I started my company with N10,000 —Lawal, founder Royal Gad
Omolara Lawal heads AG Industries Ltd, also called Royal Gad Disinfectant Company a pharmaceutical startup with a vision to be the leading producer of high quality disinfectants in Nigeria and the whole of Africa. She spoke with PAUL OMOROGBE on the journey thus far in making this vision a reality.
Tell us about the beginning of your company.
AG Industries Ltd popularly known as Royal Gad Disinfectant Company was incorporated in October 2002. Immediately the name was approved I had thoughts of going PLC, believing that the company will not be a one-man business, that one day one day, it will be listed on the floor of Nigerian stock Exchange.
What kind of financing did you get to start?
On this question on start-up capital, it would interest you or surprise you if I told you that I started this company with a cooperative loan of thousands naira only in 1998. Yes N10,000! I started small but with a very strong passion. I believe so much in the industry. I know if didn’t give up the company will be a reference point and sought after all over the world.
In fact, the day I made N2,400 sales at Agbeni market, it was a special day and my husband and I celebrated it with pounded yam and snails with ‘worowo’ vegetable.
That sales so much encouraged us and I told my husband that one day we will sell these products in millions.
We started in a room. We lived in a four-bedroom flat then and the room designed for visitors was converted to the factory.
What is the staff strength?
The staff strength now is about 22, with three pharmacists, one microbiologist, and two quality control officers. But we started with one staff who was on N500 per month. Her name is Miss Sabianah Jemiloun. She was a very dedicated and trustworthy staff.
What informed the decision to go into the disinfectant business?
I really like this question on what informed our decision to go into disinfectant industry. I worked with a company that was into production and marketing of antiseptic disinfectant. This was after my NYSC in 1991. The company was doing well, but the chairman always complained of the value of the Naira because he came from the United States of America. Later, the company folded up and everybody left.
With my experience and contacts, I later joined another company in Ibadan which has its head office at Lagos as a freelance sales person.
My commission at the end of the month was usually more than the branch manager’s salary. Sometimes, I had to give money to some of the staff because I noticed that they envied me and I was not known at the office.
These experiences informed the decision to go into disinfectant industry.
Besides, we have very few disinfectant companies in Nigeria. I know we have one in Lagos, one in Akure, one in Kano and our Royal Gad at Ibadan.
What difference is your product making for the customer?
That question is a very nice one. My brother, what has helped us so far is our quality; quality is in our DNA from inception. It is our hallmark and heritage. I can authoritatively inform you that the same quality we started with at about 11 years ago is still what we have maintained. We can’t compromise it. Quality is our strength and our selling point.
We got most of our esteemed customers through referalls especially the poultry farmers, households and hospitals.
70 per cent of poultry farmers in Nigeria today use either Royal Gad Lysol or Royal Gad Germicide. To God only be the glory.
AG Industries Ltd has a foreign partner in the United Kingdom who supply our inputs. Presently, we have about 30 per cent local input. We have four products now. Royal Gad Lysol, Royal Gad Germicide, Royal Gad Antiseptic and Royal Gad Pine Disinfectant.
The first two that I mentioned above, that is, Lysol and Germicide are heavy duty disinfectant used where the stench of odours are very strong, while Antiseptic and Pine are mild and used commonly at homes, hospitals for bathing and cleaning.
Our Antiseptic won the best Antiseptic of the year award in 2014 and Royal Gad Germicide won industrial disinfectant of the year award in 2018.
Tell us the challenges you have faced in the business.
Your question on challenges will not be treated as you will expect simply because it seems as if nobody listens to us. Recently, my chairman in Pharmaceuticals sector of Manufacturer Association of Nigeria, Dr Fidelis Ayebae, the MD of Fidson Healthcare Plc, granted an interview to one of your correspondents in Lagos and enumerated what pharmaceutical industries are passing through in Nigeria. Was it not long after the interview that NAFDAC increased their charges by almost 500 per cent?
I will soon show you our power house, we have four generators in this factory depending on what we want to produced. It is annoying! Are we cursed in Nigeria that we cannot fix electricity? Nobody is interested in government excuses anymore! Its GENCO today; DISCO tomorrow and rainfall next time!
Look, I was not as old as this before I started this company. The challenges are killing and nobody is encouraging anybody. It is only papers work – policies that they themselves do not understand!
What can government do to make businesses like yours do better and employ more people?
Should I tell you what government should do to make businesses like ours do better and employ more people?
- It is number one, patronage; number two, patronage; number three, patronage!
The only panacea to encourage and assist businesses like ours is for government to patronise our products.
Let me explain this to you, health is wealth and prevention is better than cure.
Does government believe that prevention is better than cure or health is wealth? Ask them when last did they procure disinfectant for their hospitals and schools. Once they have disinfectant at government house that is OK.
We have 33 local governments and 774 local governments in Nigeria. Just imagine if each local government spends N1 million each on disinfectants and 36 states spend just N20 million per annum to prevent disease causing germs in their environment, the pressure in the hospitals will reduce and more man hours will be available for productivity and to fix power for us.
On a final note, I want to congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari, our own governor in Oyo State, Engineer Seyi Makinde all the governors, the senators and honourables and to solicit for their maximum cooperation with President Buhari to move this country forward.