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Why Every Entrepreneur Must Read DURO KUTEYI's New Book

Mr Durodola Kuteyi, the MD/CEO  of Spectra Industries Limited has just written a book every young entrepreneur should read right now. It is a 70-page book written to mark his 70th birthday and to celebrate his 40 years of the entrepreneurial journey. It is to also mark his company at 30.

Let's quickly tell you that Spectra Industries Limited is an indigenous company in the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME)  Factor, which specialises in Food Processing and Packaging.

Kuteyi is also the CEO of Betamark Production company, a food processing and packaging consultancy outfit.

He has an unflinching interest in Food processing and packaging, SME development, and the establishment of packaging centres for SMEs and SME Industrial clusters. He believes so much in the possibility of an industrialised Nigeria.

He started his entrepreneurial journey 40 years ago, cutting his teeth in 1982, with the production of Betamark’s Plantain Chips, operating under Betamark Nigeria Ltd. He was to later set up Spectra Industries Ltd in 1961 but commenced operation in 1992. The first product of the company is Suco Cocoa powder drink. The company with a focus on Functional Foods now has many products in its stable.

One Way Ticket: My Uninterrupted Life Journey from Pot To Factory, is a good book to read. It is a book that has a goldmine of information for entrepreneurs who play in the Small & Medium Enterprise (SME) Sector. His dogged determination to pursue what he believes in is chronicled in his new book titled ONE WAY TICKET: My Uninterrupted Journey From POT to Factory. It is a short narration of the story of his life, what he passed through from age 7 to 70 years. It is a book with 5 Chapters, with Chapter 1 dealing with his Foundation & Childhood, Chapter 2 on Burden of Expectation, Chapter 3 Entrepreneurship Is A Journey, Chapter 4 is titled Strategy is Everything and Chapter 5 is on Shaping Your Business Destiny.

Many entrepreneurs will find Chapter 5 interesting. It reveals a lot.

“The Spectra brand has been built from zero point to the point where we are now commanding both local and global recognition based on the numerous awards we have received which we cherish so much.”

“If you look at the name of Spectra; what is Spectra? If you studied physics in school, you will know that Spectra connote light rays, white light passing through a prism, separated into seven different colours. That is what we represent. We should have one raw material that can produce different products and one machine that can produce many products. Like you take cocoa, you can get so many products from it. You take Soya, you can get so many products from it. That is the basis of Spectra and that has continuously guided our strategy. We capitalized on the fact that in Nigeria, we cannot boast of good medical facilities like we have in developed countries and once your body system breaks down, you are on your own. So the best thing expected of you is to eat healthy food. That is why in Spectra Industries, our slogan is ‘The Home of Functional Foods’ and we are consistently researching into how to provide Nigerians with quality and healthy food brands that are up to global standard and yet affordable. We follow this up by sensitizing Nigerians on the need to feed well. It does not cost a fortune to eat right if you know the right thing to eat. For instance, daily consumption of Cocoa products has a lot of medical benefits that go with the consumption of cocoa for its healing power.

The cocoa bean is a rich substance with high minerals and nutrients providing innumerable health benefits scientists consider cocoa powder as an active agent that helps prevent the growth of infectious bacteria in the body as well as boosts cognitive function and allows blood flow for healthy growth. The same applies to other brands that we produce in Spectra. In a nutshell, our mandate is to continue to research to give Nigerians varieties of food that will keep them healthy and we don’t intend to drop the ball because we know that as long as we continue to give Nigerians affordable food with global standards, we will continue to be in business.”

There is often a misconception of the impact of luck or the role luck plays in business success. While I do not rule out the element of luck in business success, you need more than luck to remain successful in business. You need the Grace of God more than anything to recognize the luck or any opportunity that comes your way. Luck can come in the form of sudden favourable government policies or a natural occurrence that gives your business sudden and unanticipated opportunities and these opportunities bring huge success to your business.

That is where the luck ends. For you to remain consistently successful in your business enterprise, you must see running a business as a marathon race. Successful entrepreneurs write their own destinies by making the right decisions and choices. 

You must know that there will be a time that things will be so rough and no matter how tough things turn out, you must continue to encourage yourself to push on. There is this song that summarizes the attitude that every SME should have and I think it was composed by Wole Soyinka “1 Love my country 1 no go lie, Na inside am 1 go live and die if e turn me so, 1 twist am so, E push me, 1 push am 1 no go go’.

“That is the attitude I have always had while running my business. There is this consciousness that I do

not have any other profession other than Food Processing and I know that when I am into food business, no matter what, I will sell and not just sell, but sell enough to take care of myself till I die. I always believe that if today is rough, tomorrow will be better and so I have never been tempted to quit in spite of numerous moments of difficulties. Why quitting is never an option is because at the time you may decide to quit, that is when things may start happening in the industry and once you leave, it is always difficult to come back. Also, when your company is doing well, that is not the time to relax and start thinking that you are already there. That is when in fact you need to work harder to take the company to the next level. You must always and consistently anticipate the future and carve out a space for your business for that future. It is against this background that we are beginning to plan and shape the future and business destiny of Spectra Industries. We have taken time to build the business and in building the business, we have also been guided by integrity and the need to give Nigerians not just any processed and packaged food, but quality food that is good and not harmful to their health. That is why we as staff and management also consume what we produce here. The best way to know a good restaurant is that restaurant where the owner even feeds his or her family from the same food cooked in the restaurant. There are some companies that are into food processing and manufacturing and they hardly consume the same thing they are packaging for Nigerians because of the quality. But for us, we are confident that as long as we continue to come up with quality products, we will continue to succeed.

