Hamis Feyibunmi Balogun is the MD, CEO, GBB Yogurt and Juice Ventures located at Industrial Park Association, Akure. He is the Vice chairman of Ondo State Industrial Park. He started the business in Kaduna but his factory was burnt down in the year 2000 during an ethnic riot. He then relocated his business to Ondo State. For many years, he worked with Fan Milk PLC in the Production Section before crossing to the Sales Department. In this interview with TOPSHOTNEWS, he talks about his passion for the manufacturing industry and the need for government to move away from paper work to practical when it comes to genuinely empowering manufacturers. Excerpts:
Sir, lets talk about the journey so far?
Indeed, it has not been easy. We actually started small while thinking big. We started our production line using candle to seal our sachet juice. I can boldly say that there is no street in Akure that I have not touched because back then, I usually will move round to sell my products from streets to streets. But today, we have grown and I must say that for every job or business that will promote you, you have to be passionate about it to that point that when challenges come, your passion will keep you going. We started small and today, we have developed in our line of production. We started this business in a shop. Interestingly, we didnt even have money to rent a shop, one Mrs. Olaiya, a Director with the Poverty Alleviation Agency allocated a space to us and it was from there, we began to expand. The journey has been rough. We have seen the good; the bad and the ugly and I want to thank God we are still floating despite all odds.
In terms of training, GBB has maintained a lead over the years. Can we have an estimation of the number of interns you have trained from various institutions across the federation?
In Nigeria, people do things for two reasons — passion or for personal gain. Here, we have trained more than 11,000 from different institutions all over the country. As small as the company may appear to you, no other company can say it had trained SIWES students than GBB. We have records and documents to back it up.
In the face of all the challenges you have encountered as a businessman — what has kept you going?
Like I said earlier, if you love what you are doing, you will not give up in the face of challenges. Here, you see a lot of politicians and those in vantage position going into hotel business or oil and gas and after a while, they give up once they encounter challenges or shortfall in their businesses. Our major challenge as a country is that we are a consuming nation not a producing one. Imagine what would happen f those in Hotel businesses use their property as production sites to produce one thing or the other order than fuel their generators and plants from morning to evening to watch DSTV. For me, I have always love production and that passion is what has been keeping me. I love serving people and making people happy. If you taste something good; you cant deny that fact and say it is bad. I would just want to admonish our people not to go into business because someone else is doing well in it — the passion must be there and that is my secret.
Sir, lets talk about your product line?
GBB Yogurt and Juice produces yogurt, juice, ice cream, lollies and by expansion, we have big cola flavor. If we have investors who can partner us in this regard, we would be able to produce products that can compete with all the so called big names around us. For now, we have been surviving through Gods grace.
Lets talk about support from government?
For so long, we were left to survive on our own but just recently, we got small support from the federal government which we cannot deny. Some industrialist got the fund but what I think government needs to do is to digress from paper work to practical. Some people that collected COVID 19 money under the AGMEIS were not industrialists. Some thrift collectors got the money and they have now expanded their business by giving out more loans to attract more profit. This is Nigeria and we have this habit of abusing opportunities by going through the backdoor. It is just a question of time, AGMISS and NIRSAL fund under CBN will soon begin to have problem because Nigerians have started to abuse that window of opportunity. I had expected that they would have learnt their lesson from the flaws of Bank of Industry (BIO). Today, we are seeing people who are not manufacturers benefiting from NIRSAL fund. Some of this people dont even have genuine businesses and some got the money for their friends and girlfriends. Our government needs to move away from paper work to practical because many people now see the money like Father Christmas money. AGMISS and NIRSAL would soon have problem— it is not a curse because some of those benefiting do not even have factory; they just get someone to write them good feasibility studies and while the government is busy thinking it has disburse so much more such that manufacturers should be able to employ more to reduce youth unemployment— the money is going into the wrong hands because they have consultants who package these things for them. Government must learn its lessons from countries like China and India who follow practical ways not paper work. They have used paper work in the ministry, presidency and the national assembly to spend billions of naira with no results to show. It is heart breaking.
What is your projection for GBB Yogurt and Juice in years to come sir?
The truth is that some of these big and known names are not better than my product but when there is no money, what can we do? Some people prefer to buy concentrated wine for hundreds of thousands and this is our problem in Nigeria.
What do you think we need to begin to do differently as a nation?
God loves this country so much and has blessed us both with physical, natural and human resources but we have not been able to achieve anything with it. God is so kind to our country but soon enough, when God’s anger kindle over this nation, we will find it difficult because that is when we will plants crops and it will not yields any result but as far as we are seeing crops grow, it means that God still love us. Whhat Nigeria lacks is good leadership and followerships that has failed in their responsibilities. We do not have leaders with foresight. There is no state in the federation that doesnt have comparative advantage in terms of goods but we are not doing anything. Ordinary onion that has become gold can be grown on our soil here. Everywhere you turn, you find betting shops and all we have succeeded in doing is to groom lazy men and women.
Talking about patronage — what is your experience as a home grown entrepreneur?
It is unfortunate that we do not enjoy any form of patronage from our government. The only time government patronizes us is when ask for our tax receipt. What would it cost to have local manufacturers like us cater at government functions in the government house? This brings up the issue of capital flight. As long as we do not patronize home grown businesses, capital flight will continue to work against the interest of local businesses and entrepreneurs in this state. But as we speak, we have zero patronage from government.