Ukperegbulem Jonah Kanayo
Mr. Ukperegbulem Jonah Kanayo, The Chief Executive Officer of Fresh Mart one stop mall is an indigene of Oki ll Community, Agbor in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State, a Laboratory Scientist cum Bio Chemist and a businessman.
Through dint of hard work in company of his partners he actualized his dream of having a place in Ika Land where people can get everything they needed in one particular place, which gave birth to the emergence of Fresh Mart Supermarket, the One Stop Shop in Agbor.
Mr. Ukperegbulem Jonah, is a strong advocate of Ika youths in the diaspora coming back home to invest and develop Ika land for the betterment of all; he is a goal getter who believes in human capital development through viable investments and industrialization.
In this exclusive interview he granted Ika Mirror Newspaper crew at the Shopping Plaza recently, he spoke extensively on how best the State Government can make business establishments in Ika land to thrive successfully and the vision of establishing ten branches of his One Stop Shop across Delta State and beyond in the next Five years.
Good day Sir, May we meet you?
Answer: I am Ukperegbulem Jonah Kanayo, I am from Oki ll, Agbor, Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State. I grew up in Agbor, Oki to be precise; I had my primary school education at Oki Primary School, Oki, from where I proceeded to Ihu-Iyase Secondary School, Agbor-Nta, for my secondary education. During this period some of my teachers can attest to the fact that I never came out second in my class, but always first position throughout when I was in primary and secondary schools.
After my secondary education I gained admission in 2010 to Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State, where I had my Ordinary National Diploma from the Department of Laboratory Science and graduated with Distinction; after the mandatory one year Industrial Training program which I did at the Central Hospital Agbor, I went back to school for my Higher National Diploma in Bio-Chemistry, and also graduated with Distinction in 2017.
During my Higher National Diploma (HND), I was opportune to have a couple of friends that were not in Nigeria, most of whom I contacted through Facebook. I had chats with them, through which I was able to convince them that there are businesses they can do of which they don’t need to stock all their monies in the bank; I told them about land flipping, that being overseas they may not have the opportunity to make a direct business transaction telling them, why don’t you just send your money across?
We will use it in buying lands for you, and then in the next two to three months you can add Two hundred thousand to Three hundred thousand naira to it and sell. I was able to convince a couple of them, and when they found out that the business worked, we just buy in areas that are of high demands especially here in Agbor in places where people can easily buy from us; we will buy the land after which we will add one hundred thousand naira, for example, if I purchase the land at the rate of #1.2 Million Naira, I will resell it at the rate of #1.3 Million Naira.
So I was doing it for them then, however, it has to do with a lot of trust. My stronghold was that I had done it for A, B and C; so they were now able to convince some of their friends too. We have sold a couple of lands along this Old Lagos/Asaba Road, Agbor. You know some lands are very expensive when you sell such lands the profits are much, we can buy as much as 35 lands and sell 30 within the next two months. That was what sustained me through my Higher National Diploma. I was able to raise little capital then, so I had some money when I finished HND; I didn’t go for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), because I wanted to make money.
I had to travel to China, but when I got there I didn’t like the country, the language barrier and all that. I wanted to further my education by doing my Masters Degree there and try to work a little if I can; but our perspective is that this person is abroad, there is a lot of money there, but when I got there, it was not what I expected it to be.
I thought I can be schooling and working to make money, since my friends that were overseas had so much money to buy lands and we are almost the same age mates and all that, hence if I get there I can work and still have money to buy my own land. Actually, when I got there the situation was not what I had expected, so I had to come back to Nigeria after staying in China for Eleven months.
When I came back I had to continue with my business and with the little I saved then, I used it to open our Gas Plant which commenced operations in 2018. So when my friends saw that the business was progressing they had to support me in opening a branch for operations at Asaba and other areas, presently we have about four Gas Plants in different locations.
I am a capitalist and my friends have absolute confidence in me, we do joint business which is like joint partnership, but I am the overall cover of all, so I do and manage the business successfully.
Talking about this One Stop Shop (Fresh Mart), the concept is that why don’t we have a place in Agbor where we can get everything that we want in one place; if you are conversant with Garage market, you will buy one thing here and go to another place to get something else and everywhere is rowdy.
