Faced with the impossible odds of starting from the scratch and competing in the shark-infested waters of an industry he didn’t have the training to perform in, Chief Godwin Oruh, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Oruhtrade International Limited and Finpro Manufacturing Limited, did what any smart businessman would do—he learnt to survive and beat the competition!
Today, he oversees the manufacturing and distribution of his flagship product—G.O. 90 Insecticides and other corollary products like the GO-90 DDVP and GO-90 Aerosol from his offices at No.17, Dosunmu Street, off Baderin Street, Mafololuku, Oshodi, and the factory site at Kilometre 11, along LASU-Isheri Road, Lagos.
Asked how the journey started and how he has been able to survive in an industry filled with locally made and imported highly competitive brands of aerosols and insecticides, Oruh, speaking with the palpable confidence of one who has succeeded in developing his product from nothing to the point of market acceptability and dominance, tells you that the journey began for him out of lack, depravation, and necessity.
First he narrates how it all began: “It started as a story of necessity. They say necessity is the mother of invention. There was that period in my life that I was in want. Most of us pass through that road. It’s a tortuous, challenging road.
“At that point of want, my family and I were contending with hunger, debt from unpaid rents and all that. Then after all that stress, you try to lie down and sleep at night but you are disturbed by little, negligible insects—mosquitoes. For most of us, on hearing the whisperings of these insects, we wake up, not to talk of the bite. In that situation, it was horrible.
“I also knew that many of the people around me, like me, were going through the same thing. That thought of how to overcome that ‘battle’ came to my mind.
“Not to forget that the fight against Malaria didn’t start today. It started so many years back and there were lots of deaths of infants, adults and pregnant women. The only few alternatives we had then were mosquito nets but they were not the now popular insecticide treated nets, and they were not very popular then.
“The other options were limited and they were basically the aerosols. But the price for the average person, was not affordable. Also, the pungent smell of most aerosols then, made them very user-unfriendly.
Not one to give up, Oruh began to search for solutions to his problem, exploring various local options for warding off the menace of mosquitoes like the use of orange peels, sprinkling of kerosene and the like. He continues:
Eventually, he settled for an insecticide that could “curtail the menace or affects of mosquitoes within a living environment for a period of 10 to 12 hours it also had to be something that would be user-friendly.”
And he went as far as testing the “insecticidal content of kerosene before stumbling upon a chemical called Dichlorvos and others from the Pyrethroids family because of it turned out to be “relatively cheap and also it is a bio-degradable; it weakens very quickly in the atmosphere,” Oruh points out.
Then came the part every entrepreneur knows is the million-dollar question he or she must answer—start-up capital! Many say loans, many borrow and many save up for it. All these three options though, were not on the cards for Oruh because of his financial situation. But without much ado, he found the solution under his own roof!
“How do I now start?” he recounted asking himself. “I looked within my house. Ordinarily, I should be looking for a loan to start. But again, I was looking for affordable business. When I looked around my house, I saw I had an air conditioner. But I asked myself: what was the use of having an air conditioner with an empty stomach? Don’t forget that for you to use the air conditioner, you must also power it and this would also increase my electricity bill. To avoid this, I made the AC dormant.
“These were also coupled with my indebtedness to my landlord for about three months house rents and I was at the point of being booted out of my face-me-I-face-you two-room apartment. I had to pull out my air conditioner and sell it for N1600.
“Out of that money, I had to pay for my rent so that I could have a roof over my head. So I had to settle my rent. Then I was left with N700. What would you do with N700? For some people, N700 is no money and to some, it is a lot of money. This is true today as it was back then.
Oruh’s N700 capital turned out to be a one-time ‘throw of the dice’ that must win or else… With that meagre capital, Oruh bought the chemicals and first tested the product among his neighbours. After receiving rave and encouraging feedback, the fair skinned father of five decided to mass produce his products but must adopt the most cost effective and result-oriented marketing strategy.
“What marketing strategy did I adopt? The media then were Radio Nigeria, television stations and newspapers. But with my few packets of products going into the market for the first time, where would I go? So I had to sit back again and think through how I would market the products.
“But prior to packaging these products for sale, we went through an experimentation period and my neighbours were my first customers. I produced samples and gave to them. I was also listening to their comments about the products.
“During motivational talks, I always tell people that it is important to look at what your neighbours also want. For example, when the power goes off, they will be looking for either candles or match boxes. Here is the strategy: give it to them the first day, give it to them the second day and on the third day, sell it to them!
After extending the test area even further, the G.O. 90 CEO saw the results as positive and in 1990 and with just six packets, he reached a sale-on-return agreement with some shop owners who later demanded for more of his newly introduced insecticide until from that one shop, Oruh’s insecticide became the choice of people in areas like Orile-Iganmu, Sari Iganmu, Amukoko, Ajegunle and environs.
