Dr (Mrs) Stella Chinyelu Okoli, OON is an accomplished pharmacist, industrialist and philantropist who has made immense contributions to the manufacturing sector and the Nigerian economy at large. Recently, the kano born industrialist opened up to The Economic Times team on her success story as well as challenges, excerpt:
Ma, we know you are the founder CEO of Emzor pharmaceuticals, please tell us how it all started?
Emzor pharmaceuticals Industries Limted is a wholly private indigenous pharmaceutical manufacturing group founded in 1984. The holding company, Emzor Chemist Limited was established 1977 as a retail pharmaceutical business. At the time we started, there were many challenges but the oppourtunities were quite exciting. The rapid growth of the retail business encouraged us to venture into importation and wholesale of assorted pharmaceuticals. The idea to manufacture locally came later and was predicated on the need to develop local capacity, create jobs and provide high quality pharmaceutical products and services to the Nigerian people. At prices that are not only affordable but represent value.
When we ventured fully into local manufacturing, working capital was a major challenge initially but one thing i found about challenges is that as you are facing it, you become more creative coupled with previous experiences and your passion about your vision, you overcome the challenge.
You will appreciate the enormity of the challenges if i tell you that i who bought a factory with cash later went borrowing to run the factory. This goes to show that it wasn’t easy at the begining but i must tell you, it is a rewarding one. To the glory of God, Emzor brand has grown from a small company to a household name in the pharmaceutical sub sector of the manufacturing sector.
We congratulate you on the 30th anniversary of your company, please can you take us through your success story?
Thank you for congratulating us on the 30th anniversary of Emzor Paracetamol. Actually the company is much older than 30 years, but our brand of paracetamol is 30 years old. Our success story rests on the fact that we have never stopped investing in building our brand, through consistent high quality, great value and promotional activities. We know that strong brands are better able to weather the storm of hard times. That’s why we remain even more determined to strenghten our brand. Late last year, we launched a campaign to celebrate 30 years of our flagship product, Emzor Paracetamol, emphasizing that it is a brand that people have come to trust.
Another factor for our success story is innovation. We are constantly developing new products that meet the needs of the people. The latest of our innovative offerings is the new Emzor Para 1000, which is the first and only 1000mg paracetamol in the market today. The products gives users the convenience of 1000mg dose of paracetamol in one easy to swallow caplet. We operate using the highest international standards and all our products are duly approved by NAFDAC. Our commitment to these high standards is why we are writing a success story today.
We are excited and optimistic about the years ahead. We will soon commission our new state of the art manufacturing facility located in Shagamu. This will enhance our production capacity and enable us compete more effectively in the international market. We planned to continuosly add to our products offering as we presently offer more than 120 products.
Our vision and commitment is to make quality healthcare products available and afordable to all. We call it Emzor Wellocracy.
What are the peculiar challenges associated with this sector? How are you coping with the challenges especially as a woman?
When i started the factory, only a few were operating in the sector but presently, there are several manufacturers and importers of pharmaceuticals , hence the competition is stiff. The devaluation of the naira has also created more challenges for us as well as the perennial weak infrastructure issues. But that has also helped in making us a more innovative company because innovation keeps you ahead of the competition. The major challenge now is sourcing forex to purchase our raw materials as most are imported. As a woman operating in a male dominated sector, i put in a lot of hardwork because i must not fail my God, my family, my company, my profession, fellow women, my country Nigeria and Africa at large.
As a onetime Vice President, Small and Medium Scale Industries (SMI) Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, what challenges are impeding growth in Nigeria?
There are quite a number of challenges we can talk about, As you know, manufacturing is the key to rapid sustaunable economic growth. And SMIs are critical contributors in that regard. The major challenge impeding the growth of SMI are unavailability of affordable finance and inadequate power supply. If we stimulate the industrial sector by solving these problems, we can add value to our natural resources and create wealth while reducing unemployment to the barest minimum.
Small and Medium Scale Industries (SMI) Manufacturers are very much needed to complete the production value chain as they are supposed to produce goods that feeds the big factories. They are the engine of growth in any economy, Nigeria with large young population should pay attention to SMI development in order to stem unemployment and make the country productive.
Madam, from what we have read about you and what people say, you are passionate about your work, what motivates you?
I always say hardwork never kills but it is laziness that kills. And the harder you work, the more you have to work hard because the reward of hard work is more hard work. It is equally very important to have good time management and sound leadership quality that delegates and mentor and teach staff members to be more effective and efficient at work.
You are also passionate about impacting lives especially to the less priviledged in the society, Please can you share some of the projects you carry out with us?
Emzor wellness foundation our coporate social Responsibility platform is world class which focuses on helping women and children. In addition, our sister organization, the Chike Okoli Foundation (COF) focuses on Cadiovascular Health Awareness and Entrepreneurial Studies. Through COF we have reached more than 10 million youths with enlightenment campaigns on cardio vascular health, while we train hundreds of youths every year on entrepreneurial studies.
What advice would you give start up entrepreneurs in the local manufacturing industry?
There are no shortcuts to success. You must be ready to put in a lot of hardwork and perseverance. And when it seem’s like things are not going the way you planned, you must be flexible and resourceful, believing that there are always new oppourtunities even within the most challenging environment.
We cannot conclude this segment without knowing your stand on Government support for manufacturers.
Government needs to give more support to manufacturers and local Industries because without a solid Industrial base we cannot develop. There must be articulated policy by all arms of Government to ensure that Nigerian Industries survive and thrive as being done in the developed Countries. This way we can create wealth and ameliorate poverty.
With more emphasis on diversification, there are tremendous oppourtunities in the non – oil sectors such as agriculture, food processing and solid minerals. With refence to the pharmaceutical sector, there are oppourtunities to produce some of our required raw materials locally. This will reduce imports in future and save the much needed forex. The multiplier effect will surely create more employment and a much stronger economy.