Lokman Jouni, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Mikano International Limited

We’ve invested in automotive business, power plants, others to meet demands of Nigerian consumers —Mikano chief

Lokman Jouni, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Mikano International Limited, a leading power solutions provider in Nigeria, in this interview, speaks on how the company has survived in the country’s business environment in the last 28 years, divestment into several production lines, including mega size generators, and investments in power plants as well as local vehicle assembling of the Geely brands, all in attempts to meet the demands of the Nigerian consumers. Excerpts:

How has Mikano fared since it started business in Nigeria?

We have been in business for over 25 years in Nigeria. We believe in this country, and that is why all our Directors are Nigerians. They have Nigerian passports; they came to Nigeria, believed in this country, and they became Nigerians.

Over the years, we have responded to the demands of the market. We looked at the situation and found how we could solve it in a mutual way for both parties – for us as investors and Nigeria as a country. We are not opportunists; we rather looked at the situation and how we can make it better.

I will start with the generator business. We came as a response to the downturn in power supply, and we started bringing small generators to serve houses and then we moved to big size generators to serve industries and now we are moving to mega size generators to serve bigger investment.

Currently we are doing a 10 megawatts (MW) power plant; we are doing a 16MW power plant at NNPC in Abuja, which works with diesel and gas.

To avoid more export of foreign exchange, we have the plan to start producing our own engine. Currently, we have the technology. These engines are assembled in different parts of the world and we plan to establish the plant in Nigeria so that we can reduce our importation rate.

Mikano’s venturing into nose mask production

In every situation, whenever there is a crisis, some people sit down and lament over it while some would think of how they can turn the ashes into gold.

This is what we did. When the lockdown started during the pandemic, we started doing remote workshops on how to restart, how to train our staff remotely for the best.

So, we had our plans. In 2019, we concluded our Industrial City along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. It was a swampy area full of mosquitoes, snakes, crocodiles.

We invested heavily to transform it into a dry land and then, we built a state-of-the-art industrial city ─120,000 square kilometre which houses our different value manufacturing.

First, we have the auto business, then we set up a facemask factory. February and March last year, the demand for facemask globally was disastrous. A box of facemasks had gone up from N1,000 to N10,000, N15,000.

So, what did we do? Instead of crying, we have our partners in China, India and Europe. We collaborated with them, bought the machine and shipped into the country to meet up the demands. Then, we set up our facemask factory, certified by NAFDAC and branded by Mikano.

We are the reason the price of facemask in Nigeria has gone down and is now available to everybody locally. We should have kept the price high but we flooded the market with facemasks. That is why I said we believe in Nigeria.

Transition to automobile business

We have almost 2,800 staff; we have eight branches across Nigeria. We have over 400 service cars. Just imagine the number of our people – our staff on the roads and the number of hours they spend on the roads.

Mikano Geely Car   Photo: BellaNaija

Number one, the quality of cars we have here, especially second-hand vehicles, is not encouraging. Also, we tried some other brand new cars, and it was equally disappointing.

Again, out of over 1.4 million cars in the market, at least 1.2m are second hand. Nigeria has become a dumping area for the whole world.

A car that has been driven for 100,000 to 200,000 kilometres is sent to Nigeria, bought for N2m and when driven on the road, the car gets involved in an accident.

Why Geely brand of cars

We went to different autoshows in Beijing, Dubai, Europe. We visited different car manufacturers, and we found out that Geely could match these components.

For safety purposes, Geely owns 100 percent of the Volvo Group. So, the technology and the durability have been transferred to Geely. Then you need a car that is beautiful and elegant for people, Geely owns 10 percent of Daimler AG – the owner of Mercedes-Benz.

So, we have elegance. It is not fancy; it is beautiful, it is acceptable, it is smooth. Then we went for the strongest engine – proton. Proton is one of the highest efficient engines in the world.

Now, if you combine all these, you get a good, durable, smooth, solid car and above all, this car was imported into Nigeria during the pandemic by air and we did well over 30,000km from Lagos to Calabar, Lagos-Kano, and other parts of the country.

We tested the car and found out it is good for Nigeria and that was why we brought it. The car fits the Nigerian and African environment in terms of weather and fuel quality.

So, in terms of height, air condition, technology and price, it meets all requirements. It is not very cheap and at the same time not too expensive.

What about the after-sale services for your autobrand?

Since we are into mechanical and electrical business, we understand the importance of spare parts in terms of availability and after sales. We have transferred our over 20 years’ experience into the automotive business, as far as Geely is concerned.

The car is new in the market. It has good acceptance. We are planning to put it on the map of standard cars in Nigeria and we are working towards that.

Capacity of the auto assembly?

It is a modern factory to meet up with the requirements and demands for a modern car. The factory is situated at Karameh City, over 20,000sqm. The capacity for one shift per year is over 10,000 units of vehicles.

The new government policy reducing duty on imported vehicles and effect on your business

Well, of course it is a bitter pill for us, but we believe that life goes on and we try to get the best out of the situation. I am sure the government has a good reason for the policy which they would reveal to us at the right time.

It may affect us at the very beginning but in future, it is still going to be in our favour and we will move on.

Secondly, we believe local manufacturing is critical to growing the economy. As I said, we should not judge the policy in haste.

Use of locally sourced materials for production of vehicles

We set up our steel factory which is one of the biggest steel factories in West Africa and one of the latest in terms of technology.

Cutting machine, branding machine – all these are being done inside the factory. We have high standard safety for the workers.

We only import engines and everything else is done locally. All the control panels are being done locally for the generators. They are being designed by Nigerian engineers who have worked in the company for the past 15 to 20 years.

Mikano in the next 20 years

A successful company, meeting the demands of Nigerian consumers in every aspect. I don’t know what will happen in 20 years, but I am sure that we will soon be out of the generator business. (Extracts from interview in Daily Trust)

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