Boasting neither a degree in automobile engineering nor business administration, Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma (a.k.a Innoson) has pioneered the first indigenous vehicle manufacturing firm in Nigeria. It is so formidable a terrain to dare in the Nigerian environment. But, Chukwuma dared and came out victorious. And till date, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing remains the only one of its kind.
Born in 1961 in Umudim, Nnewi, in Anambra State, Chief Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma, the Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Innoson Vehicles Manufacturing Co. Ltd, is the last of six children born to Mr. and Mrs. Chukwuma Mojekwu of Uru-Umudim.
He started out dealing in spare parts under the name Innoson Nigeria Ltd in 1981. He was just twenty.
But soon, the young entrepreneur joined the league of Leventis and Boulos Enterprises in assembling branded motorcycles in the country. It all started with a stroke of genius: simple arithmetic.
“I started as a small business man dealing in spare parts at Nnewi. At that time, people were bringing only second-hand motorcycles to Nigeria, and I felt there should be a way to reduce the price of the new ones…,” he told a national daily in an interview.
“I travelled overseas and found out that there were four companies importing motorcycles into Nigeria. First was Leventis that was bringing the Honda brand, the second company was Yamaco that was bringing Yamaha, the other company was Bolus that was bringing Suzuki and the fourth was CFAO that was bringing moblet.
“I discovered that when they brought the motorcycles in crates… each crate contained one motorcycle which took a lot of space and you can put only about 40 units in one 40ft container. That made the motorcycles expensive. So, after evaluating it, I went overseas and packed 200 units in one 40ft container and my price came down by 40…”
This he did by disassembling the parts, bringing them in and re-assembling them here.
That brought prices of new motorcycles crashing from N150,000 to N60,000.
However, in the course of motorcycle importation, he made another discovery: There are a lot of plastics in a motorcycle. So, he set up a plastic plant to produce the plastic components locally thus reducing further the cost per unit of new motorcycle.
Today his company is into full-time manufacture of new vehicles in Nigeria and at a relatively cheap rate. Some purists however insist that he “assembles” rather than “manufacture”.
His business has expanded into four manufacturing companies, namely:
*Innoson Nigeria Limited Nnewi, manufacturers of motorcycles, tri-cycles, spare parts and accessories;
*Innoson Tech. & Industries Co. Ltd Enugu, manufacturers of household and industrial plastics, health & safety accessories, storage containers, fixtures & fittings, electrical components & accessories;
*Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) Nnewi, manufacturers of capacity city bus, mini & midi buses, pick-up trucks and garbage collecting vehicles;
*General Tyres & Tubes Co. Ltd Enugu, manufacturers of tyres and tubes.
The vehicles in IVM fleet range from cars to trucks, SUVs, compactors, etc. The company has made in-roads into some African countries such as Ghana, Sierra Leone, Chad, Niger and Togo.
According to Innoson, the inspiration to go into vehicle manufacturing was born of a desire to see Nigerians drive new cars: “Nigeria has become a dumping ground for second-hand cars. I know it was the high price of new vehicles that made Nigerians resort to patronising old vehicles, but since we decided to manufacture the vehicles here, the price is affordable, and our people can drive new vehicles again.”
The car manufacturing company began with lots of challenges; many even thought it would not work, but today, Innoson’s creative genius and doggedness has made a success of the venture.
Now, his group of companies employs over 7,400 Nigerians.
On March 30, 2016, the Nigerian Air Force, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company, IVM, Nnewi, Anambra State for research and production of spare parts for its fighter jets.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, represented by Air Vice-Marshal James Gbum, disclosed that the collaboration between Innoson and the Air Force had kept its jet fleet running for months. The MoU, he said, would further solidify the collaboration, improve local content and engineering as well as save the country a lot of foreign exchange which would otherwise have been spent on importation.
Due to his outstanding contributions to the development of Nigeria, Innoson has bagged many awards locally and internationally.
He was made the honorary Life Vice President of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines & Agriculture (NACCIMA) on November 23, 2013; Ambassador for Peace by St. Andrews Anglican Church, Trans Ekulu, Enugu, April, 2012; Entrepreneur of the Year by Wesley University of Science and Technology, Akure, Ondo State, March 2012.
He was also awarded the Most Outstanding Indigenous Entrepreneur in the Manufacturing Sector by Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ECCIMA) in January 2012; National Council Member, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria.
He was Conferred the National Honour of the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) on November 2011 by His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan; Awarded Doctorate Degree in Business Administration (DBA) by Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu in November 2011 among others.
Chief Chukwuma plays tennis. He is married to Ebele and they are blessed with children.