“Be ready to revise any system, scrap any method, abandon any theory, if the success of the job requires it”.
This is the word of Henry Ford the American counterpart of Chief Dr. Innocent Chukwuma. Nigeria first Automotive maker in Nigeria.
Mr. Uzoezi one of his keen emulator admits that he is fascinated with the way Innocent approaches life. “He is one of those innovator who take a task because he wants to make a difference,” says Uzoezi during discussion with one of our Reporters.
Nigeria is going through persistent recession caused by mismanagement and consumism economy. The country’s dire desperate need for jobs will be greatly eased by an expanding manufacturing industry given its immense employment potentials. The reduced dependence on imports, increased potential for exports, and significant contribution of the sector’s growth to the economy are only significant way to boost economy.
Though the men from the East are not only in the biblical magi sense, they come to the mainstream of Nigeria’s economy bearing three gifts of industries, entrepreneurship and national development. That’s how to described Chief Dr. Innocent Chukwuma the Boss of Innoson Group and what he stands for.
The current oil revenue crisis has made former Africa’s largest economy embrace these gifts with desperation and enthusiasm.
However, the gradual but steady rise in economic diversification, changing perception of locally made products, and increasing government attention to indigenous industrialists, are joining to breathe life into Nigeria’s manufacturing industry.
Innoson’s rapid growth are evidence of the succeeding national push and prominence to increase indigenous manufacturing. It also symbolises an expectant boom for their kit and kin in Nnewi, and manufacturers across the country.
“Innovators change things. They take new ideas, sometimes their own, sometimes other people’s, and develop and promote those ideas until they become an accepted part of daily life for others”.
Innovation requires self-confidence, a taste for taking risks, leadership ability and a vision of what the future should be. Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma had all these characteristics, but it took him many adamant decisions and chronically steps to develop all of them fully.
HIS EARLY LIFE AS AN INNOVATOR.
Like Henry Ford, Innocent did not invent the automobile. He didn’t even invent the assembly line. But more than any other single individual, he was responsible for transforming the automobile from an invention of unknown utility into an innovation that profoundly shaped the 21st century that affect and will continues to affect our lives today in Nigeria years to come.
Innocent had a global vision, perceiving consumerism as the key to job creation. His intense commitment to systematically lowering costs resulted in many technical and business innovations, including a franchise system that put many foreign dealerships out of business from Nigeria.
He is the one of Nigeria’s foremost industrialists, Innocent had revolutionized assembly-line modes of production for the automobile in Nigeria.
His beginnings were perfectly ordinary. His father, Mr. Godwin Chukwuma, was a junior civil servant, while his mother, Mrs. Martina Chukwuma, a housewife. He is the last of six children: four males and two female. Chief Gabriel Chukwuma, alias Gabros the proprietor of Gabros International FC of Nnewi is the third child of their Parents, He played a vital role on Innocent path to success and himself had too emerged as one of the big-time players in the hotel and real estate business in the country.
Innocent could have followed his father’s footsteps and become a Civil servant. But young Innocent was fascinated by trading and was willing to take risks to pursue that fascination.
After secondary school, due to West Africa Examination Council ( WAEC) cut off marks to study Engineering, he opted for trading vocation deferring his academic pursuit to later.
Today, holds master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Leicester and a bachelor’s degree in religion from the University of Nigeria.
In 1978, seeing that Innocent has jettisoned his initial career plan of studying Engineering to learn trading.
His Senior brother, a Patent medicine dealer then, Chief Gabriel Chukwuma handed him over to Chief Romanus Ezeonwuka, founder of the first privately owned stadium in Nigeria; Rojenny (There Gabros International FC has been playing its home matches) and the motorcycle spare-parts biggest dealer in the Nnewi Market at the time, to go through intern-apprenticeship under him.
Zealous young Innocent spent merely six months learning the terrains of motorcycle parts business under his mentorship.
At end of his apprenticeship tenure, his master, Ezeonwuka requested for 2years extension under beefy conditions but the family seeing the prospective-ness and business enthusiasm on the young entrepreneur Innocent Ifediaso turned that down.
