Nigerite Limited a member of Etex group could be aptly described as the building components giant in the west African sub-region. The company brands are positioned as global brands preferred by consumers for its values and unique benefits.
In this exclusive interview with the Senior Principal Corresponds Francis C. Mgbemene, the Managing Director of Nigerite Limited Mr. Frank Le Bris, bears his mind on the unique concept of building solutions known as dry construction.
Nigerite Limited had been in the fore front of developing new concept in building technology aimed at addressing the deficit housing needs of Nigerians; how has your organisation been able to achieve this over the years?
First, we have been able to set up a new organization with sales team which we call Business Unit for dry construction, in the past all the sales teams were together. So in order to achieve our business goal, we think is appropriate to start from the scratch, so we hired eight personnel with background experience in architecture and engineering to drive the business unit of dry construction. In achieving this set objective Nigerite receive support from our foreign partner Etex group which is also involved in dry construction in Europe, Asia and South America, and they usually offered us support services in the areas of capacity development and skills acquisition. We have also received support from Benchmark, a company based in South America representing Etex, the company specialized in building high rise structures using dry construction in South America. In order to receive maximum benefit, the organization, benchmark which was a new organization was set up to add value for Nigeria and Nigerite. Yes it could have been here before now, but we have to look at the readiness of market before introducing it, but right now is a bit welcoming and that is why we introduce it. But when you look at the projects springing up in Lagos Island, be it project financed by the federal Government or by the state, we saw some new interest so we had to start. Apart from that we’ve had projects in Calabar, Schools in Osun State, Luvu Madaki in federal capital territory and many other parts of the country using Nigerite dry construction.
What are the levels of acceptance of the new innovation in building technology i.e. dry construction?
The level of acceptance had been quite impressive but the challenge had been the ability to make changes, so you find out that the change management is important because when you want to change something it takes time, especially people you are not used to it. Because some people believe that when you build with dry construction your building may not last for years and that is why professionals like Architects and Engineers had to be involved in the building process to ensure quality works are done. So far the response had been quite impressive.
Just last month a 24 housing unit was built using dry construction technology in partnership with Nigerite/ Selavip and Etex, tell us a bit about it?
Yes the 24 hours Housing unit was built in partnership with Selavip and Etex directly financed it and Nigerite gave a lot of discount for the building materials. There are also other organization that took part in the building of the project which the discussion on the execution started last year November –December, and by March when the project started it was completed in two months, so as we speak we have 24 housing unit with 2 bedroom, 1 bedroom and the cost is between 1:6 to 1: 7 million being sold to people at a very reasonable costs, so it’s already a way of developing more housing in a Faster and quicker way. The wall roofing, ceiling is made of cladding from building board specialist Kalsi.
In terms of cost effectiveness and affordability is there any plan so far in bringing down the cost as to give more organization the opportunity to have asses to the materials?
The company is seriously working every day to reduce cost, first, we will reduce the cost of board, because we produce them here, because, before we used to import from Indonesia and we don’t pay custom duty except the cost of shipping. So we are working on the process everyday and certainly the cost will come down
Looking at development thriving along the Lekki, Ikoyi and Victoria Island axis, how is Nigerite planning to expand its market so that an average Nigeria can now begin to think of building with dry construction?
We have been doing a lot Campaign and explaining to people on the use of dry construction as a means of developing quicker and faster ways of building a home. We have also been organizing training programmes for our distributors, carpenters and technicians and, each distributor will get a new model to display and sell and it will be well branded with kalsi and Nigerite. We are seriously strategizing to ensure the new product is well accepted and we will continue to liaise with them and have architects, carpenters and technicians, and give some form of training and continue to increase our level of participation in housing exhibition and other event organized by Architects to create the much needed awareness.
So far, is there any constructive engagement with federal Ministry of works and Housing using dry construction’s mode of building technology in solving the deficit housing problem?
There is no engagement for now with the federal authorities but we are ready to cooperate with them, however, we have had projects with some state government, for example in Osun, we are currently handling big projects in construction of schools which I think is a good start. We also have Samsung Centre in Ekiti State which is also a big project and we are cooperating with other state like Bayelsa and Enugu that are also showing interest in using dry construction for some of their projects.
In terms of challenges associated with competitors are you threatened?
Frankly speaking the more competitors we have in the market the better, because its good for the market to expands, so far I am not threatened by it. The strategy for Nigerite is clear and our aim is to continue to innovate all the time. If you are innovative in motivating people it won’t be difficult in coping with competitors, and let me say, this we have been successful in the last fifty five years, so I have no fear at all.
How have you been able to maintain standard in lieu of the challenges associated with fake product in the market?
I would say challenges are around fake products, if we talk about dry construction, we have two types of cement board which have no problem with fake because we are the leader and the binding force, but if you talk about plaster boards, you have a lot of fake products imported from China which cannot be compared with the board we import from Etex Group in Europe.
Is there any collaboration with real estate developers to really begin to think of ways of using dry construction in some of their projects?
We are already cooperating with real estate developers but the challenge, there is that they are looking for quality and good price, and because we are looking at construction of low cost housing at a very short time to deliver, it becomes very challenging. But we will continue to work with them especially in the area of price and offer after sale service in such a way that if there are problems we should be able to sort it out.
There is no doubt that Nigerite Limited has maintained a steady growth in a harsh business environment like ours, tell us what is the secret?
Laugh: The secret is first, to listen to customers and have a very good team of professionals trained in carpentry and cooperate with the team of distributors on a long term basis because they form part of our major stakeholders.
Most importantly, Nigerite with its partner Etex group, never compromise in the quality of its products and over the years we had maintained such standard.
What are your messages to Architects, Engineers and other stakeholders in the built environment?
I would say that architects and specifiers should be willing to be trained by Nigerite. Our target aims is to embrace new methods of dry construction.
I would like to say unequivocally that dry construction is a complimentary to brick and molt business, we are not competing with regular carpenters or recast, we train and let them know is a complimentary business, and we try as much as we can to widen their understanding about the business and the fact should be made clear “we are not hear to take their job but rather to increase their job”.Therefore it’s important to tell the architects, carpenters and specifiers that we entering into a new era of business and, above all, I would like to inform stakeholders in the built environment to understand that dry construction is quicker, faster and cheaper and Nigerite do it with quality in mind.