve into your own Business, can you please tell our readers about the challenges you have come to face since you started your food business. How do you think these challenges can be improved upon?

There have been quite some challenges. One of the earlier challenges we faced was having people believe in you as an entrepreneur. We never had that support from the beginning. I remember quite well, we couldn’t get any back loan to start and we had to rely on friends and family for support and in particular as regards ‘word of mouth’ advertising when we initially started.

Our food focus manufacturing business is centered on Custard production with plans to focus on other areas in the nearest future. We literally had to source everything ourselves in the very beginning.

Power has also been a major challenge. We are headquartered in Osogbo, in the state of Osun with presence in Lagos and other states of the Country. Power supply used to be so much better but now the reverse is the case. We spend a lot on diesel and there is no way this won’t drive production costs up.

Supply chain has  also been an issue but we have gradually gotten a hang of this over the years.

We are constantly seeking new ways to improve upon these many challenges. The passion for the business is what drives me daily. Government has to do more for businesses by providing enabling policies that doesn’t in anyway stifle growth. If the right policies are in place, businesses will surely thrive.

 

Could you briefly tell us, what are your personal challenges? How have you been able to overcome these challenges to the best of your abilities?

I am a perfectionist and when you work with tons of people to get things done, whether its promotional events, drawing up newer strategies for business growth or something else and it doesn’t exactly conform to your standards; it’s a huge challenge.

However, we learn everyday and I have since realized it is extremely important to work with people that share your collective vision which by extension makes things a lot easier.

 

Below is a testimony from a job seeker who got a job after checking out an opening posted online via Nigeria’s top job website.

https://youtu.be/Qd7elq8bDgE

 

We all know getting the right kind of staff for your business says a lot about how you are able to do excellently well in your operations. Can you tell us about the process you follow in hiring staff in your company?

 

Whether it is in operations, production or marketing; you must share the vision if you intend to work for me. For me, shared vision and the ability to interpret such trumps any other thing.

We publicize openings via social media platforms and traditional media where possible. We conduct phone interviews, physical interviews also. Most importantly, like I pointed out before; we look out for shared values which are very key.

 

Can you tell us your typical expectations from anyone who would want to work in a company like yours?

Like I mentioned above, you must share our values, have a strong work ethic among other important attributes as well.

 

I am aware that you are passionate about philanthropy and you have a food bank program you have ran for a while; Can you tell us about this program and how its benefiting its target audience

Yes, this is something I never tire of when I talk about it. I am also a Business coach with key focus on helping small and medium business scale businesses scale up and optimize growth. I also run an NGO called Rapid Action Against Hunger and Malnutrition (RAAHM). Our key focus is to eradicate hunger in our small way. Since inception, we have provided food items, including our products of course and other essentials. We have organized sensitization workshops, entrepreneurial training among others. Our motive is simple, no one should go hungry.

 

Everybody talks about manufacturing and its many challenges how you have been able to manage this in the course of your time in business

Well, this has not been easy to be honest. Like I earlier mentioned, government needs to help with sustainable policies. Policies that outlasts every administration as we have noticed over time that creative ideas on how to move the industry forward is tabled by an administration and there is a policy summersault almost as soon as a new administration comes into town. We need laws to be enacted that will help the industry greatly.

We have managed these challenges as best as we can but I must say, been an entrepreneur in Nigeria takes a lot of guts and efforts in particular.

 

President Muhammed Buhari a while back assented to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA) which allows movement of goods and services; promotes ease of doing business between several African countries while easing trade restrictions among other things. What is your take on the signing? How do you think it can benefit or affect your business?

AFCTA in my opinion is a fantastic idea and I must commend the President for finally assenting to it. Unfortunately, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further delayed its take off on a continental level as planned.

I believe it will help my business a great deal as we are looking at expansion across Africa eventually.

 

Tell me, what is your supply chain like? Do you sell across the country or just across state lines?

We currently have sale points across the South western states. Of course, we are looking to expand a lot across state lines. For me, avenues such as this interview give me an opportunity to let everyone know we are seeking strategic partnerships across the country. We are always looking on the lookout for new opportunities.

 

Corona Virus also known as COVID-19 has ravaged the world in the last few months. Sadly, it has not only claimed lives but greatly affected world economies and businesses as a whole. On a personal note, how has this affected your business?

Talking about Coronavirus is quite sad with so many lives lost. No doubt, it has affected businesses a lot including ours.

We are an essential service business and with food in particular, we have had to move around a lot. However, with reduced spending power, demand has been greatly affected. We are hopeful that things will get better and Nigeria will overcome this pandemic with businesses bouncing back stronger and better.

 

Tell us what your typical day is like as the CEO of a food manufacturing company. What and what do you all day

Well, prayers, I head down to the Office for staff meetings, I have regular on site discussions with production teams and operations. Is schedule phone conversations, attend clients meetings if any and generally just sort other issues as they come.

Thank you very much for your time.  I really enjoyed talking to you and believe that our viewers must have learnt a lot from this interview.In addition to helping job seekers find jobs, we also help employers find best candidates at most cost-effective rates.

Thank you for having me. It was a real pleasure.

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