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Family Businesses in Nigeria: Orange Group

On the 20th of July 1988, Tony Ezenna set to work on his entrepreneurial dreams. After over a decade spent in dedication to his father’s business, he launched Orange Drugs Limited, the flagship venture of the Orange Group.

After decades of climbing up the ranks of indigenous FMGC (fast-moving consumer goods) companies, Orange Group Limited has become a renowned manufacturer and distributor of pharmaceutical, personal care, beverages, and lighting products with facilities across West Africa.


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Early Days

Anthony Ndubuisi Ezenna, an indigene of Akokwa in Ideato Local Government, Imo State, was born on April 21st, 1957 in the city of Port Harcourt, Rivers State. The Ezennas were far from wealthy; they had to subsist on a modest pharmacy practice headed by Tony’s father, Ernest Ezenna.

After completing his primary school education in the district of his hometown, he was enrolled in Christ the King College, Onitsha, Anambra State. But he was later withdrawn from the school because his family lacked the funds to finance his higher education. Following this setback, young Tony joined in the family’s chemist shop, Eastern Industrial Chemist, as an intern.

For thirteen years, Tony Ezenna learned the trade under his father. During this period, he exhibited budding traits of an astute businessman. It was also at this time that he nurtured ideas for the creation of an enterprise of his own. Armed with a vision of bringing sanity to the pharmaceutical industry, Tony Ezenna made his exit from Eastern Industrial Chemist to establish Orange Drugs Limited in 1988.


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The Expansion of Orange Group

While the new business prospered, Tony Ezenna planned for future expansion. From its initial location in Owerri in Imo State, the company moved its center of operations to Maryland in Lagos, in order to exploit larger market opportunities. By 2002, the headquarters had moved once again, this time to Ilupeju, Lagos.

The year 1994 marked an evolutionary milestone for Orange Drugs Limited; it was the year in which the company added cosmetics and skincare brands to its product distribution line. The most notable of the new offerings was Delta medicated and antiseptic soap. A decade later a large soap making plant was established to facilitate local production with the aim of creating more jobs in Nigeria.

Part of Orange’s strategy to diversify involved forming distributor partnerships with foreign companies. One such arrangement led to the creation of Orange West Africa Limited (OWAL) in Nigeria and Ghana. OWAL has served as distributors of lighting products for Osram Germany since 2006. Another is a joint venture with Kalbe Farma, a leading pharmaceutical establishment in Indonesia under the platform of Orange Kalbe Limited (OKL) in 2009. They are also in collaboration with South-East Asian pharmaceutical outfits – Mensa Group, Tempo Scan Pacific, and Dexa Medica.

Accolades

In recognition of their contributions to the Nigerian manufacturing industry, Orange Group Limited was named the Manufacturer of the year at the Sun Newspaper Awards in 2016. Its founder, Tony Ezenna, has also amassed various accolades for his achievements in business and philanthropy.

Featured image source: Media Room Hub


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Ikenna Nwachukwu

Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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