Adedeji: SMEs Need Tax Rebates to Grow

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The General Manager, Amber Energy Drink Limited, Ms. Lola Adedeji, in this interview enjoins both the federal and state governments to come to the rescue of small and medium scale enterprises by granting them tax rebates and curbing multiple taxations. Buchi Ubani provides the excerpts:

What is your assessment of the energy market in Nigeria?

The Nigerian energy drinks market is no doubt a very big market; it is one that can accommodate anyone and everyone. Nigeria’s energy drink sector is a lucrative industry with market research fore-casting a yearly consumption growth of over 6.5 per cent by 2022. This is slightly an increase in the five per cent annual growth experienced between 2014 and 2016, which made the average consumption to be about 25.5 liters according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report January this year. The questions would then be who are you targeting and what are you delivering? So, it is the best market and I think that if you understand who you are targeting, where you are going, you will play perfectly well in it.

So, who are you targeting and where are you going with Amber brand?
We are targeting the man; woman or girl who understands quality; who understands what it means to have a healthy lifestyle.

How prepared is your company to face the stiff competition in the market?

We are ready to play ball. For us, we have done everything possible; we have even gone the extra mile to which many other companies cannot go to prepare ourselves. We have taken our time to study not just the market but also who our consumers are, and we have decided that every step of the way, Amber will meet the needs of that consumer anyway we can. So, if you say it is competitive, yes it is. To ask if we are ready to play ball, yes we are. So, as we unveil, as time goes on you will see the wonders of Amber.

What do you perceive as the challenges in the market and what strategies would Amber deploy to surmount these challenges?

One of the biggest challenges in the Nigerian market is that quality is not what a lot of Nigerians understand. For instance, for an energy drink, the first question they ask is “Is it cold? How much is it? Is it sweet? Is it bitter? These are their four main questions. On our part, we have taken our time to come up with the Amber brand. Besides answering all those questions it also nourishes the body. The challenge is communicating to the average Nigerian why this is the best option for him/her. That is what we have taken out time to study and find ways to get to them easily. Once they have it or they come in contact with the brand, every step of the way they are being informed about the good things about the brand and why they should take Amber as their preferred brand. It will take time; but we will get there.

What are the unique selling points of Amber?
Just for the lay man; let’s assume that you like coffee and you can have three cups of coffee and feel like you have had enough of it. But with Amber energy drink, you will have three Cans of it, and he total caffeine intake is equivalent to that of one strong cup of coffee. However, with one Can of Amber you are energised!
We played with the caffeine level; we introduced Guarana which is natural caffeine. It will boost you naturally without being detrimental to your heart or to your liver, but it will give you the boost that artificial caffeine will give.

Mind you, I am not saying that there is no artificial caffeine in it at all; but the quantity is reduced. We also packed it full with vitamins and nutrients that would help to energize your body. For instance we all know that sugar is an energiser but too much of it is a death trap; These are the things we took into consideration when creating a Can of Amber, such that even if you decide to take three Cans a day you are still within limit. That is why Amber is your best option. It gives you a better taste; it gives you a lasting impression; the Can is beautiful. And it’s also going to meet with some of your nutritional and economic needs

But, then, I don’t want to give out all our secrets. But it will meet all your needs when you become a loyalist to Amber because it is not just refreshing you, it also builds your energy and gives you a better quality of life.

What activities are you creating to launch and communicate Amber brand in this global lockdown occasioned by COVID-19?
We have launched digitally. We launched in the new normal way. We had to go back to the drawing board to assess and identify areas and places where the government have allowed people to meet and gather in line with the Covid-19 safety protocols. We identified what the people are looking at now, we discovered that most people are watching their TV, listening to their radios, they are seeing billboards, they are looking at buses, they are reading newspapers, and they are looking at things that will create excitement for them because it has been a trying time for the whole world.

For us, therefore, we key into those areas to make sure that Amber is available at every point. If you wake up in the morning and walk out, you find Amber on the BRT buses. When you get out and you are in the BRT bus and you look at your phone screen you will see Amber. When you listen to your radio or put on your TV you find Amber on your TV. When you get into a supermarket, you will find Amber there. So, we are taking our time to track the lifestyle of an average Nigerian and we are following them there to ensure that we are within the regulation of the federal government but we are meeting Nigerians at every point of the way.

