Mr. George Olutope Onafowokan is the Managing Director/CEO of Coleman Technical Industries Limited, manufacturers of the popular brand Coleman Wires & Cables and also serves as the current Chairman of the Electrical and Electronic Sector of the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN). He is an Accountant by profession, having obtained a combined Bachelor degree in Accounting and Finance from Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester UK. He thereafter obtained a Degree of Master in Management and Information Systems (Combined) from University of Salford, U.K.
He started his career in Packard Bell UK as Field Manager, where he shined in sales and marketing as well as customer relations. He thereafter joined PC World UK as Business Accounts Manager and later, Gem International UK Limited as the Pioneer Managing Director. As a worthy son of the soil, he returned to Nigeria in 2002 to lead the team to restructure Coleman Technical Industries Limited manufacturers of Coleman Wires & Cables and grew the Company’s Assets from N50Million in 2002 to N15Billion by the end of 2014. Through his leadership, the Company has grown to be an industry leader in the Cable manufacturing industry by producing Coaxial TV/Video & Cat 5/Cat 6 cables which are first’s for Nigeria & West Africa, and have taken it a notch higher by building the FIRST High Voltage XLPE cable production plant in West Africa, making Nigeria only the SIXTH country of production in Africa.
In this brief chat with Majorwaves Energy Report’s Editor, MARGARET NONGO-OKOJOKWU, Mr. Onofowokan speaks on issues bordering sub-standard products as well as the impact of the Local Content Act on his business amongst other issues. Excerpts
Congratulations on your award! How did you feel when your company was announced as one of the Nigerian Indigenous Service Providers with the most impactful contribution to Local Content Development (within the period of 2017 to date?)
I was shocked; shocked with excitement because we were not told that even the award will be in anyway because most of the awards are always won by Oil Servicing Companies, I have technically not seen a manufacturer win an award by the NCDMB or NOGOF before, so it was a pleasant surprise. We have worked hard over the last seven to eight years and to actually achieve this recognition is really impressive; it has been a painstaking journey, but I would say under the current leadership of the NCDMB, it has been a journey that has been made easy. So as a Nigerian, we actually see opportunities and know that the local content Board is there to back you if you put your money in it. So there is no discouragement anymore for investment, even for the Nigerians. Like the Executive Secretary would always say, “It is not about Nigerianizing local content; it is about making Nigeria a Local Content hub“, so that is why we are participating and we understand that and are driving that focus, and that drive is what is making us to even invest more. So, when you are actually seeing things like this, you are encouraged that you are a local manufacturer within this big, I call it a small cloak of big Oil Service sector and it is almost impossible to find manufacturers within this scope, it is encouraging and that is the drive that is keeping us going.
So, going forward now, what do you think you can do extra? I mean, this is like an incentive to you; that someone recognizes what you are doing – what more do you think you can do?
I think we’ve started doing more already, based on what we’ve seen them do over the last two years. Since the visit of the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote in February 2017, we’ve actually been encouraged, because if you look at what he said then and what they’ve done, it has encouraged us to invest more. Now the investment we are putting in is bringing in new things like the Rubber Cables, like the ESP Cables into Nigeria, into In-House local production. We’ve already done high voltage and have started seeing the benefits of making high voltage cables with orders from the Oil and Gas sector.
The next phase is where we are going to; it is a big investment, but we started it even before NOGOF and they saw that we’ve started investing in expansion. It has created for us an extra additional five hundred to a thousand jobs; and we see more opportunities for us to create new jobs.
But if we did not have that first encouragement, there’ll be no reason for us to take a long term position and that is the major difference between what we have today and we have years back. The opportunities that are there today are seen to be grab-able, attainable, reachable and realistic. In the past, opportunities were not like that; you never get them, though you might be praying for it, but you never get it, just like the Executive Secretary said at one time, that may be in your next generation you’ll still be talking about it. But today, we see realities in most projects, we see that they are not just talking but they are working the talk and that’s the major difference. So it is encouraging that outlook of business, it is also encouraging the right set of investment, which then creates the right set of jobs and then allows us to tap properly into the Oil and Gas industry.
Awesome! So talking about NOGOF 2019; what can you say about this event, have you been able to identify opportunities that Coleman Cables can handle?
Too many, in fact I think at a point, you’ll almost want to roll off your chair, which amounts to the kind of opportunities I am talking about. Today, if you look at the Zabazaba project, it is an opportunity, NLNG Train 7 is an opportunity, Bonga South West is also an opportunity and there are so many others. Now, we’ve even heard some from Agip that are not as big as these three names we are hearing and they are resounding opportunities even from Shell. There are so many other opportunities we’ve also heard from some of the IOCs, and that’s encouraging us that we are all on the right path. Sometimes people make mistakes that the only opportunities are there in big contracts, but today we now see local content in small contracts that are not technically small, but they are CSR, they are powering communities and most of these oil and gas companies are spending a lot of money doing CSR and electrification; they are now also patronizing local companies for solutions for CSR; which is encouraging, and that’s the difference. The local content drive is now becoming a watchword everywhere, it is moving and now catching on like wildfire, to the extent that almost every other agency is trying to copy the NCDMB today and that is the driving force.
For Coleman, I recall sometimes back you said that Coleman Cables would soon start venturing into our neighbouring African countries, what is your strategy?
It is still part of our strategy, but our first target will be ‘Nigeria first’. We expect within this year and the first Quarter to have achieved a 40million dollars expansion in Nigeria by the first phase; after we’ve achieved our Nigerian goal, we can then start looking to expand into the West African market, but first as exports, we should be looking at exporting our products also, I mean we should also sell our products, we shouldn’t think it the other way round, if people can sell to us, why shouldn’t we export ours? So, our first target is to export to other countries, our own solution.
In this era of sub-standard or fake products everywhere in the market, how have you been able to deal with that?
The fake products scenario will continue to be there because criminals will always want to make money for doing nothing and that’s the unfortunate part of Nigeria. But what we’ve found out as a solution is build capacity, make it price competitive and it will not be profitable for criminals to want to come in. We’ve started doing that in the last six months; Coleman today is the cheapest made-in- Nigeria cable; we can literally guarantee that for you; and on the basis of that, we’ve seen volumes skyrocketed out and we’ve had less complains also on the adulteration, now so many people are sharing the benefits as resellers of the product; and that have reduced the amount of problems we’ve been having; of course, that to me has always been the right measures. When you cannot beat these criminals, fight them at their profitability, make these goods available and within a price level that is competitive.
At Coleman Wires and Cables, we are committed to manufacturing consistent quality wires and cables that meet and exceed our customers’ expectations. We ensure continual improvement of our processes and services delivery through staff development, motivation and creation of a conducive work environment towards achieving utmost customer satisfaction.
Finally, where do you see Coleman in the next five to ten years?
For us, five years, ten years time, it’s literally everywhere you go, every place you are, every door you see, and every house you wire; basically that’s the name you should be calling, Coleman. That’s where we see ourselves. Thank you.