That is why we will never compromise our standards and quality. Ln anticipating the future role of Spectra Industries in the life of Nigerians as well as in the export profile of Nigeria, I am already projecting ahead on the space that the company will be in the future. We will undoubtedly end up on the Stock Exchange. Before then, however, what we are doing now is looking for partners that will inject funds into the business to scale’ up the capacity of the company. Once that is achieved, the next thing we want to do is to go to the Export Processing Zone and operate from there where we will be at the same competitive level and advantage as the foreign companies because in that place, there is a lot of concession that reduces your cost of production.

As it is now, the foreign companies have a lot of edge over us in terms of sourcing cheap raw materials that enable them to produce at a cheaper rate, sell and make reasonable profits whereas we that source our raw materials locally are always crying that we are not getting raw materials. When you are operating from the export processing zone, it is like you are in another country. A lot of concessions are given to you in terms of duty-free raw materials and other incentives that reduce your cost of production. So our next action now is to get to the Export Processing Zone and once we get there, we can compete with any company in the world on equal terms and based on our pedigree, I am confident that the company will shine.

Thereafter, I can now say I have done my best. I will then approach the Stock Exchange and finally hand over the company and retire to take a well-deserved rest. From my experience as an SME operator, I believe the government can do a lot to transform SMEs in Nigeria and it will be a win-win situation for everybody especially when special incentives are given to those in manufacturing and food processing. That is one sure way of promoting food security and a realistic means of winning the current war against banditry and terrorism. When people are not employed, they become willing hands for the devil. But when SMEs are empowered, they create the needed employment that will keep hands busy. To do this, the government should identify SME operators that they can partner with to achieve the desired goals.

The little roles I have played in the development of SMEs in Nigeria is because of the experience I have had as an SME operator. Under the platform of the National Association of Small Scale industries (NASSI) as the Chairman of NASSI in Lagos and the Vice President of NASSI National, I was involved in SME development in Africa through Technonet Africa and SS GATE. Through that platform, we were affiliated to Technonet Asia under UNDP. We were opportune to take a study tour of Asia SMEs that took us to Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, India, China and Syria before the onset of the war in Syria. I was able to make that kind of impact there because of my experience. So if we have someone with such an experience to advise Government on SMEs, what the person will do first is to involve the SMEs in the day to day activities of their operation so as to know their problem. I, for instance, know the problems SMEs are having. I wear the shoe and know where it pinches. I have also had not too palatable experiences. I had run into problems with banks about two or three times as an SME. In fact, at a time, they threatened to close down the factory and sell off everything that I had. That is a common problem and experience of an average SME operator and they should not be made to experience such. These are areas where the government can easily intervene because SMEs in Nigeria are at the mercy of the banks and this should not be so. Until you make it easy for SMEs, it will be difficult for them to make much impact on the economy as they are supposed to. When you put someone with no experience in SMEs, when SMEs are talking about their problem, such a person sees SMEs as noisemakers because they don’t understand the plight of SMEs. In fact when you talk about SMEs, some see us as vulcanizers and artisans and when we try to correct that impression, they just see us as noisemakers. At a time when I was talking for SMEs and expressing our pains and frustrations, someone in government called me a “one-man riot squad”. They are not ready to listen to the plight of SMEs because they are in the office and collecting salaries; they have no idea of what the plights of SMEs are and these are the same people that are supposed to advise the government and formulate policies for the government that are expected to impact on SMEs.

For people like us, staying in SMEs, working in SMEs and championing the cause of SMEs has been a pleasure. We often mobilize our people and educate them on good Corporate Social Responsibility. We organize training for them and I have been part of this development. At a time, we brought in people from Sri Lanka and Thailand to teach our people entrepreneurship, Arts and Craft. We also sent people to South Africa, Ghana, Cameroon, etc., for training. Some of the beneficiaries are doing well and some have taken into training and are also doing well. One of them was appointed as Secretary to a State Government and it was part of the credentials that were used to appoint her as SSG. These are some of the things that I have done as my own little contribution to the development of SMEs.

So when the government is looking for people to advise them on SMEs or help formulate policies for SMEs,

they should look for people that have not only passed through SMEs but have also allowed SMEs to pass through them. By this, I mean someone who has passed through SME and has probably been hammered by banks or passed through the frustration of sourcing raw and packaging materials. Such a person will understand the plight of SMEs and such a person should be the one to head any agency set up for SMEs and not political figures whose decisions are always based on political considerations.

If the government is sincerely interested in giving SMEs the attention they deserve, a Ministry for SMEs should be established because when you look at the numbers, about thirty-nine million and the impact of such people on the economy both in terms of employment generation and GDP, devoting a full Ministry to SMEs is worth the effort. To complement the Ministry, there should also be an SME bank just like what operates in Thailand. Also in Malaysia, the CBN is directly in charge of SMEs. Look at those two countries and how SMEs have impacted their economy. Some people often come up with the argument that previous efforts to set up banks devoted to SMEs failed because of defaults from SMEs. The reason for such failure is because those in charge have no idea of how SMEs work and who they are and of course

when you give loans to the wrong set of people maybe as a result of political consideration, there is no way you will expect to get such loan repaid. It is like giving agric. loan to internet farmers who have no farm anywhere and you expect to get the loan repaid.

The present administration has done better in assisting SMEs to develop through the initiatives of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo through engagement with agencies like the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standard Organization of Nigeria. This initiative has increased the number of productive MSME members. NIRSAL AGSMEIS and other intervention fund also boost the number of MSMEs.

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