I have had a lot of interest in tea for many years. I was Operations Director for Cadbury Nigeria Plc for almost 20 years and when I retired, I have always wanted to do something that I will give back to society.
By Franklin Ocheneyi
In this interview, Dr.Teju Bolujoko, the Managing Director/CEO Ruchim Investment & Manufacturing Ltd, tells what motivated him to invest in Nigeria Tea Industry. He also bares his mind on issues affecting the local tea industry. The company exhibited its range of Master Tea products at the Nigeria SME CONNECT 2017 jointly organised by Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN) and Footprint to Africa, at the Landmark event centre in Lagos.
What is the business focus of Ruchim?
At Ruchim Investment & Manufacturing Ltd we manufacture and sell Master Tea herbal products and they are all Nigerian sourced. We have linkages with farms and with women that are processing the tea. We have a factory where they are produced in very hygienic conditions for the use of Nigerians.
Look at the tea industry in Nigeria, what prompted you to go into the business?
I have had a lot of interest in tea for many years. I was Operations Director for Cadbury Nigeria Plc for almost 20 years and when I retired, I have always wanted to do something that I will give back to society. In Nigeria, we drink a lot of things that are not healthy and those things that we used to drink when we were young – sugary drinks and so on and so forth. So, the company started working on things that can improve the health and nutrition of Nigerians, like Moringa, turmeric, ginger and hibiscus which is Zobo. They are things that have high benefits for the body. What we have done actually as you have seen here is we make our products available in tea form for people to be able to easily drink them. They are all alternatives for everyone that is health conscious. That is what we do.
What is the percentage of the local content vis-a-vis import?
The good thing about the raw materials is that all of them are locally sourced. As I was telling the Director-General of SMEDAN (Dikko Radda) now, Nigerian ginger is the best in the world, it has a high ginger which is 2 percent higher than any other place in the world, and is the best.
So people buy raw ginger and process it and if you look at it, even we that are the owners of these materials we are not using them the way we should. That is why we have gone into this herbal tea, it helps you, it is good for the body, and we have done everything hygienically so that in fact, in the comfort of your home, you can have alternatives to sugary drinks that is destroying lives today.
How much have you invested in the business so far?
It is very difficult to say how much you have invested because how do you quantify the Research and Development time, you can say I used many millions for the machine, another millions for the building but if you are somebody that is involved in R&D, how do you quantify the research time? And so, I would say that we have spent a lifetime trying to ensure that we have products that Nigerians can be proud of. If you look at the packaging, everyone that sees it ask, is it imported, are you sure you made it here, and I answer yes, look at the address on the pack, it’s all made-in-Nigeria. We have invested so much and I believe this is good for Nigerians.
What is your take on the government’s procurement policy on buying 40 percent of locally made products? How is the response of the government ministries?
We are still hoping that the government’s pronouncement will be turned into action because government offices are still buying imported teas and other foreign products. So, we are hoping that all the pronouncements of the government will one day become reality in the sense that if the government make a pronouncement, they will enforce it.
Are you getting funding supports from Nigerian banks?
Banks have a lot of challenges. They see small-scale businesses as very risky; if any bank tells you that ‘we are great supporters of small businesses, they are lying; they are telling lies. They have a huge amount of money in reserve but they are never using it for the small industries. You cannot be talking about funding small business at an exchange rate of 19 to 30 percent. Every nation invests in their small businesses. In China, 80 percent of businesses that are employing people are small businesses; we have to grow them, we have to invest in them, support them and with the desire of the government that non-oil export grows.