In 2013 Olufela Seton, Managing Director of NF Branding West Africa, one of the leading branding companies in Nigeria, led other investors to set up NF branding in West Africa, with operational offices in Lagos, Accra and Abidjan. Since then the company has been very visible in branding business in the region with new branding styles and innovations. In this interview with SULAIMON OLANREWAJU, he talks about new modern branding techniques and how these can help the country get out of the economic recession.
Why did you bring NF Branding to West Africa?
Our plan from the onset is to change the outlook of the branding industry in Nigeria and create African jobs for African people. This is something African countries have been grappling with since they started getting independence. However, I believe that Africans have the answers. I have the burning desire to bail out as many graduates as possible from the abyss of joblessness and empower them to compete in an environment dominated by expatriates. We have been able to record some strides in this regards because in Lagos, we have over 40 staff members. And we’re still looking to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs once our factory is completed. The factory will provide employment for about 1,500 people in Nigeria at the initial stage and this is expected to rise to about 3,000 after our first year of operation. In addition to that, we would inject about $12 million into the industry with the factory that will manufacture tarpaulin products, cargo nets and sim pack casings which are currently being imported. This would catalyse real growth and sustainable development which we have been craving to achieve for a long time.
When did NF Branding start operation?
The National Flag and Branding Limited, which is our parent company, has been operating in South Africa since 1982. We currently have regional offices in Nigeria and Ghana. The Nigerian office serves as the head office for our West African operation.
What was your motivation for bringing the company to Nigeria?
We brought NF Branding to Nigeria and West Africa in order to introduce modern branding concept to the region. We also extend its success story the region. Before now, Nigerians were going to China to buy their materials and ship them into the country. But now, they have realised that we can do the job for them at the same price, or even lower because of discount. What we want to do is to create jobs for Nigerians. NF Branding South Africa has over 7,000 employees and we hope to replicate that in Nigeria too. We want to dissuade people from going to China to produce their materials because there is no consistency in the design coming from that region. This is because the Chinese companies do not have faces here in Nigeria. As for us, there is consistency with our company and we deliver at the due time.
There are quite a few branding companies in existence in Nigeria, what exactly would you be doing differently?
We would only deliver modern and excellent branding jobs, which would stand test of time. We aim to change the business landscape by introducing professionalism and bring top grade branding products that have not been seen before. This will invariably expand the market and make the business terrain more competitive by creating broader opportunities for individuals, public institutions and corporate entities. We also have the largest product range in the African branding industry.
What innovations are you bringing to the Nigerian arm of the company?
We want to bring modern branding concepts we see in other more developed climes to the country. We are investing heavily in new technologies to enhance our printing capabilities and product range such as HD printing which is what is in vogue now. Our materials can also be recycled. We can give you hardware and tell you to go to bed for one year because our products are genuine and are of high quality. Very soon, we will be bringing in some experts to train people on standard printing because what we have in Nigeria is old and inferior technology which is about eight years behind the new style of printing.
What services do you provide?
For outdoor, we produce banner walls, banner poles, display banners, umbrellas, face wraps, pennant and gazebos. Our indoor services include canvas fabrics print, custom wall wrappers, eclipse banner, light boxes and pop ups. We also produce flag poles, car flags, and signage, among others.
Why are you particular about producing flags?
In the US, UK and even South Africa, there are companies licensed to produce national flags. As a nation and because of our cultural heritage, we should not allow just anybody to produce the national flag. In the UK, there are only three companies that have government approval to produce flags, while in the US and South Africa, there are just two licensed companies. I think we should follow suit here as well. This will not only protect our flag but it will accord it necessary respect.
Do you think Nigerians have respect for the national flag?
There was a flag project done in South Africa recently where flags were put in every school in the country. This can also be replicated here. A national flag symbolises the country and in Nigeria the Green White Green colour is our surname first before our individual names. For me, that is the most important thing because I have seen the way people respect national flags. It is wrong to use any cloth to produce the flag of the country. The materials must be superior and should be certified. I think we can definitely do better in terms of respecting our flag because it is part of our heritage.
From the perspective of your industry, what solutions can you proffer to the biting economic recession?
This culture of importing everything is not doing us any good because it takes away jobs from young graduates and technicians. We are too import-dependent instead of us to focus on how we can also export our own products to other parts of the world. That is the only way our currency can increase in value and wouldn’t be so susceptible to fluctuations in the global marketplace. We also need to empower our youths and create more entrepreneurs which would have a spiral effect on the economy.
What are your thoughts on the Nigerian business environment?
The Nigerian market is very interesting. It is growing in terms of business volume that comes here. We are the biggest economy in Africa and this by implication, translates to good business. What we lack is a properly structured economy but we have the population and the market. I predict that in the next 10 years, the Nigerian economy would be number one in Africa. Nigeria has the purchasing power which is why there is no world-class brand that does not want to do business in Nigeria. Shoprite came in to the country recently and today they are all over the country. Also telecommunication company MTN, operates in over 20 African countries but 50 per cent of the group profit comes from Nigeria. The Nigerian market is ever buoyant.
What should we expect from NF Branding in the next few years?
We are set to revolutionise branding not only in Nigeria but in West Africa and Africa as a whole. Very soon NF Branding, with its state of art machineries and modern branding style will become number one and ultimately the reference point in branding and printing technology on the continent. We are wholly committed to delivering excellent services.