CONSUMER FACING

Nigeria 2018 | INDUSTRY & MINING | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Jude Abalaka, Managing Director of Tranos, on branching out to B2C, sourcing local materials, and being on par with international brands.

Jude Abalaka
BIOGRAPHY
Jude Abalaka is the Managing Director of Tranos Contracting Limited. He oversees the strategic direction of the Nigerian-based diversified technology company. Before Tranos, he co-founded Nadabo Energy Limited and was an Executive Director until 2009. He is an alumnus of The Wharton School – University of Pennsylvania, Judge Business School - University of Cambridge, and Lagos Business School - Pan African University. He studied physics with electronics at the Federal University of Technology Minna, graduating at the top of his class. He is also an associate of the Nigerian Society of Engineers.

What has been the business environment like for Tranos over the past year?

In 2016, we were working on a major power system project for telecoms that was completed early 2017. We have now moved from producing power systems to providing support for the equipment we produced. At the moment, we are focused on industrial customers. Historically, we have always had a B2B model; however, we now seek to expand into the B2C market. We seek to put our name out there and become more “consumer facing" to promote our products. When we tell people about our company and what we do, a lot of people doubt that such a company exists in Nigeria. We plan to introduce several new products by the end of 2017 related to electrical power distribution. The design is complete, and we have purchased new machines, with some of them currently on their way.

How much of Tranos' raw materials are sourced locally?

It depends on what we produce. On the mechanical side, for products like enclosures, for example, the main raw material we use is sheet metal. We have a local factory for sheet metal on the outskirts of Lagos that we buy from. Generally, depending on what we produce, up to 90% of our products could be made from local raw materials. But, for example, only a handful of companies produce engines to a high enough standard so we have to import engines. If we take engines and alternators out of the equation as well as accessories such as hinges and locks, we aim to localize everything else.

What do you hope to contribute to the “Made in Nigeria" brand?

The philosophy behind our strategy is not to just manufacture here and source raw materials locally to be able to say, “we did it in Nigeria." We look to localize production and make our products affordable and of a high quality. We are looking at it from the perspective of being able to compete internationally. Our target is to be able to compete with companies in Europe. At the moment, we are competing with products from Turkey. We clearly produce better quality products than China; however, cost-wise we cannot compete with China because the quality is lower. We want to continue to improve so that eventually we can be on par with the best international brands. On some levels, we are already doing that; still, we have a great deal of work to do in terms of training personnel and putting systems in place. We have come a long way; we have contracts with international companies operating in Nigeria that seek to be more localized. We are substituting what they used to buy from their foreign affiliates and have certainly made significant progress.

How do you intend to encourage the mindset that products from Nigeria are as good or even better than products made in Europe?

First, we benchmark ourselves with brands from the EU or US. We are in fact currently working with some of those brands. They incorporate our products, and we appear with them at conferences as partners. The problem is that there is the current perception that if something is made in Nigeria, it must be much cheaper. However, this is not necessarily so. In local manufacturing, our main advantage is cheaper labor and the elimination of some imports. However, when a company still needs to import raw materials, equipment, and spares, the overall cost of production will be affected. Apart from that, there is still a great deal to do with regards to training personnel. It takes a toll on cost and time, and it is something that we need to look at. It is easy for us to sell our products through a different brand; however, we have a great deal of work to do to be able to market our products with our own branding.