Rojenny was so fascinated by level of sense of integrity and over-zealousness in this young man told gathered of young traders in Nnewi market way back in 1980:
“This boy, innocent, will be richer than all of you here one day soon!”
In 1979, Innocent having learnt motorcycle parts business and its lucrative-ness, advised Gabros to invest on it.
Taking his advice, Gabriel promptly registered Gabros International to trade on motorcycle spare-parts and Innocent was handed the sum of N3, 000 as start-up capital and free hand to run it.
Equipped with skeletal knowledge of the business, college education and meagre capital but lots of business sense and acumen, young Ifedinaso was on his way, making series of business decisions along the way that propelled him to the doorstep to become not only famed industrialist but first car maker in Nigeria and Africa at large.
The first decision he made was to rent a shop and purchased his first merchandise.
By the end of the year 1980, after stock has been taken, Gabros International Ltd recorded more than ten times income than the medicine store.
The awaken discovery of this forced the closure of Patent medicine store entirely. Two brothers decided that all attention should be on motorcycle spare-parts business.
From very early age Innocent had adopted principle of “Honesty as the best policy” business ethics and Bulk buying with minimal profit but massive turnover business strategy.
These adhered him to his suppliers and customers. It boosted his brand penetration and market shares. A boom to Gabros brand.
The partnership ended in 1981 when Gabriel was about to take marital step, Gabros settled him off with sum of N20, 000.
Now a sole partner in business journey. Confidence in his knowledge of the business capped him with enough tool.
The first step he took was to register; Innoson Nigeria Ltd. With small profit margin business approach, he attracted voluminous customers and recording massive sales. Path of success paved.
There is an old saying that “Necessity is the mother of invention” came into a situation of 1984 when there was a political change-over in Nigeria The military coup that ushered in unfavorable economic regime and accompanied adverse economic effect of unfavorable business environment.
Leventis and other companies left the coast. Innocent travelled to Taiwan to explore other business opportunities of his market.
His integrity principle came to play here too. He earned the trusts to an extent his Taiwan partners did not hesitate in giving him credit sales and even Nigeria commercial banks were scrambling to offer him loans facilities because of his un-defaulted credit status.
Business boom was re-kick-started in fuller gear.
He tells the story himself:
“As time went on, most machines that were brought in from Japan became very expensive. I was looking for ways of bringing down the prices of motorcycles and their spare parts. So I went to China and found out that it was cheaper for me.
I found out that the motorcycles from Leventis were expensive because they were only able to pack forty units into a 40-foot container. Because of the experience I had in motorcycle spare parts, I went there and asked them to strip it down to pieces.
He went on “That way I was able to pack over 200 units of motorcycles into the same 40-foot container, while others were packing 30, forty pieces. I will bring the spare parts down here and couple them manually. Because of my experience in motorcycles I found it very easy.
All I had to do was hire some boys and mechanics and I taught them how to couple them back. That time (around 1987) they were selling a single unit of motorcycles for N150,000. I was the first person that brought Jingcheng in Nigeria. Jingcheng is Suzuki equivalent from China Jiachi is Yamaha equivalent, nothing different”, He narrated.
Subsequently, he went on and brand his motorcycles: Innoson. Coupled them brand new manually and sold for N70, 000 to N80,000. Then Old tokunbo was about N90,000 and Boulos was well over N100,000.
Initially, customers were skeptical of patronizing termed local produced motorcycles but as times goes on with consistency in quality purposes, confidence was built on Innoson brand. The market shares was so great that 200 containers of 40,000 units, motorcycles sold out monthly.
Besides, when other business men discovered what he was doing they went on and started the same thing but by then he had enjoyed the business for over three years forcing tokunbo motorcycles out of Nigeria.
He devised way to crash down his brand prices when he realized lots of plastic component was being used on the body of a motorcycle. He saw business opportunity and decided to set up
a plastic factory in Nigeria to produce all the plastic components he needed. The space left can accommodate more units of the spare parts into a container, packing about 210 units of motorcycles into a container minus plastic components.
