Kariim Ishaq is the Chief executive Officer of Minna-based paint manufacturing firm, Akik Best Concept. In this interview says power supply remains a major problem for young entrepreneurs
How did you get into manufacturing as a young graduate considering the financial implication?
Being an entrepreneur is not a matter of chance but a matter of interest and foresight developed right from my undergraduate days and geared towards solving human problems. When I was in 400 level as a student of chemical engineering, I secured two offers in an oil company and a paint manufacturing company for my industrial training.
I weighed the benefits to be derived from the two offers and decided to go to the paint manufacturing company due to the possibility of starting my own paint production outfit after graduation with a small amount because I believe in starting small and growing big.
My worry during my undergraduate days was how I would survive after graduation. Immediately after my National Youth Service Corps programme, I started paint production at the ‘backyard level’ (from the experience I gathered during the IT) while aiming at higher opportunities to grow.
In 2016, I won the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme award and the Growth and Empowerment of Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to scale-up the production process. Today, my company produces silk, satin, texcoat, flexcoat, mat-emulsion, emulsion, marble trowel and screeding paints.
The main reason I ventured into manufacturing and paints production is because of the geometric progression in population and the quest for decent housing. The industry has a very high prospect of expansion as well as profit generation.
What challenges have you encountered since the establishment of your company and how did you overcome them?
One of the interesting aspects of entrepreneurship is that challenges are part of progress if well handled. The first challenge I encountered was getting raw materials from a reliable source at affordable prices. For most of 2017, I kept on working for the local retailers where I bought raw materials for a little profit at the end of each production.
I overcame this challenge by getting direct link to some of the manufacturers late last year. By this, the cost of production had drastically reduced and the profit generated appreciated. Another factor is the availability of power supply. Power supply is one of the major factors that affect the cost of production in any industry. All my mixing equipment are three-phase enabled. Therefore, all phases must be working throughout the production without any failure from any of the phases. To combat this challenge of phase failure, I installed a 30KVA generator to supply power to the hydraulic mixing machine used for production.
At the beginning of the production stage, inefficiency set in because I was the production manager, marketing manager, sales representative, all at the same time. I later employed some staff.
Getting a new product to the market, where other products exist, is a very big challenge. To solve this issue, I engaged in an aggressive marketing technique where an introductory letter was prepared and distributed to some known contractors, architects and builders for possible patronage.
Since coming into business, have there been times you wished you invested in something other than this?
There has never been a time I wished I had invested in something other than paint production. Rather, I wish I became an entrepreneur earlier and that I started this business long before this period. As a trained chemical engineer with a motive to solve human problems, I derive pleasure from paint production. It is also an avenue to reduce unemployment in the country as many hands are required for efficiency when the business booms.
How satisfied are you with the regulation of paint manufacturing in the country?
It’s a good idea that product quality should be controlled by regulatory bodies to enable manufacturers to deliver good quality products to end users. I’m highly satisfied with the regulation of paint manufacturing in Nigeria.
What has been your competitive edge over other paint manufacturers?
The first competitive edge I utilised was the ability to understand the paint market and get it segmented accordingly. This assisted in understanding the intended customers’ categories and their needs for easy product penetration. The advantages of technical know-how required for the production of different types of paints available in the industry were well utilised to produce paints of high quality amongst the competitors. In addition to these, we are working seriously on a research on some agricultural waste materials as substitutes for the available raw materials to produce more eco-friendly paints for our target customers.
What are your expansion plans for AKIK?
We are looking forward to partnering with distributors within Niger State and outside the state to give our products a wide presence in the market. The position of research and development in any establishment can’t be overestimated. In view of this, we are aiming at incorporating R&D to improve our product performance and position our products as one of the best amongst others.