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There’s big hope for manufacturing in Nigeria – Banerjee, Binatone MD

Bimbola Oyesola

With over 40 years in Nigeria, Binatone Nigeria Limited can authoritatively say now that there is hope in the nation’s economy. Mr. Prasun Banerjee, its Managing Director in this interview, notes that Nigeria’s economy is coming bigger, stronger, with the present government’s long term strategy and policy on ease of doing business. 

He also speaks on how the company has contributed both to the Nigerian economy and other sundry economic issues.  

Excerpts:

Government policies 

We don’t have problem with government policy as regards regulations. The only problem we have is the delay at the Apapa Port. This caused delay for us and you know, one needs to pay for demurrage at the end of the whole thing. But government is already addressing this challenge.

Efforts are being initiated for improving on ease of doing business and we are quite satisfied with the progress the Federal Government is making to ensure a conducive business atmosphere.

Business in Nigeria

Operating in Nigeria has been wonderful. Although last year was a little bit difficult, we were able to cope and stabilise. I will say we have come out of it and that is why you can see many good products being introduced into the market. We actually have a long term strategy and that is what helped us. The same thing with the country. The government has put in place long term strategy and this will help the economy.

Also, we have been in Nigeria for the past 40 years and we will be celebrating 60 years globally this year. We’ve learnt how to keep our cost low so that our products can be affordable, with high quality. We ensure that our product is of good quality, with two years warranty. So our aim is to create good value for money. We have a trusted brand in Nigeria for well over four decades. Over the years, we have identified that Africans, particularly Nigerians, like style. They are proud of their homes and want the most beautiful things to take pride of place in their living rooms. They like practicality, advanced technology, unquestionable quality and, of course, an attractive price.

Expatriates quota  

Absolutely, we are abiding with that policy.  We have very limited expatriates, only wherever required, basically the Managing Director (MD). Across all our products and divisions, we have locals running the business.

Managing Binatone

I have been managing the affairs of Binatone Nigeria for one and half years. During this time, we have been able to do good business, although there have been some economic challenges.

Binatone, as I said earlier, is a well-known British brand that has been in Nigeria in the last 40 years.

It started with electronics and over a period of many years, it shifted its product offerings to fans, kitchen appliances, power products like UPS and stabilisers. We are leaders in fans. We have a wide range of fans. We recently introduced a tower fan with a Bluetooth speaker, which means that if you switch on your fan, you can pair your phone to the Bluetooth speaker and listen to music.

The purpose is to launch this one of a kind product that is not available anywhere. We are happy that we are launching it in Nigeria for the first time. It is God that has been our guide. We are all guided by God. Every step we have taken has been guided by God. We have the faith that you can achieve anything you set out to do through God’s help. It is also our belief that you don’t ask your country what your country will do for you. You ask yourself what you can do for your country. We make sure we do our part. We belong to the country and it is important that we play our part.

Expansion plans

Yes, we have plans to expand. In fact, we will be opening another assembly in the next two weeks. We want to go into various categories of products and, of course, with innovation.

To expand, one needs to invest, get their share of space in the showroom. And in order to get this share of space, we need to do visibility exercises in terms of product display and demonstration. We have demonstrators we train on a regular basis on key features of the products and how to handle and sell them. Some merchants are our first point of contact with the customers. The trained demonstrators are one of the touch points we have.

In terms of availability, we were limited to certain class of retailers, now we have started expanding our retail network. We only had few supermarkets and retailers in Alaba but now we have big retail shops across Nigeria. We are working with the top retailers in Port Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos.

The second touch point we have is in terms of the display. The customer gets to have a touch and feel of the product. Customers get the product near to their houses; they do not have to travel far to get the product. So our products are available in every supermarket and top retailers across the 36 states and the FCT.

Abuja looks after the entire central and North; Port Harcourt looks after the East; Onitsha looks after Onitsha and Enugu and Lagos looks after Lagos and the South West. We have a service centre that is well equipped with trained engineers to take care of consumers even when they have complications beyond the two years covered by the warranty.