With these, his brand price went down to N60, 000 a unit taking control of the market he lost previously. This finally extinct
tokunbo motorcycles from Nigeria in 2002.
But the prices of motorcycles, just like cars, kept climbing as a result of the deteriorating value of the Naira and other unfavorable economic policies of successive military governments. Indians in Nigeria got involved in the motorcycle business.
When state government took a policy decisions; banning commercial motorcycles as a means of urban transit due to the involvement of Okada riders in heinous crimes and high fatalities causing the future of the business to become bleak.
“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward”….Henry Ford.
“Dr. Innoson emergence as Nigeria Auto-motive maker did not start immediately after ban of okada, it was more than seven years. Of prepositioning and understudying motor making mechanism” recollected by a biographer.
Ifediaso, IVM boss, travelled overseas more than six times studying mechanism in motor productions and how to mirror it in Nigeria.
He visited motor factories in America, Japan, Taiwan and China asked questions with much contemplation.
He decided it can be done in Nigeria.
In America, the steps are, after finishing one production of the body, the trolley push it to another section. But in Japan on press of a button it goes on its own to the next section. There, he decided to adopt different strategy in order to create more job opportunities for awaiting Nigeria job seekers at home. Instead of automated mechanism he chose manual operation, let human hands work it and earn something out it in as much automated approach reduces costs.
Chief Dr. Nnamdi Chukwuma belonged to the school of thought as his American counterpart believed.
“An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous”…..Henry Ford.
According to IVM Boss, when asked why he decided on manual against machine he responded,
“I don’t want to do that. The land where I built the motor factory in Nnewi was given to me free by the community just to make sure that I employed people, he stated.
“Now if I decide to use automatic where will the people work? In fact, some of our employees when they come here they learn from working in our factory and go out to start doing something of their own. Somebody who was working in my factory before is now supplying me with certain items. He is supplying me boot for bigger buses. Instead of me to be doing it in this factory he produces and supplies based on our specification.
“It gives me joy to see such a thing. He learned it from me and went out to fabricate it and supply me. So you have to consider the bottom-line and the people. You cannot sacrifice the people on the altar of bottom-line, but you must also operate efficiently and profitably, giving the society value”, he emphasized.
He is of business school that the channel to achieve his one-man sole feat of driving tokunbo car out of Nigeria market is using price factor and provision of better alternatives. He went on to achieve his sole aim of providing cheaper and affordable car with available spare parts without compromising quality and efficiency. Gradually, he is ebbing flooding of Nigeria market with Tokunbos (used cars). As the waves is going, in no distant time it will become a history as tokunbo motorcycles did.
His business has expanded into four-mega manufacturing companies namely:
Innoson Nigeria Limited Nnewi, manufacturers of motorcycles, tri-cycles, spare parts and accessories.
Innoson Tech. & Industries Co. Ltd Enugu, manufacturers of Household and Industrial Plastics, Health & Safety accessories, Storage containers, Fixtures & Fittings, Electrical components& accessories.
Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) Nnewi, manufacturers of Capacity City bus, Mini & Midi buses, Pick-Up trucks and Garbage Collecting vehicles.
General Tyres & Tubes Co. Ltd Enugu, manufacturers of Tyrese and Tubes. The vehicles in IVM fleet range from cars, trucks, SUVs, compactors, etc . Presently, the company has made in-road into some African countries such as Ghana, Sierra Leone, Chad, Niger, and Togo.
The Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) factory that started operation in 2007, had been producing pilot vehicles being exhibited at various International Trade Fair.
Governments at the federal and state levels are the greatest customers of Innoson Motors.
Recently, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) and
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) signed a pact, Partnership deal in supply of spare parts for jets used in conduct of airstrikes against the insurgents.
IVM is instrumental to the continued operation of the Alpha Jets. The CNN carried news of this ingenious act.
Federal Government new national automotive policy on indigenization vehicles made locally in Nigeria.
All making his master Chief Romanus Ezeonwuka aka Rojenny boss prediction that came to pass. His is so happy not only getting this prophesy right but it happened on his lifetime.
