With the present craze to buy and sell foreign goods and services, it’s always refreshing to meet an individual who is passionate about our indigenous products and not just passionate but is creating a platform to market our products both to us and to the world. Mr Kelechi Ekeghe CEO of MIN Commerce Solutions made out time to sit down with Connect Nigeria and talk about his unique platform.
CN: Can we meet you?
KE: My name is Kelechi Ekeghe. I am a technology entrepreneur, a social entrepreneur, and most of the solutions I think of are solutions that will ultimately help bring about social change. I’ve started an online company, the company is called MIN Commerce Solutions. The main product right now is MIN – an acronym for Made in Nigeria. Made in Nigeria is an online marketplace that will provide a market platform to indigenous manufacturers, people who make things in Nigeria and people who will buy made in Nigeria products.
CN: Why made in Nigeria?
KE: We’re at a point where our economy, the Nigerian economy desperately needs an injection of life, we need our own funds to start working for us, we need to have the resource that up till now have been going to China, Turkey and everywhere else, we need to start to use these resources to build our own SMEs, companies to make things in Nigeria, a good percentage of the things we use here are made elsewhere, no country goes far on that. Made in Nigeria is the platform that allows us Nigerian manufacturers find expression, find market for their products, it also on the other hand, portrays Nigeria in a better light, so a lot of people talk about Nigeria as an import-dependent economy, there is also that Nigeria that can drive export to other countries that’s what we want.
CN: So you have a plan, and not just for sole Nigerian consumption, you’re trying to create a platform that can encourage export for our Nigerian product.
KE: Yes absolutely
CN: How have you been able to reach out to the market, to manufacturers in Nigeria?
KE: For the last 10years I haven’t bought a suit that’s not made in Aba, everything I wear, every day of the week is 70% made in Nigeria, with MIN, I’ve come in contact with people who make and sell in Dubai, and I can tell you that very soon, every day of the week everything I wear will be made in Nigeria, because we’re going to them, going to their shops, interacting with these merchants, events where we go, train and help them to put their business together, overcome some of the reason that people will not buy made in Nigeria products.
CN: How has the response been from them?
KE: It’s been great, you can see that they’ve been longing and looking for markets. You know what it means for you to make a product and nobody buys it, so when we go out there and we meet with this people, they’re excited and overjoyed, in fact they are the ones warning us that a lot of people come and make great promises but the will not come back, that hope we’ve come to stay. So you can tell that they desperately need this platform.
CN: Generally, Nigerians don’t like buying their own products. How do you plan to attack this?
KE: It’s that thing where they say a prophet has no regard in his own community. We are trying to do beyond just putting locally made products out there by helping manufacturers create superior business value and by rebranding their product in such a way that when you see these products you will know that they can do what they say they will do. The truth is a lot of the things that people go to Dubai to buy are made in Nigeria, it’s just that nobody is bold enough to write made in Nigeria on their products. I meet this shoe manufacturer who said to me that some guy came and said to him to write made in Nigeria on his shoes and he will help push it. He said that he made 2 pairs of the same quality, one had made in Nigeria and the other made in Italy. However, said he wasn’t able to sell the made in Nigeria.
CN: So we still have a problem with our orientation and your plan is to reorient us by making us see that our products are of a higher quality, if not higher but at par with what with buy outside.
KE: Yes and you know what, in the light of everything happening today in Nigeria, we have come to the point where have to start looking inwards, because with the exchange rate you would have to probably pay twice or thrice the normal amount that you would have paid for a product that’s not made in Nigeria. In the same vein, a couple of banks have sent out messages to say that you can’t even use your naira card outside Nigeria, to make international purchases. So this means that we’ve come to the point where we have to become self-sufficient and self-sustaining. So the demand for made in Nigeria products will definitely rise, my question to people out there is that are they going to position themselves to sell.
CN: Based on the website, how has the customer base been like?
KE: It’s been great, we just launched as you know, we’ve been getting all sorts of inquiry, all sorts of sign up, on the very first day we got a 40% increase in traffic, the same for products, right now we’ve got a lot of people waiting to put their products on the platform, so it’s been encouraging, it’s been amazing.
CN: On your site, I saw you had space for laptops, phones and other electronics. For now, I don’t think there is a made in Nigeria phone though with laptops you have Zinox. So what’s the vision there?
KE: It is the fact that a couple of Nigerian companies are already working on their own mobile devices. Part of the things we are trying to do is to show Nigerians where there are opportunities. Also, beyond the things that are being manufactured right now, what are the things that Nigerians need? What we need to do is to go there, find that opportunity and say this is what is lacking in the market and think of how we bridge the gap. Like I said, some Nigerian companies are already working on their own mobile phone brands and in the next few months, you will meet them.
CN: So what are the challenges so far?
KE: I am not the type to complain about challenges that I am experiencing, you know the normal thing in Nigeria where you’re having to deal with staff, electricity, and all that. I am excited about overcoming all these challenges one after the other so I won’t complain
CN: Ten years from now what do you see?
KE: I imagine ten years from now a Nigeria that is not only self-sufficient in terms of production, but a Nigeria that also sustains other countries of the world. As you know, leather from the North for instance already supplies to fashion lines worldwide.
CN: Do you have any other thing you’ll like to add?
KE: I will like to say to every Nigerian that this is not the time to cry or to worry about the things that are happening. This is the time to look at these things as opportunities. There may not be a mobile phone brand that has launched but you see how many mobile phones that we use in Nigeria? This is the time to say how can we then make these things? It’s time for every Nigerian to think about what they can make, how they can turn around and stop depending on imports and foreign goods. I encourage every Nigerian to buy a shoe, a shirt, something that’s made in Nigeria. That’s how we’ll grow the Nigeria of our dreams.
CN: What of the manufacturers and marketers of Nigerian products?
KE: I have something to say to everyone who sells made in Nigeria products, and I will like to congratulate them and thank them for holding on until this time. What they’ve been hoping for, what they’ve been dreaming about, is here now. The opportunity to sell their products not just to Nigerians but to everybody in the world and to showcase what Nigeria is made of. They are the new ambassadors that we have, creating a platform for our products to speak for us.