When Europe’s current seventh most valuable company, Unilever, was founded in September, 1929, following the merger between Dutch margarine producer, Margarine Unie and the British soap maker, Lever Brothers; little was thought of it to (one day) cross its home borders and record such success as building its business empire across the world.
That the British-Dutch transnational consumer goods company is now co-headquartered in the United Kingdom and Netherlands (and with its products available in about 190 countries) goes even further to speak of its record of success since its inception.
What informs growth?
Whether through entering into the acquisition of another existing business like the case of Access-Diamond Bank, signing off franchise rights to interested entrepreneurs, licensing of intellectual property to third parties, pursuing new marketing routes for trade and transport companies or even public stock offering; business growth and expansion has always been a function of calculated risk factored out by business executives.
Indeed, as business writer and expansion officer, Andrew J. Sherman, as observed in his masterpiece, The Complete Guide to Running and Growing Your Business “the need of the organization to grow must be tempered by the need to understand that meaningful, long-term, profitable growth is a by-product of effective management and planning.”
The Nigerian companies’ strides
While foreign companies (for a long time) from Germany, China, the (UK, US) and Italy have been tapping from the Africa market space and Nigeria in particular, here are some established Nigerian companies who are equally breaking significantly through the borders, establishing tentacles in West Africa and beyond, and recording such success as their foreign counterparts.
For the sake of this review, we considered a handful of these companies cutting across sectors such as:
In doing this, we looked into their past records, appraised their current market potentials and enumerated what the future holds for these companies in the world’s ever dynamic business arena.
Energy -Sahara Group
From operating its trading hub, in Lagos, in 1996 as Sahara Energy Resource Limited established for the business of chiefly trading petroleum products, it soon transited its base, in 1998, barely two years since its inception, to Geneva in Switzerland while it continued business in Lagos. Since then, the Sahara Group has been waxing stronger with a momentum built on rapid growth where business tycoon Tonye Cole, co-founder of the group, has been at the centre of operations.
Another two years after relocating to Geneva, the group became strong enough to establish its footprint in West Africa by opening first office in Accra, Ghana. From there, in 2001, it opened a regional office in Abidjan to tap into the market in Cote d’Ivoire, and in 2006, it became the first non-major international aviation fuel marketer to supply leading Nigerian and international airlines.
In 2009, it went on to double the record, expanded into Asia and became the first non-major company to establish a trading company in Singapore.
Today, while enhancing access to clean energy in Africa and controlling the Egbin Power Plc which is the largest thermal power plant in sub-saharan African, Sahara Group is an energy conglomerate with operations spanning the entire energy chain in Nigeria and neighbouring West African countries to East Africa and beyond.
Before Tonye Cole resigned in September 2018 to join active politics, in a bid to distant business from politics, the group had been fully established as an energy company with operations in over 38 countries across Africa, Middle East, Europe and Asia. Owning a good share of the market, the group powers local and international airlines and commands respect for its global distribution for safety and control.
Recently, the group has also been seen investing in industrial packs, real estate and hospital projects with a strong market potential.
Logistics – GIG Logistics
There is a prospect for this company that took off in 2012 with a clear and well defined vision to run not just domestic errands to deliver goods within Nigeria, but to also dominate the African market landscape given its track records as orchestrated by its sense of innovation, technology adaptation, operational flexibility and delivery of client-friendly services.
Today, the GIGL operations have since metamorphosed, from a wholly indigenous Nigerian company to an international logistics power house where technology takes the centre of its operation and now with outlets in Ghana and the USA. Certainly, like most successful businesses in the world, a solution driven enterprise has always had a higher tendency to scale than others.
With a visionary founder as Chidi Ajaere, who sees future in technology and appreciates its deployment into the service of clients, the company has appreciably dominated the Nigerian logistics space and now thrusts its foot to conquer Africa and beyond. Today, GIGL has made goods delivery from the U.S.A. possible with its opening in Houston. Orders from the international commodity online store, Amazon, can be listed for pickups and delivered to the door steps of clients at a pocket-friendly cost.
The company has (since inception) been growing at a rather rapid rate courtesy of its competitive tech-advantage and customer satisfactory approach in doing business. With the latest development, digital marketers (to include social commerce merchants and e-commerce players) now focus on their core competencies and advertising market strategies while GIGL takes care of their delivery logistics.
Evidently, this feat recorded by the GIGL team cuts from years of success taking leaf from experience running the transport company (that has evolved into a tech-driven transport haven) and other subsidiaries under the GIG Group. Rising through to rank, as a logistics company, to be on top, underscores GIGL’s years of investment in the areas of freight forwarding, haulage services, mail room services, warehousing and distribution services and e-commerce logistics.
With its continued growth tendencies, the company is at an advantage position to take over the logistics market of not just Africa but beyond in the nearest future.
Banking -Access Bank
The recent acquisition of Diamond Bank by Access Bank isn’t the first time the latter will acquire an existing industry player. In 2005, Access Bank by merger acquired Marina Bank and Capital Bank to form what it is today and has (since) been growing stronger as it currently sits as the largest bank in Africa.