He is among the group that nominated Ifediaso with the title”
Okpu Uzu Ndi Igbo”
Innoson business approach of forfeiting automated and mechanized system to secure job positions for job seekers.
Presently, over 1million Nigeria workers are working on his various factories on monthly basis and payroll.
Innocent Ifediaso had laid the foundation of the twenty-first century in Nigeria. His interest in every aspect of life around him had caused provision of jobs, empowerment everywhere in the country.
Innoson Group has assisted much in poverty alleviation when putting foods on many tables of employment-deprived families. Direct or indirectly more than millions of Nigerians are economically benefiting from his respective factories contributing to Nigeria national development.
Innocent Chukwuma is the Director and works at the foundation’s office in Lagos, West Africa. Overseeing all grant making, supporting efforts to ensure that all people have equal access to economic and social opportunities.
Addressing issues of democratic and accountable government, freedom of expression, and sexuality and reproductive health and rights.
Innocent Ifediaso is a globally renowned advocate for human rights and good governance.
Innocent is a globally renowned advocate for human rights and good governance. Before joining the foundation in 2013, he
A founder of CLEEN Foundation the first African nongovernmental organization to receive the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.
NGO that promotes public safety, security, and accessible justice in West Africa.
A member of Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), one of Nigeria’s first human rights organizations.
A Chairman of Altus Global Alliance, a global network of nonprofits.
Innocent aka Ifedinso, apart from economic development has explored innovative forms of education too. He served as visiting lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he designed and taught a course on the management of nonprofits in the Global South.
Innocent has been able to convert the automobile from an expensive curiosity into a practical conveyance that would profoundly impact the landscape of the Nigeria and Africa at large.
HONOUR. AWARDS. RECOGNITIONS.
In recognition of his contributions to the business and productive sectors, Chukwuma and his business empire have at different times won various awards, honour and recognitions, including;
National Honour of the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) on 2011 by His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan.
National Honours of the National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) in 2010 conferred by President Jonathan.
Reebok International Human Rights Award.
Justice of Peace by Enugu State Government in 2006.
Awarded the Industrialist of the Year by Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Enugu State, in 2006.
Granted Award of Excellence by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in October 2008.
Conferred with the national honour of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in December, 2008 by the late former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, GCFR.
Distinguished Member, Vision 20:2020 Business Support Group by the late former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2009.
Distinguished Entrepreneurship Award for Indigenous Excellence in Automobile Manufacturing by the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) in 2010.
Conferred with Nigeria’s Young Global Champions in Manufacturing
By THISDAY 2011.
Conferred with Special Honours Medallion by Anambra State Government for his remarkable achievements in Commerce and Industry, in 2011.
Awarded Doctorate Degree in Business Administration (DBA) by Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu, in November 2011.
Conferred with Industrialist of the Year by Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture December 2011.
Best Customer Award by Bank of Industry, December 2011.
Conferred with Special Presidential Merit Award 2011 by the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE).
Winner of the Sun Business Person of the Year Award for 2011 by The Sun Publishing Ltd.
National Council Member, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, (NCMMAN) 2012.
Most Outstanding Indigenous Entrepreneur in the Manufacturing Sector by Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ECCIMA) in January, 2012.
Entrepreneur of the Year by Wesley University of Science and Technology, Akure, Ondo State, March 2012.
Ambassador for Peace by St. Andrews Anglican Church, Trans Ekulu, Enugu, April 2012.
Special Merit Award for contributing to the Development of Commerce and Industry in Nigeria by Nnewi Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, September 2012.
The Maiden Platinum Award by Ndigbo Lagos on November 8, 2012.
Special Merit Award by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN).
Honorary Life Vice President of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines & Agriculture (NACCIMA) on November 23, 2013.
International Merit Award for Outstanding Promotion of Peaceful Co-existence and Support for God’s Work by International Communion of Charismatic & Evangelical Bishops/Apostles Inc of Nigeria in November 2013.
Auto Personality of the Year Award, by Guild of Motoring Correspondents (GMC), December 2013.
Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) by University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) January 2014.
Grand Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Strategic Management, July 17, 2014.
Entrepreneurial Ambassador by Nigeria Arise, August 30, 2014.
Fellowship of Rocana Institute of Technology, Enugu, for his outstanding contribution to economic development in Nigeria by providing job opportunities to numerous Nigerians through his chain business, December 2014.
Eminent Person of the year by Heads of Federal Establishments and Parastatals Forum, Anambra State, for Implementing the auto policy of the federal government by producing the First Made-in-Nigeria Cars, December 2014.
Special Merit Award, Nigerian Shippers Council, South East, 2009.
Motorcycle Brand of the Nigerian Automotive Manufacturers Association (NAMA), 2009.
MANCAP Award of Excellence by the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) in 2008.
Best SME Africa Award by the Commonwealth Business Council in 2008.
Best Customer Award by Bank of Industry in recognition of its Excellent Loan Repayment and Contribution to Nigeria’s Economic Development, December 2011.
African Business of the Year 2012 by Commonwealth Business Council (CBC), London, UK.
Local Assembler of the Year Award by Guild of Motoring Correspondents (GMC), December 2013.
Best African Customer Award of the Year by Golden Dragon Bus Co Ltd, China, February 2014.
Nigeria Centenary Honour Award by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in recognition of his role as the first indigenous local vehicles manufacturer in Nigeria and employer of labour, 2014.
Hall of Fame Award by Bank of Industry (BOI) to Innoson Technical and Industrial Company Ltd in recognition of the company’s excellent and exemplary credit record, October 17, 2014.
Leadership Excellence Award by American-Africa Centre for Human Resource and Economic Development Inc., Texas, USA, on November 8, 2014.
Award of Excellence in Leadership by Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Anambra State, January 29, 2015.
RECENT HONOUR BY IGWE ORIZU.
Chief Dr. Innocent Chukwuma penetrative business acumen – qualities have remarkably leveraged the fortunes of the Nnewians and will years to come, continue inter-playing remarkably many indigenous ventures in Nigeria.
He has ushered in developmental economy through technological transfer.
Employment opportunities through competitive pricing by his sole innovations and inventions.
However, the entrepreneurial seed he sowed had flourished and multiplied like a mustard seed making significant positive impact to Nnewi business environment.
On these socio-economic contributions, Igwe Orizu 111 thought it deem to conferred in him the chieftain title in recognition of his eminence contribution, boldly domesticated automobile technology and putting Nnewi and Nigeria on the world map of auto manufacturers.
For these His Royal Highness Igwe Dr. K.O.N Orizu III J.P. C.O.N on his 53rd Ofalla festival on 28th December, 2016 honored him, Dr. Innocent Chukwuma, C.E.O. of Innoson Group with chieftaincy title IFEDINSO 1 of Nnewi, as part of the celebration of this year’s Ofala Festival being the 53rd and Igwe’s 91 years on earth.
“The essence of this recognition is to encourage other people to live and as well contribute their quota to the development of Nnewi irrespective of where they come from because Nnewi has become a cosmopolitan city playing host to people from different parts of the country and beyond” Igwe Orizu said.
Three others thus; Chief Medical Director (C.M.D) of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH) Prof. Anthony Igwegbe and Vice-Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Prof. Joseph Ahaneku deserving Nigerians and one foreigner Managing Director of West Ham United Football Club of England, Angus Kinnear were honored.
Central to Innocent’s ability to produce an affordable car was the development of the assembly line that increased the efficiency of manufacture and decreased its cost. He may not be only one who conceived the concept but the one who put it in practice and perfected it.
IVM is today a success story which has attracted effusive commendations and awards from various quarters, including the nation’s seat of power.
In doing so, Innoson brand has created a tech-focused super brand that has captured the imagination of the Africa and world at large. Its achievements have not gone unnoticed by global market too. History will do him justice and accord him the position of THE FIRST AFRICA AUTOMOTIVE MAKER.
Pamela James reporting for NATIONAL ENQUIRER