Chief Executive, Niji Group, Adeniji Kolawole, is up on the entreprenurship ladder, having set up a thriving business of fabricating durable machines for young entrepreneurs wishing to start their own businesses. DANIEL ESSIET reports.
Chief Executive, Niji Group, Adeniji Kolawole, is gradually building a flourishing business of machine fabricatoion. He is one of the inspiring success stories of budding entrepreneurs who shunned paid employments, venturing instead into self employment. His carreer choice paid-off instantly. Today, he is a successful agripreneur, specialising in the fabrication of machines.
In the last 10 years, Niji Group, founded in 1991, has grown into a successful and award-winning supplier of metal fabricating machines and services.
Being gifted at learning how machines work and making them for his clients, mostly farmers,his company now fabricates various types of agricultural or farm implements that process produce, such as cassava, maize and groundnuts.
These include shellers, water pumps, welding machines, ox-carts, produce driers, grain cleaners, cassava chipping machines and any other post-harvest handling equipment.
He has fabricated fish smokers, pastry ovens, bone crushers, cassava grater,garri fryers, flash dryers,hammer mills, yam and cassava peelers.
His list of food and agro processing plants that he can fabricate for food entrepreneurs include cassava starch, gari processing,plantain chips,yam flour and fufu processing.
“Starting up a metal fabricating company is a noteworthy achievement. Sustaining it successfully over several years is a remarkable accomplishment,” he said.
Despite starting off with little capital, pouring his life savings into his new business endeavour, Kolawole already has over 300 workers in his employ. Success however, did not come overnight. After leaving technical college, he worked with some companies where he larnt the business of machine fabrication before starting his own. Within a short time, he he rose to become a top player. He is now one of the most sought-after machine fabricators. Many companies whose owners are no longer comfortable with the high cost of importing spare parts from abroad throng his assembly plant.
Kalawole refused to be held down by the technical challenge of the business. He got involved in a kind of business, which seems to be for those who studied mechanical engineering, even though he was a product of a technical school and an advance apprencticeship programme.
The apprencticeship programme through which Kolawole honed his skills, The Nation learnt, has taken him to big companies and fabrication yards in Europe and Asia.
Despite his wealth of experience garnered through such overseas trainings, Kolawole attributes his success to the delligence and commitment of his staff. He said he owes his success to his workers whose dedication made room for efficiency and ability to maximise fabricating technology to meet customers’ demands.
Kolawole has ploughed back his initial profit from the business into acquiring key equipment to support production of newer and more complex fabrications. The company’s solid financial balance sheet afforded it the opportunity of investing in fabrication technology that delivers production efficiencies.
The budding entreprenure says his company’s ability to take on complex fabricating jobs to produce parts at competitive rate and also offer value-added services that other shops may not be able to offer was because of a handful of large and long-standing customers who have kept him and his workers constantly on their toes. There are smaller customers who also played important part in the fabricator’s future.
Having made a mark in machine fabrication, Kolawole established Niji Farms and Allied Services Limited, which is spearheading green revolution with large farm land located at Ilero in Kajola Local Government of Oyo State.
The company’s cultivated cassava farmland covers an expanse of over 3000 acres. Kolawole is gradually building an enterprise that could become the nation’s biggest producer of cassava. He has acquired over 15,000 acres to establish a private farm estate with a farmers’ business school, an agri-clinic as well as an agri-business centre.
His aggressive expansion programme has also seen him partner Harvest Plus in the multiplication of 125 acres of Vitamin A Cassava. He said his concern is that Nigeria, despite being a large producer of agricultural produce, does not have agro-processing capability for value addition and forward integration.
He is, therefore, determined to support the government explore innovative ways to incentivise farmers to use technology more effociently to add value to the country’s vast agric produce.
On the whole, he is working to turn around the fortunes of small farmers with local machines that can be used in farming.
He has made various sizes of machines with various output. They are either automatic or manually operated. He has the rare technical skill of making any machine by just looking at the one manufactured in factories. Sometimes his customers just describe for him what they want to do and he makes a machine that will help them do that work for them.
Within the industry, he is regarded as a maverick who likes to try everything that challenges his skills and wits. He is determined to not only mechanise agriculture, but also take his skills andn know-how to the global arena.
Kolawole started off by meeting with farmers and peeking at their real problems. He always pondered why farmers are always at a loss when they are supposed to be the master of the farming business.
To solve the riddle, Kolawole created a private farm estate rich in value added facilities where people can come to see how profitable agriculture can be done. He believes that with the use of the farming estate, young people can learn and apply proven technologies in aquaculture, livestock and poultry raising, crops production and others .
Young farmers, according to him, to utilise everything into organic fertiliser. This could help them save costs from farm input, he added.
His dream is to see lives of young farmers completely transformed through active agro entrepreneurship. He set out to make his farm estate an agro-tourism spot- where people can enjoy and relax in nature’s comfort.
This is why he allows field trips to his farm from students and farmers so he could share his technologies applied on the farm. In his spare time, he also acts as resource person for cooperatives, integrated farming, entrepreneurship, and the like.
With his experience, he wants people to know that there is really money in farming. For him, what Nigerians need is work ethic, determination and vision to turn their entrepreneurial dreams into success stories.
SOURCE: THE NATION NEWSPAPER