“That was the birth of G.O. 90 Insecticide,” he says excitedly. But now began the real work of growing the customer base of his product. And this, Oruh revealed: “That was how we grew arithmetically. We didn’t grow geometrically with a bang; we grew arithmetically…1, 2, 3, …like that.”
He explains how he marketed his products from one person to the next, until he won over so many. He says: “On the choice of marketing strategy, I chose the option of direct marketing. When you see your product, define it and consider the best way to get it to the end users.
“Ask yourself: who are the people who will be the end users of your products? What is the best way to get it to them? What is the most cost effective way to get it to them? At that time, I couldn’t have afforded a van or a truck to distribute the products. But my feet were not broken. They are mobile; and selling and distribution was all about movement, right?
“So I adopted direct marketing. And my definition of direct marketing is, getting the product across to the end user in very good condition, and at a minimal cost. This broke the chain of the cumbersome distribution network. I couldn’t even afford hiring a distribution company to do it for me.
“Another challenge was how to let people know that these products are in the shops. I went back home, thought through the problem and came up with some display stands. These display stands were meant to draw attention and I placed them in those shops so that as you step into those shops, you can see them. I made sure the display stands had very good captions that would make any one inquisitive about the products. You would be forced to ask: what is this? And that really helped us in growing.”
With no background in science, how did Oruh know he wasn’t selling pollutants in the name of insecticides? Well, not if he subjected the new product to research and scientific testing!
“But apart from these steps, don’t forget that we did our own research. But beyond this, we needed to ask ourselves: how do we now subject this product to scientific research? Of course that was another level.
“So we had to go to College of Medicine, University of Lagos (now Moshood Abiola University) and partnered with them there and we are still into partnership with them anyway. So we went into partnership with them and they did a lot of analyses of what we were doing; the bio-efficacy, toxicity and all that. All these tests were all done and we thank God we came out fine,” he pointed out.
With the approval from the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) also done, this forward-thinking wealth creator narrates how the business expanded exponentially from that point:
“But here is what we did: from that one room, we got a shop in a local market within that environment. From that one shop we moved into a second shop, from that second shop, we moved into the third, fourth, tenth, seventeenth shops and so on and so forth; until we almost acquired the entire shops in the market!”
Eventually, Oruhtrade acquired its own property. “Gradually, we got a place around Ikotun, then Oshodi; but we soon found out that it won’t be conducive and we moved from there to LASU
area where we were restricted to just two acres due to land space. That is where we have our factory for now. Along the line we now had the chemists, the pharmacists, etc, on board,” Oruh, who is now a chief courtesy of his kinsmen’s recognition of his success, explains.
For a product that was unknown when he started out, how did Oruh convince prospects to try out and buy his insecticide? For the streetwise salesman, this was where the job of true sales person begins. He shares his success tips on the field, saying:
“But on marketing, the job of a sales man starts when the prospective customer says ‘No’. Or else, if you offer me a product and I just accept and money changes hands, you have not done much work; anybody can do that. But the ability of a true salesman begins when I say, ‘No’ and you are able to change my no to yes. That is what makes you a good sales person.
“I personally had to take a few of my people to the field and show them practically how to relate with customers very well and changing their no to yes. And that gave us a very good understanding. Then we also went through how to relate with users, sellers and the likes of them.
“In fact, till date, we still don’t have a major distributor as it helps us to relate well with the customers. But someone would ask how we are able to coordinate the various places where we send our products like Warri, Aba, Kano, etc and even outside this country.
“That is the good thing about technology; we have the social networks and all that. I still personally answer some mails form customers. Then we have the GSM and with it we still get calls from users, sellers, etc. But from the onset, it was not easy.”
Of course the big players did not just fold their arms and watch Oruh take over, right? How did his products escape being ‘eaten up’ by the ‘sharks’? The 49-year-old indigene of Bende, in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State, said he adopted what he called the ‘backdoor’ approach.
He explains it: “How did we break into the market without being consumed by the big sharks? But we felt that we should quietly ‘sneak’ in through what you would call the backdoor (a door is a door anyway, as long as it’s not through a ‘window’) without drawing a lot of attention.
“This is one reason why many businesses crumble today. At the start of the business, they are usually looking at one big player and they are telling you that ‘in the next three months (or so) we are taking out that big player’. But do you think that big player is going to fold its hands and watch new and smaller businesses take over the market? Of course not!
“So the best way to come into the market if you don’t have that financial muscle to compete with the big players, and survive is for you to devise a way to ‘sneak’ into the market without drawing much attention to yourself and stamping your authority in the market.
“We were very much aware of the market and we adopted it as a strategy to come in through what many would call a ‘backdoor’ quietly without drawing attention and we made a mark in that area of insecticides.”
Culled from Success Digest