How this African entrepreneur built the biggest car manufacturing plant in West Africa with less than $10
Innocent Chukwuma is a household name when it comes to the car manufacturing industry in Nigeria. From scratch, he has built West Africa’s biggest car manufacturing plant and he has shown no signs of slowing down.
The Nigerian businessman started his journey with less than $10 from his brother. He first went into the sale of motorcycle spare parts and then later graduated into the selling of complete motorcycles.
“Then motorcycle was seen, as luxury because of the exorbitant prices. I was not happy with that because I know that I am not in business to satisfy myself. I want to render service and from the proceeds of my service make a living. So I began to think of a way to make the price of the motorcycle to become affordable for the teeming masses that needed them. It was in the process that I discovered that importers were the major reason why the price of motorcycles was very high,” he told Africa Resource.
Chukwuma found out that importers were packing only 40 units of motorcycles in one container. He found a genius way to put 220 units of motorcycles in one container. This means that he was saving what he would have paid for five containers and that gave him a very big financial boost.
After he made success importing motorcycles, he decided to step up his business by going into the manufacturing of motorcycles. This led him to launch a plastic company called Innoson to produce plastic parts of motorcycles. He later branched into the making of various plastic products like chairs, tables, and plastic containers because the manufacturing plant was underutilized.
“The idea was to keep the plant producing at full capacity and today it has paid off because it has helped us to employ a lot of staff and millions of Nigerians are using our products which they are buying at giveaway prices. Even people from neighbouring countries come to buy our plastic products,” he said.
Chukwuma later ventured into the manufacturing of vehicles primarily for the same reasons he first went into the importation of motorcycles and later the manufacturing of motorcycle parts. He wanted to make vehicles affordable to the ordinary Nigerian and reduce the dependence on second-hand cars.
His company manufactures all types of vehicles including pickup vans, buses, and Sports Utility Vans (SUVs). He also manufactures tricycles popularly called Keke NAPEP.
“Our vehicles are built with the state of the roads in the country in mind. We know that our roads are not good so we decided to make our vehicles rugged enough to withstand the shocks on the road,” he told Africa Resource.
“So our vehicles are more rugged than the imported ones because we are the ones that are wearing the shoes so we know where it is pinching us. Unlike vehicles that were manufactured for London or New York roads where roads are smooth.”
Chukwuma from Nnewi, Anambra State is the last child of his father. He was born a year before Nigeria gained independence. His father worked as a civil servant while his mother Martina Chukwuma was a housewife.
After his secondary education, he applied to the university to study engineering but could not make the cut-off grade. He, however, utilized the traditional Igbo Apprentice system of education to acquire some skills.
It was through this period that he was introduced to Romanus Eze Onwuka, a spare part dealer from whom he learned how to import and sell motorcycle spare parts. After becoming his own boss, he scaled up his business which saw him go into the manufacturing of vehicles under the umbrella body Innoson Group of Companies.