On a global outlook, as of December 2015, Access Bank plc had subsidiaries in eight Sub-Saharan African countries and the United Kingdom. In 2007, the bank established a subsidiary in Banjul, The Gambia. Other countries currently encroached by the bank include Sierra Leone and Zambia.
Since the Diamond Bank acquisition in December 2018 that was completed in the first half of 2019, the bank has taken the world by storm with plans to enter China in the pipeline. With more businesses approaching banks for credit facilities, Access Bank is on a right footing to keep leaping beyond bounds.
Because the world has never been this business orientated, and with the bank’s various entrepreneurial training programmes and educational relief supports in Northern Nigeria; there is a huge potential in this for Access Bank to have its fork cutting the larger share of its industry’s yam.
Fashion – Zizi Cardow
The Zizi Cardow signature is one of Nigeria’s most successful fashion brands, littering the designer market both home and abroad. Founder and fashion-preneur, Zizi Cardow (herself) is a forerunner in contemporary African fashion. After founding her eponymous haute couture label in 2000 (that kick-started and launched a revolution for African fabrics on a global outlook), the Zizi Cardow name began to travel far and wide.
In recognition of her footprints in the fashion scene, just after her debut year, Zizi received the prestigious Designer of the Year award at the Nigerian Fashion Show. This did two things for the emerging fashion-preneur –one, a sense of an encouraging welcome; and on the other hand, aided what appeared to be a rocket entry pass across the continent and international fashion landscape.
Zizi Cardow came fully made. Before long, her clothes were on the runways of South Africa, Italy, France and the UK. In 2002 her brand staged a top-notch fashion show dubbed “Jungle Renaissance” which reportedly received rave reviews from both local and international critics.
Six years from her 2000 entry into the fashion ecosystem, Zizi Cardow had established herself to become a household name. When, in 2010, she was awarded the Young Achievers Award and was followed by the Global Leadership Award, it was a well deserved honour.
The future is, indeed, pregnant and greater opportunities abound for the Zizi Cardow brand. Not only is such a brand, as the Zizi Cardow, in a right position to rewrite the African fashion narratives, it is capable of dictating the pace and pose of fashion and style –especially as it concerns the female dress sense.
Appraising the corporate profile of the brand, here are other meritorious awards listed to the credit of the brand.
2010 Peace Ambassador (United Nations)
2010 Fashion And Style Award
2010 Merit Award For African Heritage
2010 Fellowship Award (Institute of Managers Ghana)
2010 Designer of The Year (Life Changers Award)
2010 Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration
Telecoms -Globacom Limited
Until August 2003, there was nothing as an entity as Globacom Limited which operates for short as glo. It is indeed with pride that this telecoms player has been growing its customer base. And, today, it leads as Nigeria’s second-largest mobile network operator.
In the light of our review, the company through its Glo Mobile subsidiary, now has its presence in Ghana and Benin. It workforce alone, as of data dating June 2018, the company has employed over 3,500 people worldwide.
Within its first one year in Nigeria, Glo Mobile recorded its first one million subscribers in over 87 towns in Nigeria and accrued over 120 billion naira in revenues. The market strategy that worked for the Mike Adenuga company during its market entry phase was simple. Glo Mobile introduced lower tariffs; pay per second billing and alongside other value added services.
Despite being the fourth GSM operator to launch in Nigeria, within seven years of the company’s operation, its subscriber base grew to over 25 million. The story was not different in the Republic of Benin where it recorded the sale of 600, 000 SIM cards within its first ten days of market entry in June, 2008.
With an increasing number of subscribers, the mobile network provider will not try too long before it conquer more cities and millions of other subscribers across the African continent.
Manufacturing – Dangote Group
One brand that cannot be missing in an average Nigerian home is the Dangote, from the common table salt, to pasta, basic sweetener –sugar and the core of building materials –cement. A business empire that only started as a general merchant company importing rice, sugar and many of the other goods it is now producing, the Dangote phenomenon deserves all the accolades it had received to celebrate a well managed business outfit.
From 1978 when the business entered into the Nigerian market to date, the group has not only raised Africa’s richest man, it has contributed a great deal to the GDP of the country through its various subsidiaries operating as manufacturing companies.
Today, as a growing manufacturing company, the group currently has operations in 16 other African countries with a focus on building local manufacturing capacity to generate employment, prevent capital flight and provide locally produced goods for the people.
A slim list of its interests include cement, sugar, salt, flour, pasta, beverages, and real estate, with new multi-billion dollar projects underway in the oil and gas, petrochemical, fertilizer and agricultural sectors of the economy.
With a spreadsheet of opportunities for the Dangote Group to rake up, as it keeps expanding its coast, little wonder the group is currently the largest conglomerate in West Africa.
In business education, it is the general order that every successful small or local business will attempt to grow along its maturity curve. While this does not only testify to the solidity of its initial business idea, it goes on to demonstrate the soundness of its management in terms of capacity to drive success.
However, it is expedient that caution be sought as to always contain new challenges that come with growth of any business. Here, we speak of extended crisis management, legal restructuring, growing decentralised autonomy, unavoidable internal politics, elements of protectionism and transparency in financial dealings.
Away from these operational issues, that must be duly addressed, there is hope for these Nigerian companies (and others) stamping their footprints across borders.
By Ridwan Adelaja…
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