Visionary Home-Grown Manufacturers That Have Rocked Our World – Part I

Visionary Home-Grown Manufacturers That Have Rocked Our World – Part I

Author ~ Bekeme Masade-Olowola

Oftentimes in our world, there have been business ideas that have been there for the taking, but surprisingly were not recognised until some lone ranger came riding onto the scene and brought the vision to life. In this series, we look at how some indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs have provided sustainable manufacturing solutions for critical areas of our everyday life; from the arts, nutrition, mobile technology to bowel movements. These businesses are in their daily operations, knocking down multiple targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Milking the solution

A cow bell or cowbell is a bell worn by freely roaming livestock, making animals easier to locate should they wander off, says Wikipedia.

One could wager – and win – that there is hardly any Nigerian who does not know about Cowbell, or any low-income earner who has not tasted of its milky offering. Since Cowbell launched in April 2008 in Nigeria, a product of Promasidor, its vision of providing quality, affordable milk powder to the people of Africa has led Cowbell to being the nation’s number one brand in small sachets. Milk is a necessity for growing children, yet in developing countries, many toddlers who had been weaned off of their mother’s breasts have missed out on the opportunity of nourishment. As website HealthGate says, “While milk becomes less important after your baby’s first birthday because your toddler is eating a wider variety of foods, it’s still a good source of nutrients, including calcium…Toddlers need 2 cups of milk daily to meet their nutritional requirements for calcium and fats…Milk and other dairy products provide the best source of dietary calcium, essential for healthy bone growth”,.

How did Cowbell start? Robert Rose, an English man who having worked as Chairman of Allied Lyons Africa for over 2 decades, acquired unique insight into the mechanism of food and nutrition in the continent. He saw the opportunity for providing milk to the disenfranchised and took advantage of the modernisation of technology to provide long lasting – by replacing animal fat with vegetable fat –  and affordable milk when he set up his company, Promasidor, to supply milk in sachets for the first time.

This unique vision saw the Cowbell brand launch in the Zaire – now known as Democratic Republic of Congo – in 1979. Where foreign businesses had in the past catered to profitable high earning consumers, Cowbell’s very need-driven business solution, aimed at affordability for the wellbeing of the bottom of the pyramid, has led to the brand being a household name, and its other social interventions like the Cowbell Football Academy, literacy prize and mathematics competition, have further buttressed customer loyalty for the brand.

Big, older brands like Peak, Three Crowns and Dano, have all jumped on the bandwagon of producing little milk sachets to appeal to a wider market base. Like the proverbial cowbell, the brand has ‘roamed’ its way around the Nigerian and African market, and can be located in almost every nook-and-cranny corner store.

Art to Life

Corporates of all sizes have pioneered the arts in such a way that many are able to source livelihoods from the arts. While big corporates this part of the world have made a show of spending on arts – often through sponsoring glitzy events and international celebrities – one entrepreneur that has put heart and passion into the sector is the globally acclaimed, warm and lovable art entrepreneur, Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye, of the Nike Art Gallery. Born and raised in the rural community of Ogidi-Ijumu in Kogi State, her early sojourn as one of 10 artists chosen from Africa to teach traditional weaving in 1974, as well as support from local and international corporate giants like CNN, have propelled her brand and vision to become an inspiration to aspiring art and indigenous entrepreneurs. For surely, if a grade 6 (primary 6) school leaver could achieve her level of success, both professionally and financially, why not them?

Clearly, passion for providing selfless mass solution can be instrumental to the success of social interventions. Her gallery showcases artworks that are produced by different artists called The Voices, as it is her “dream to build th[e] gallery for every artist to have a voice”. “These artists cannot be here every time but their works are here”, she reminisced during an interview. Little wonder the Nike Art Gallery is “arguably the largest of its kind in West Africa”, according to Wikipedia.

Okundaye-Davies’ promotion of local art and culture has not only established for her a sustainable business base, it has also opened doors for other indigenous entrepreneurs, and art markets like the Oba Elegushi International Market (popularly called Jakande Art Market) have attracted buyers from the Middle East, Asia, North Africa, the Americas and Europe to patronize truly talented artists and artisans.

Okundaye-Davies also has art centres in Oshogbo, Osun State, Ogidi, her hometown, and Abuja, FCT. While the centres in Ogidi and Oshogbo focus on empowering women through craft development and sales, the Abuja centre caters to the unemployed throngs, teaching them how to turn waste such as tyres and plastic, to accessories.

Clearly, what you need to be a visionary business guru with an all-encompassing and long-lasting business idea is insight, focus, perseverance, sheer grit, and commitment to your target audience – the masses.

To be continued…

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