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Nigerian Business Icon: Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma

by Valentine Ogbamebor

Chief (Dr.) Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma popularly known simply as Innoson has begun a revolution in Nigeria that has given the country amazing global reputation. Innoson has proved what he set out to prove, which was that, Nigerians can also do it. Chukwuma was born in Umudium, Nnewi, Anambra state in 1961. He is the last of six children born to Mr. and Mrs. Chukwuma Mojekwu of Uru-Umudim Nnewi, Anambra state.

He was not born into a rich family. After his basic education in his home town his elder brother introduced him to business and where he started off being an apprentice in the patent medical trade. Next he ventured into the motorcycle spare parts business. He tarried in the motorcycle spare parts trade for a few years and during this time learnt a great deal about automobiles.

In 1981, Chukwuma registered the name of his business as Innoson Nigeria Limited, and traded in motorcycle parts and accessories. His business grew steadily with time and soon he was one of the top motorcycle spare parts dealer in the region. During this period, most of the motorcycles that were being brought into Nigeria were second-hand motorcycles, this was because the price of a brand new motorcycle was beyond the means of most people.

While on a trip oversees, Chukwuma discovered that there were four major companies that were in the business of importing motorcycles. Leventis was importing Honda motorcycles, Yamaco was importing Yamaha, Bolus was importing Suzuki and CFAO was importing Moblet. Chukwuma discovered that the reason motorcycles were expensive was because they were being imported in wholly in containers. A 40ft container contains only about 40 units of motorcycles. This way, the bikes were always expensive. Chukwuma thought about this unfortunate situation for a while and then conceived an idea. The idea was birthed by reason of his experience in the spare parts business.

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Chukwuma took a 40ft container and filled it with 200 units of motorcycles. How did he do it? Simple. He simply disassembled the bikes into parts thereby allowing more room in the container. When the containers filled with motorcycle parts gets to Nigeria, Chukwuma hires a team of mechanics to reassemble them back. Therefore the price of Chukwuma’s bikes fell as low as by 40 percent compared to the prevailing market price.

The first time Chukwuma brought knocked down motorcycles, he brought them in five containers. It took him three months to sell all of them. He went back and brought in ten containers, it took him one month. Next he brought in twenty containers and that took him one week. By the time he brought in fifty containers people were already paying in advance.

Consequently, the price of motorcycles fell, from about 150,000 to 60,000. People stopped patronizing imported second-hand motorcycles, which sold for about 90,000 and started buying the cheaper new motorcycles.

During this period, Chukwuma discovered that motorcycles contained a lot of plastics. This revelation was what prompted him to create Innoson Technical and Industrial Company Limited, an outfit dedicated to plastic manufacturing.He had plans to produce some of the plastic locally. Presently, Innoson’s plastic company is the biggest plastic company in Nigeria, with more than 60 plastic products in its ever growing list.

The nation recognized Chukwuma as a brilliant industrialist, but when in February 2007, he incorporated Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company Limited to produce commercial vehicles, utility vehicles and passenger cars, many thought he was taking things too far. Chukwuma made the first statement at convincing skeptics at the 2nd Nnewi International Auto Trade Fair where he displayed publicly some of his vehicles. Chukwuma is the first man to produce truly Nigerian vehicles.

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Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company Limited received recognition and great commendation from President Goodluck Jonathan, who mandated that government agencies that needed vehicles must first check at Innoson for its availability before they patronized any foreign auto maker.Despite the presidential mandate, Chukwuma observed that some ministries still prefer to buy vehicles from auto makers that they were accustomed to, like Toyota, rather than giving IVM a chance. But the auto boss is optimistic that things would change with time.

Several notable companies and government have approached Chukwuma regarding partnership, notable among them is the government of Ghana, who have asked Chukwuma to come and set up a similar plant in the country. Nissan, the world auto giant have written to express interest.

Chukwuma also founded General Tyres and Tubes Limited, a company he hopes will meet the nation’s tyres and tubes needs for both motorcycles and cars. There are four manufacturing companies under the umbrella name Innoson group; Innoson Nigeria Limited, company dedicated to motorcycle and tricycle manufacturing and spare part trading; Innoson Technical and Industrial Company, dedicated to plastic manufacturing; Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing, involved in the manufacturing of buses and other vehicles; General Tyres and Tubes, dedicated to Tyre and Tubes manufacturing.

In recognition to his outstanding achievements and effort President Goodluck Jonathan conferred on him the national honor of the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) on November 2011. He was also awarded honorary Doctorate degree in Business Administration by the Enugu State University of Tecnology, Enugu. Dr. Innocent Chukwuma is married to Ebele and they are blessed with children.

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