Nigerite at 57: The Making of a Wholly Nigerian Brand

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Raheem Akingbolu takes a look at the Nigerite brand as it clocks 57 this month, concluding that its imprint in the building and construction industry is unrivalled

In a country where mortality rate of brands and companies are high, sustaining leadership for decades can be a big deal for a corporate brand. That is why the story of Nigerite and a few other companies that have existed for decades have always attracted public attention. In particular, Nigerite has become a reference point for analysts because it has maintained the leadership of the building materials manufacturing sector for decades. Two things are unique about the legendary nature of Nigerite; as it is still strong as ever even at 57 and it still responds promptly to consumer’s changing needs and lifestyles age notwithstanding.

On a quick count, one can point out many companies that were established just a few years ago but only exist in name today. For Nigerite Limited, it was set up in April 1959 by three shareholders; Etex Group, worldwide leader of the fibre-cement industry, the then five States of Western Nigeria now represented by Odu’a Investment and PZ Cussons, the well-known FMCG group.

As the company clocks 57 this month, it is surprising that despite the fact that the environment is often unfavorable to manufacturing; the promoters of the company have been able to build it into an enviable height with a high profile equity rating. For close to six decades, Nigerite has been in control of the roofing and ceiling materials markets.

According to THISDAY findings, the success story of the brand can be linked to many factors. A staff that has spent over two decades working in Nigerite attributed the achievement of the company in the market to the clear vision of its founders and quality of innovative products coming out from the stable. The 51 year old man, who said he was not authorized to talk on behalf of the company, also believed that the huge annual investment of Nigerite into technological development has contributed in no small measure to the reason all its products are unbeatable by competition.

Contribution to economy

If an organisation’s contribution to national growth is used as a parameter to measure its success, then one can easily conclude that Nigerite is well above board. Over the years, the company has trained many Nigerians and provided direct and indirect job opportunities for hundreds of people. It is a standard in the company to expose staff, especially engineers, to regular training locally and internationally Not only that, artisans like carpenters who are engaged in using their products are periodically trained and educated.

When it comes to Nigeria’s infrastructural growth, the company is a pacesetter considering the fact that it has grown over the years with and nurtured Nigeria to adulthood. Indeed, its brand identity has almost everything in common with the Nigeria brand name. It is a brand identity semblance that has a symbiotic relationship that has continued to blossom and withstand the test of time. Coincidentally too, hardly has there been any infrastructural project that was put in place since independence without Nigerite products. Monuments and institutions in Nigeria bear eloquent testimony to the innovative inputs and imprimatur of the Nigerite brand. Beyond that, as a patriotic citizen of Nigeria, Nigerite’s belief in growing the economy can be said to have informed the decision to be promoting local content. Till date, the company is one of the few companies that secure bulk of its raw materials locally. This is not to say that it has not faced its own challenges due to forex scarcity. The truth however is that it now has all it takes to meet the needs of target markets using locally manufactured products for complete building solutions for Nigerians.

Innovation

As stated by many stakeholders and consumers, who spoke on the strength of the brand, innovation appears to be part of the company’s DNA. In the last 57 years, hardly there is a year when Nigerite will not introduce new products or raise the bar of the existing products in the market.

Recently, the company introduced Kalsi, a Cement Building Board Solutions into the Nigerian market. The product is a major component in the dry construction system. A couple of months after the launch, the company had taken the innovation a step further by commissioning a Kalsi Experience Centre right within the Nigerite premises.

The structure, a one story duplex, embodies the dynamism and precision of the Kalsi boards as it offers a glimpse into the remarkable and endless possibilities of the dry construction system compared with the traditional wet method. Apart from the foundation of the building, done with the wet process, the other parts of the construction embodied the beauty of the Kalsi building boards. And that included the floors, claddings, partitions, along with the internal and external walls and ceilings.

“Let’s journey to the future of the country,” Frank Le Bris, Nigerite’s Managing Director declared with a sense of fulfillment as he ushered major industry stakeholders in the built industry into the state of the art Kalsi Experience Centre during the formal inauguration.

The major stakeholders in the building and construction industry in Nigeria, who were amazed and excited as they were being taken on a tour round the structure cannot but agree less with the managing director that indeed a journey into the future had already started. Mr. Le Bris told guests drawn mainly from the professional associations and academia that the innovative Kalsi board solutions from Nigerite is a step in the right direction, adding that “it is the future of Nigerite and the building industry in Nigeria.”

Chairman, Lagos Chapter of Nigerian Institute of Architects, Architect Ladipo Lewis who shared similar sentiments with Le Bris said shortly after the tour that the Kalsi building board was a welcome development and offers a fresh new possibility for the building and construction industry in Nigeria. He noted that it is high time Nigerians embraced the new building system because of the numerous advantages therein.

It was also in line with this innovative culture that the company launched a new product called Kalsiceil plain and embossed ceiling sheets which come in tastefully finished patterns. The new product unveiled at the company’s premises in Lagos last yearis offered in a standard dimension of 1.22m x 1.22m (4feet x 4feet) and 3mm thickness. The new product which is grey in colour can also be painted to any colour of choice by prospective consumers.

Unveiling the new product at a well attended event by distributors, senior carpenters and consumers from both Lagos and Ogun States, the Managing Director of the company, Mr. Frank LeBris said the new innovation was in line with the promise made to its stakeholders in the previous year that something more unique will evolve from what they have been hitherto used to.

CSR

In the area of Corporate Social Responsibility, Nigerite has demonstrated steady commitment to the Nigerian society for decades. Aside its contributions to manpower development, it has through CSR impacted on schools, artisans and communities.

To deepen its relationship with consumers and reward them for loyalty, the company recently did the unusual when it delivered brand new roofing products to selected homes across South West of Nigeria at no cost to the home owners. Beneficiaries of the initiative had their old rusty and leaky roofs changed and replaced with Nigerite’s Solo Xtra fiber cement roofing sheets. The product was introduced recently to meet coloured roofing needs in Nigeria known as Solo

To contribute to knowledge acquisition in building and construction industry, the premier roofing sheets and building components solution company, recently refurbished the architecture studio of the Department of Architecture, Lagos State Polytechnic as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes. Also, the company had sometimes ago handled a similar project at the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (Mapoly), Abeokuta in Ogun State as well as renovated architecture studios in University of Lagos (UNILAG) and Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), in Lagos State.

On a regular basis, the company plays host to undergraduate architecture students in the Nigerian tertiary institutions when they come for training and orientation about latest technology and innovations in the built industry.

Similarly, the company on a regular basis organizes training and retraining programmes for carpenters, plasterboard installers and Dry construction Project Engineers in the south west region with a view to boosting their capacities.

As a socially responsible company, one can simply state that Nigerite has kept a close watch on the environment in line with its environmental statement that reads ”Nigerite Limited is committed to continuous improvement of its production, sales and installation of roofing, ceiling, cladding and flooring products with minimum harmful effects on the environment” motto: Stakeholders were aware of this when the company for over ten times won the Best Kept Industrial Premises award.

As a socially responsible company that knows the importance of giving back to the society, Nigerite has, over the years, engaged in the provision and replacement of roofs of historic buildings, town halls, schools and palaces of traditional Obas in various towns and villages in South-West Nigeria. The company also trains and re-trains over 20,000 carpenters annually through carpenters’ seminars, which take place weekly all over its territories.