Friday, October 30, 2015 7:57 pm
By Funsho Balogun.
For Prince Tikare, after his sojourn abroad and qualifying as an architect, following a career path in his field came naturally. And as an architect, he did well for himself, building cinemas for Warner Bros International and through freelancing across Europe, in countries including Germany, Spain, Portugal, and also in parts of Asia. Back in Nigeria, he has also been busy with a couple of major cinema building projects. But all along, the architect remained restless. He could not discard another burning ambition that constantly gnawed at his mind.
“When I left Warner Bros, I had these whole set of skills including project management and manufacturing, but what was really on my mind was juicing, since I originally had the passion,” Tikare told TheNews. And he eventually built on that passion.
Juicing, which was essentially his way of life, being addicted to his fresh juice every morning, has been conceptualized and forged into an enterprise with limitless prospects by the young entrepreneur. Although he began to make juice commercially in 2006 in the United Kingdom, he brought it home in 2010.
At his factory tucked in a rather quiet street in Opebi, Ikeja, Lagos, Tikare has since been rolling out premium Smoody drinks made of a blend of mango, banana, orange and ginger, which he initially sold in bottles at equally premium price to high-end hotels and restaurants. He revealed that the product was well received, with the market assured. But his business sense dictated to him that it should be made available for mass consumption, to be enjoyed by all.
“We actually started with glass bottles and our retail price at a time was N1,800 to N2,000, but I realised that many people could not connect with the price, despite the quality. So, we have decided to adopt a packaging system in sachets that will cost N100 for the same quality of the product,” he disclosed. The product is to be launched in the first week of November.
For instance, he waited for two years to bring his factory equipment into Nigeria courtesy of a big swindle by an import agent who ended up –after months on end of giving excuses for the delay- disappearing with monies he received for the purpose. He also had rough times with the Customs who demanded bribe outright for his equipment to be cleared. “I seriously considered the option of manufacturing and importing from abroad, but then I saw the problem I would constantly have with the customs, prompting my insistence on local manufacturing,” said Tikare.
He pointed out that another major opportunity exists with local manufacturing. “The cost of fruit is really cheap here, however, we need close to three tons of fruits for a week’s production for now,” he said.
Sourcing fruits at the scale that will keep the factory running has not been a mean feat. After the realization that even mangoes can be in short supply locally, despite the relatively cheap price, the juice maker has often resorted to bringing fruit in from Cotonou, Republic of Benin.
Despite the hitches in fruit supplies, he has never considered the use of concentrates as a way out.
“We use fresh fruits, and it is the major plus because those we compete with use concentrates, and consumers will be getting more nutrients from the natural fruits,” he said. And Prince, who emphasizes freshness of fruits used, cuts preservative usage to the minimum. Consequently, his Smoody’s shelf life does not exceed three months. The juice maker, who claims he is not bothered about intimidation from the well established juice producers, is looking beyond the Nigerian market. “Apart from the local market, I am looking at the export market, with plans to export to Europe, as the market is big enough for everybody,” he said.
Tikare is particularly upbeat about the potentials in his sub-sector of the industry. According to him, with the fruit demands of his enterprise, fruit farmers will eventually stop losing the bulk of their products- about 65 percent- due to lack of storage facilities. “In Benue State for instance, the bulk of the fruits grown rot away because they cannot be sold, but there would be value added with a proper supply chain system,” he said.
He referred to the fact that in Europe, fresh fruits are always available because proper storage system is in place, and the technology to achieve this is no longer rocket science. The Smoody maker is already putting things in place to move beyond present production levels to be fed from fruits stored in massive facilities as obtained abroad. He intends to replicate such gas-powered facility locally soon.
“We are working very hard to reduce releasing poisonous gas into the atmosphere. This would be achieved through an energy-efficient refrigeration system, with potential advantages for the economy in terms of job creation with the product back in the system, and eventually bringing in foreign exchange,” the Smoody maker stated, with much enthusiasm.