Launching a new product at this COVID 19 era; you must be bold and courageous. Despite the challenges occasioned by the lockdown, here you are expressing confidence at the success of Amber. Where is that confidence coming from?

For me as a person, I have always been intrinsically motivated. One of my key words is “Nothing is impossible.” Second, I believe in the Nigerian market; the Nigerian market is not one that will wither away because of the storm. We have been through many storms and we know how to weather them. I am a Nigerian with the original naija spirit. I am resilient and my brand is resilient.

Is Amber your first experience with the Nigerian business environment?
No, I am a serial entrepreneur. I have been around in the market. I have been in the Nigerian business environment for a long time.

What has been your experience doing business in Nigeria?
First of all, I would say that the Nigerian market is not for the faint hearted. If you want to do it you have to do it. With the Nigerian business experience I learnt that every challenge is there to teach you something; not that it is not going to break you down temporarily but you will definitely come back stronger. And over the years I have learnt that every time there is something blocked, when I go back and look at it properly, there is a solution in it. So, using this theory, there are many things people are scared of. Most of the time fear is a function of the mind, it’s not reality. That is how I see life. So, for me every time something shows up, I sit down and look at it properly. You take self away from it with business, self means emotions, because we all have our fears; once you are able to push past that, that means, nothing is impossible, absolutely nothing.

What is your advice to the federal government on how to support businesses at this time?
I think they should support businesses, by looking at tax rebates for Nigerian brands whether it is produced here or elsewhere but it is marketed in Nigeria and it is for Nigerians. For instance, Amber is produced in South Africa but you see if the federal government has provided us with enabling environment production in Nigeria is good. However, to produce the quality we need, certain raw materials which were imported from all over the world to ensure that every Can has top quality. Now bringing it down here, the first issue we have is with the ports, in the process of clearing, some of our things have been vandalized. So, it is safe to bring the finished products in Cans. Nonetheless, over time, our plan is to produce Amber in Nigeria at some point; but when I cannot tell you.

Given what you have said, would you advise investors to come and invest in Nigeria?
I will say yes to a large extent depending on what you are investing in. Once you know what you are investing in and you have done your research and you have your data, go ahead and invest. A seed has to die to grow. But now, if you feel you just have the money to throw around, this is not the time to throw around money. For someone that doesn’t know what he is doing but just wants some kind of investment, I would say keep your money in the bank and let it be giving you some little returns till we find some stability.

How do you see your brand adapting and adopting to the local business environment?
My brand is a household name. That is how I see it. For me, therefore, adapting to the environment is a no brainer. The moment you experience the brand, you fall in love with it, you will take it home. Your kids will tell their kids and their kids will tell their kids. It becomes a household name.

Is it positioned for every segment of the market?
Yes, affordability is one of the things we pride ourselves in. Affordability is relative; that’s why I didn’t say cheap. Now, once you understand quality you will understand that it is affordable. So, the most important thing is to get people to understand what they are getting first. Give people value, which is key. Let’s use, for example, the bus conductor; he is doing that because he is aspiring to be something. Every step of the way there is a value proposition for him and there is a value he is looking for. He feels like he is going somewhere else. Amber is there to show you that from the lowest to the top, you are always going to need Amber. So it is positioned that everybody should drink Amber, from the boy that is pushing Keke to the CEO, everybody should have Amber. It is positioned to meet the energy boosting requirements of everybody.

What’s your plan to sustain Amber’s market share in this new normal?
First and foremost, a brand takes the character of the owner and so if the owner is very fickle it is inevitable the brand will be fickle. We are indomitable. That’s my take on that.

What do you have for the consumer who is faced choosing either of two choices, food and Amber, to go for Amber instead of food given the times we are in?
The beauty of the drink is that everybody wants to unwind with something nice; even if I want to eat or drink water which is necessary. Sometimes I may want to have a drink. The pandemic changed only the way we associate with people and not the way we associate with the things we buy. The new normal has not affected consumption and the needs that must be met. What we are trying to do is to make you experience Amber; once you like Amber it will make its way to your house. That’s the plan. Alongside that, we want to meet the needs of our consumers. Consumers’ needs are food, drink, life, shelter and money. Those five things we are meeting. Amber will empower its consumers. We have plans on how we can ensure that because you interacted with a Can of Amber, your life will never be the same. Apart from you giving us your money, we are going to give you a reason to live.