Obinna Iyiegbu, commonly known as Obi Cubana, Chairman, Cubana Group, in this interview with SYLVESTER ENOGHASE, expresses his willingness to create over 5000 fresh jobs for Nigerians with the unveiling of his bitters brand of herbal alcoholic beverage, Odogwu Bitters. Excerpts:
As the Chairman of Cubana Group, one of the subsidiaries of your group recently launched Odogwu Bitters. Can you tell us what the drink is all about, and how you intend to use it in boosting the economy?
First and foremost, let me say the new investment would gulp between N2 billion and N20 billion in the next 24 months. To answer the first aspect of the question, Odogwu Bitters is a drink for all classes of people, and it is a herbal alcoholic drink. It contains an ancient herbal mix which also includes honey and ginger.
This recipe has been trusted and proven to guarantee a fast and efficient result in the body.
We also gathered that every opportunity that is inherent in the process of distributing the drinking will be used to empower the people. Can you throw light on this?
Yes, it is true .One of the decisions taken on the product distribution was based on trust and we are prepared through the product distribution to empower people without startup fund, but trusted to return the money.
In terms of positioning the brand in the competitive market, what are you looking at? We are looking beyond the Nigerian shore. We hope to position it and compete on both local and international market.
We are poised to take the new beverage beyond the shores of Nigeria. In fact, we are already exporting to some African and European countries.
Our intention is to hit the United States with the drink, and we have already made a big statement by placing the advert in Times Square.
What measure do you intend adopting to checkmate the efforts of unscrupulous business people that may resort to faking the drink?
We have already put a measure tagged DnD (Drink and Destroy) on ground.
Explanatorily put, the measure entails a culture of checkmating criminal elements from faking the product.
Every other details concerning the strategy cannot be disclosed in this parley as it is not inadvisable being part of our marketing strategy. What makes Odogwu Bitter different from other brands of bitters in the market?
What we want to achieve with Odogwu Bitters is to luxuriate bitters.
Bitters is usually consumed by those in the lower stratum of the societal ladder, but we want to change that; we want to improve the quality of bitters so much that those in the upper echelon of the society will desire it.
In fact, we deploy high quality technology to blend it and we have even added some other ingredients such as honey and ginger to improve its quality, yet the price is at par with others in the market.
Our marketing strategy is such that Odogwu Bitters will be sold in major countries of the world. Already, we are making plans to sell it in the USA, United Kingdom, South Africa and other countries.
I assure Nigerians that, ‘white people’ will take Odogwu. And that means foreign exchange earnings for the country.
So, apart from creating employment opportunities locally and empowering critical sectors of the economy, we will also generate forex for the country.
Can you tell us the extent to which job will be created and the capacity of your factory?
The current capacity of our factory is 200,000 cartons a month.
Our first production was 100,000 cartons, but to my amazement, these were exhausted in less than 48 hours.
So, we have already started making plans to increase our production capacity. We are looking at doing one million cartons in a month. That means increasing our current capacity five times.
Now, we have about 300 employees. By the time our new factories come on stream, we will have no fewer than 5,000 employees, and not only that, over N20 billion would be invested in the company within the next two years.
The company would also create tens of thousands of indirect jobs through local sourcing of raw materials, haulage and packaging.
How is the company been funded?
The project is funded by Fidelity Bank. For the first phase, N2 billion was approved , but we are looking at injecting additional N20 billion into the business within the next 24 months.
Having made your marks in other areas of business ventures such as in hospitality industry and real estate, why do you decide to go into bitters production?
Yes, we ventured into production of drinks to bridge the gap in the industry. What we want to achieve with Odogwu Bitters is to luxuriate bitters.
Bitters is usually consumed by those in the lower stratum of the societal ladder, but we want to change that, we want to improve the quality of bitters so much that those in the upper echelon of the society will desire it.
As earlier disclosed in this parley, we deploy high quality technology to blend it and we have even added some other ingredients such as honey and ginger to improve its quality, yet the price is at par with others in the market.
There is no doubt that the distillery industry is highly competitive, particularly from local point of view as players in the sector have been lamenting before now. What do you intend to do to mitigate this challenge?
Beyond advertising and marketing, we may consistently invest in reward scheme to strengthen relationship with distributors and consumers. In spite of the challenges that the sector is faced with, the we will continue to work hard to ensure that Odogwu Bitters is always available and Customers’ complaints promptly resolved at all times.
Again, to sustain loyalty of our patrons, we may resort to holding annual Distributors awards and the relaunch of our products when it experiences decline.
These, as you know, are normal for any investor in our kind of industry.
In fact, I must admit that with many business owners within and outside African continent looking in the direction of the Nigerian market, the terrain appears to have become more competitive, even as consumers too seem to have become more sophisticated and selective.
As a result of this, each of the players is engaging the market through different positioning approaches to gain competitive edge. Of course, in our own part, we are not going to be operating and fold our hands looking; we have to compete because it is a huge market.
There is no denying the fact that with the production of Odogwu bitters that you will no doubt be operating within an industry where manufacturers are prone to be stifled by excessive taxation, excise duties among the imposition of other cost. In this case, what can you tell the federal government as a way of appealing that the sector should be given enabling environment to operate?
The only appeal I can extend to the Federal Government in this parley for now is that downward review of excise duties for Wines and Spirits should be considered.
Again, that there is need for the government to ameliorate bad infrastructure, especially roads linking production sites of many companies as well as roads linking major cities. You will agree with me that the current state of the roads have become a hindrance in the distribution of products and goods across the nation.
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