Chief Innocent Chukwuma
Another feather has been added to the cap of the founder and chairman of the Innoson Group , Chief Innocent Chukwuma, as the Institute of Directors (IoD) has honoured him with yet another award for his achievements in the manufacturing sector through his motorcycle and motor vehicle plants in Nnewi, and a plastics company in Enugu.
At the recently-held annual dinner and awards ceremony of IoD in Lagos, Chukwuma was presented with the highly-rated Entrepreneurial Award (Innovation category).
Also honoured at the occasion was the founder, Elizade Nigeria Limited and Chairman of Toyota Nigeria Limited, Chief Michael Ade Ojo, who won the award for Import and Sales Services category ; and the Managing Director, Emzor Pharmaceuticals Limited, Mrs Stella Chinyelu Okoli, who was honoured for excellence in the Manufacturing category.
Chukwuma, according to IoD, was considered particularly because of the fact that his giant manufacturing group started small in 1982 “to merely sell tyres and motorcycle spare parts at Nkwo Nnewi, Anambra State”, under the trade name, Innoson Nigeria Limited. IoD said today, Chukwuma “has since risen from a mere motorcycle spare parts seller, to become an industrial icon in Nigeria.”
Chukwuma was identified as one of the entrepreneurs in the country that had through their manufacturing ventures keyed into the Federal Government’s agenda to develop vital sectors of the economy to make Nigeria one of the top 20 economies by 2020.
Guests at the dinner were also informed that Innoson was the first indigenous company, after Leventis and Boulous Enterprises, to bring motorcycles into Nigeria on a large scale and subsequently set up a manufacturing facility located in Nnewi.
The innovations he introduced into the sector, according to the Institute, resulted in a considerable fall in the prices of new motorcycles, leading to the disappearance of imported second-hand bikes in the market till today.
“In 1984, when the voyage to China began, little did he know that he was embarking on a mission that would give the Nigerian economy a boost. Chief Chukwuma, a determined and un-assuming man of vision delved into the business with two strong business ideas: “Invention and innovation,” the former simply to create a unique idea that would usher in a breakthrough in motorcycle spare parts, while the latter was to make positive changes in efficiency, productivity and quality.
“Thus, Innoson became the first Nigerian to import Completely Knocked Down (CKD) motorcycle parts and in that way bring in 240 motorcycle units instead of the 40 units of built-up machines in a container that older importers were used to doing. This way, he succeeded in crashing the prevailing market price down from N100,000 to N50, 000,” his citation.
“In 1990, he assembled a well-motivated and trained indigenous workforce as well as technical partners from China. Innoson motorcycle became a strong force in the Nigerian market. The brand became a ‘must have’ for private and corporate organizations. By 1995, a fully automated motorcycle assembly plant had been established in Nnewi, Anambra State.
“In 2002, Innoson Technical and Industrial Company was incorporated. The objective was to manufacture first-class plastic products for household use, industrial applications and export. With state-of-the- art facilities, the plant eventually became the largest plastic factory in West Africa, with over 150 product lines.
“In February 2009, under another subsidiary, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company Ltd (IVM) which is situated in Nnewi, the industrial town in Anambra State, the first (truly) made-in-Nigeria vehicle emerged! IVM was an ultra-modern auto plant producing intra and inter-city buses of various capacities, trucks and pick-up vans, tricycles and sports utility vehicles (SUV) with at least 70 per cent local content, ” a citation of Chukwuma read on the occasion stated in part.
Reference was also made to the fact that Auto Star, Ekeson Motors, Orizu Motors, God is Good Motors and Eastern Mass, are among established transporters using Innoson buses. Also, Enugu, Anambra and Imo State Governments, as well as numerous Federal Government agencies have also patronised the auto manufacturing company, the institute disclosed while not forgetting the hundreds of mass transit buses built for government as part of the fuel subsidy withdrawal palliative measures.
“Chief Chukwuma’s innovative spirit shifted to tyres and tubes manufacturing under another subsidiary, General Tyres and Tubes Company Ltd Located at Emene on the outskirts of Enugu, where he built a huge factory in collaboration with his Chinese partners, to fill the vacuum created in tyre manufacturing in Nigeria,” it added.
The Innoson boss has received over 20 merit awards from institutions and governments both in Nigeria and abroad. Recently, the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) bestowed on him the 2012 Business of the Year award in London.
That perhaps explains why the IoD President and Chairman of Council, Mr. Thomas C. Awagu , described Chukwuma and the other awardees as distinguished entrepreneurs who deserved the honour bestowed on them.