Chairman of Innoson Motors, Mr Innocent Chukwuma has inspired Nigerian youths with his less privileged background and how he got to where he was today as a result of hard work and dedication while revealing how white men copied his idea on importation of motorcycles in Nigeria.
In his stirring detailed personal biography shared in a Stanel event, Access More With Stanel Master Class with theme: ‘Become More’ in Awka recently, Chukwuma said that he started as a less privileged illiterate but now has more than seven honorary degrees from different universities and a Chancellor of a university as well as well-known personality all over the country today.
He thanked the convener of the ‘Access More With Stanel Master Class’ and Chairman of Stanel Group, Dr Stanley Uzochukwu for giving him the opportunity to stimulate Nigerian teaming youths in their early age so that they could start early.
According to him (Innoson), “My friend and Stanel Boss, Stanly Uzochukwu came to my house for this invitation to be here today but I told him I won’t come. Why I told him I won’t come is that, he came to my house in convoy of about seven exotic cars but none of the cars was Innoson Car. I then said it to his face that if he didn’t buy my car, I won’t come and he called his finance manager to come to my house immediately and right there they made payment for six Innoson motors including G-Wagon and Hilux. That’s why I tried as much as possible to be here today despite my tight schedules”.
Chukwuma told the audience that he did not have the opportunity to go to school as they have today. He inspired the youths with his biography saying, “I did not have opportunity to go to school as you have today. Not that I didn’t like school but there was nobody to train me in school. My brother trained me in business and today, I am known all over the country.
“Summarily, I was an apprentice under my elder brother who later sent me to go and understudy a man, Mr Pius Maduka who was into motorcycle spare parts for six months. At the end of the six months, my oga who didn’t want me to leave approached my brother to allow me serve him for two years so that he would settle me but my brother refused. At the end of additional two months, my oga allowed me to go and my brother settled me to start my own immediately.
“The business was doing well but I looked inward and discovered why motorcycles was expensive and then think of how to reduce the expenses. All the importers then were white men and they shipped in already assembled motorcycles so the container was not able to accommodate more than 36 pieces in 40 feet container. The white men never knew that Nigerians had sense.
“Before you make it in business, you must look around what is going on in the market and think how you could do something different and better than the existing ones.
“On this discovery, I travelled oversees and made arrangement on how to import unassembled motorcycles with motorcycle manufacturing companies where these white men got theirs but because of the agreement they had, the companies refused to sell to me in parts. I left for another country and there they motorcycle manufacturing company agreed to sell to me in parts. At once, I packed 220 motorcycles against their 36 pieces in a container. With that, my cost price was cheaper by 50% and I brought about 5 containers. I went back after three months and came back with 20 containers and that took me about only a month to finish the 20 containers because customers had built trust and confidence in the Innoson motorcycles. I went back again and brought 30 containers. This time around, before the containers arrived, my customers paid me in advance. Subsequently I was shipping 200 containers and when the white men discovered that I have killed their market, they copied my idea and also started shipping to Nigeria in parts.
“When the price crashed and the profit margin was not much again, I then thought of it again, I can I make motorcycle parts to be more cheap in Nigerian? I discovered the need to establish plastic plant to produce the motorcycle accessories locally instead of importing them. This again was a huge success. That is what gave birth to our plastic plant in Enugu today.
“However, when different people ventured into the importation of motorcycles and I knew I had made my mark there as the first Nigerian to import motorcycles and my motorcycle plastics components have taken Nigerian markets, I decided to venture into motor cars. The first thing I found out was why brand new cars are expensive in Nigeria. Average Nigerians could only afford second hand used cars.
“Today, Innoson Motors is the first indigenous Motor Assembly Plant in Nigeria. From engine to body parts are 100% made in Nigeria. With three million, five hundred thousand naira (N3.5m), you can buy brand new Innoson car with full AC. I am the only one who can sell a brand new motor in Nigeria at that price today.
“I didn’t go to school but with God-giving wisdom and ideas, I am known all over the country. If had opportunity to go to school, I would have been far above where I am today. So you who have opportunity to go to school have so much opportunities to tap into in Nigeria.
“You don’t need to travel abroad before making it in life. I see a lot of people selling off their properties for them to leave Nigeria. That is very wrong. You will go and become slave in another country if you don’t go with any skill and without education. You can make it here in Nigeria.
“Whatever, you are doing, do it well and you will be successful. There may be challenges but your persistence will make you stand out at the end. Try to be honest. It pays. Whatever you borrow for your business, try and pay it back as at when due. Start it from school now. Even if it’s your course mate’s note book you carried to copy a class work when you were not in the class, try and return it immediately you finished. Don’t allow the student to come and carry it by him/herself or ask you first before returning it.
“When I first applied to Bank of Industry to buy me six plastic plant’s machines worth two hundred and fifty million naira (N250m), they only bought one machine worth only six million naira. But they were impressed with the way I paid the loan. Consequently, in the next application, they bought five machines for me.
“Any money anybody loaned you is your own if you pay it well. Next time if you apply again, you will be giving even more. But if little was giving to you and you run away, you cannot go far. There were industrialists that were giving loan when I first applied to the Bank of Industry, they were given the loan but refused to pay back. But today they have closed down their businesses but I am still on my own and any amount of loan I seek from the Bank of Industry today, I will be given”.
“I am now an industrialist. I started from motorcycle spare parts to selling of motocycles, from selling motorcycles to motorcycles assembly, from motorcycle assembly to plastic plant.