Grassroots

What we are doing is to expand step by step. Once we see that a certain market has potential, we open a branch there. Onitsha was big for us; our next target is Kano or Kaduna to cover the entire North. We have a vast team of people here. I would like to also point out that all the fans we sell here are assembled in Nigeria. We have an assembly unit here in Nigeria and we are planning to assemble some other items here as well. We have given employment to many local people and we have also done good business and generated revenue for the government.

 Competitors

Competition will always be there. Whenever there is a demand for a category, there will always be competition. But we believe that we give good value for money in proposition. We give a product which is affordable, has value for money and at the same time, gives peace of mind. Our core philosophy is to try and get the products across a wide spectrum of society at very affordable prices. We don’t just give value for money; we also give value to many. We are available, pan Nigeria and one of our strengths is giving the consumer peace of mind.  One of the ways we do that is to declare two-year warranty on each of our products.

We’re already dominant in cooling products for the home, we felt the pulse of the consumer to produce the world’s first 2-in-1 music fan. We are market leaders in fans and have an assembly unit here. We are also looking at assembling other kitchen appliance products and also help the government to accelerate its made-in-Nigeria initiative.

Products 

To take care of the energy challenges, we have rechargeable fans and we will be launching more fans with rechargeable capacity. We know this is a challenge in Nigeria and there is an opportunity there. So we are one of the pioneers of rechargeable fans in Nigeria.

However, we have another company based outside the UK, which does solar energy products. Discussion is ongoing on how we can do that here but there is no product right now that is commercially available to take care of that challenge.  But I am sure that if there are driverless cars, there should also be solar fans.

Nigeria Vs others 

Nigeria is a very huge market filled with young population. Nigeria is one of our home countries. It is a huge opportunity for us that our fans are coveted in every household in Nigeria.

Our products are well accepted here in Nigeria. We are not premium products, we are value for money and value to the many products. They are products which the middle class will always like to buy. For instance, Nigeria is the second biggest appliance market in Africa (after South Africa). All top international brands have strong presence in the market. Market is predominantly for mid and lower end products across all product categories. Of course, the Nigeria electronic market has always been doing great and remains a major market for Binatone to continue to explore.

As far as Nigeria is concerned, we are introducing very innovative products. We have launched many products and we still intend to launch. In short, there is big market in Nigeria.

Binatone has recently launched its innovative Tower Music Fan. Binatone’s new music fan brings all of this in its new product offering – the Binatone Tower Fan with digital music.

The audio is available via bluetooth to play any pre-loaded or streamed music from any smartphone and it also allows audio to be played via USB, SD card or even a 3.5mm audio. A stunning tower fan with a built-in digital audio system that will reclaim that nostalgic place in the home that radios first held the sway. The innovation we have experienced in the past two-three decades is unprecedented and what we can achieve with technology is becoming limitless, and this puts a larger than ever onus on product development teams to be able to focus and deliver truly meaningful innovations.

Our product is a offering for the consumer. Two essential products in one, saving valuable space in the home, the Binatone Music Fan is truly destined to be the new centrepiece of any home with its style, music and coolness!

Economy

Despite recession, we have been growing in business thanks to our product innovation and keeping our prices low. We have contributed both to the Nigerian exchequer as well as providing jobs to talented and meritorious Nigerians. Apart from direct employment, we also give a lot of indirect employment through the various agencies we hired, who assist us in our business development.

Dealing with adulterated products 

Whenever you have genuine products, fakes will be present. So it is something we have to work on. We have been working with Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) in identifying and destroying fakes and taking the perpetrators to court. Some cases are still in court. What we do is that whenever we see any product being adulterated, we try to exit that model and launch a new model. We try to keep one step ahead of the perpetrators.

I advise customers to buy from authorised agents and distributors of our products and from leading electronic outlets and supermarkets where there are no fakes. It is not really affecting our bottom line because as I said, we also try to stay a step ahead of the fakes. It is not really a big threat.

 

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