I said okay why can’t we organize something like this where we will have a mall, we will have casino, we will have barbing saloon, we will have fast food shop where you can eat, you will have where you can shop, you have where you can buy your clothes, you will have Pharmacy where you can buy drugs, a place where you can buy everything; that was the concept.
I and my partners started the project in 2019, after having the structure, I already had the concept of what I wanted; though for me to get people to support me, we reached an agreement, after which I brought in the Engineers who did the construction and all that. After that going by the alliance we had, like this retail line, I am not directly into it, what I did was to bring in people that are experts on that line.
We have our buyers from all the major retail companies like Shoprite, Our Manager is from Market Square, so that is how we took all those top people to come together, let’s do something that Agbor people will be proud of.
With these people we were able to get suppliers, get directly from companies. So most of the products you are seeing here are directly from the manufacturers; with this method we bought it cheaper, though we put our margin and we are competing very well.
The few products that we have not been able to get their companies to supply us directly are due to some bottleneck, registration and others, which compelled us to buy from distributors. However, once we are done with the registration I believe here will be the shop from where you will get quality products at the cheapest rate in Delta State, even the road side markets cannot compete with us.
Invariably the business here is like a consortium of affiliate units coming together in achieving the original concept of setting up the business; by so doing we have made away with distributors and working directly with the companies and manufacturers.
For example, if we are dealing with Coca cola they bring to us directly, same with Indomie they bring to us directly from their companies, other stores in the building were rented out to interested tenants for businesses.
Question: What about the Pharmacy section?
Answer: During the construction of the building we had problems with their regulations, they have a particular distance where you can site such business and when you take a look at the other side of the road opposite us, there is a Pharmaceutical shop. I don’t want to do anything that will affect anyone or go against the law, I like to follow procedures, I like to do my things in the right way, which is why we scrapped Pharmacy.
Like the Pharmaceutical shop opposite us this place will still promote her business because when you are coming out from here you will see that there is a Pharmacy shop facing us where you can go and buy your drugs. That is why we didn’t continue with having a Pharmacy here.
However, our vision is to open ten, one stop shops like this Fresh Mart Supermarket in the next five years. The management is already working on it, everyone is working round the clock to make sure we deliver this target.
Question: On the part of Electronics, how do you get your supplies?
Answer: The only company which we have contacted on electronics is Binatone. If you get into our shopping mall, you will see that most of our electronics is Binatone, all those electronic companies like Samsung, we need to register with them, same goes for Binatone, and so its other electronics companies that we need to register with in order to get their products.
You know they all have their different products like Fan, Pressing Iron, e.t.c. We are not like all those people that go to Onitsha to buy Samsung or other brands. All the electronics currently in our shop is Binatone, so if we want to add Samsung we will buy all the products of Samsung that is what we do. We are not keeping Samsung, Phillips, Binatone, e.t.c., No; the companies will individually supply all their electronics to us.
Question: There is this myth that people overseas don’t like coming home to set up such businesses as you have done, what do you think motivated you in setting up such multimillion naira business here in Agbor?
Answer: You are not wrong from your observation, actually many people have the fear that No, I am from this town I can’t set up any business here, else many assumptions and insinuations will arise. Personally, what motivated me is that I first started business in this town, so if I have the opportunity of traveling abroad why must it change my mentality about this town? I know I made money from this town before I traveled though it’s small but I made money. There is money in Agbor.
Sometimes when I see my friends that are doing business in Asaba, they are not doing better than those in Agbor. Fast Food Shops in Agbor are doing well, all of them are selling. If you bring their records and bring the records of those selling at Asaba you can compare.
You have people overseas that are from Agbor, anything you work on they will support you; so we should remove the thought from our minds that I am from this town, so I should run away from my town, it was in the past that Agbor was not secure, I don’t think we have so much security challenges; once you are able to do the right thing and stay away from things that will tarnish your reputation I don’t think you will have any problems doing business in Agbor.
Question: Do you think doing business in Agbor is lucrative?
Answer: Yes, doing business in Agbor is very lucrative, you have the population, you have the buying power, so once these two things are in place you will excel. The above variables determine the market forces.
This town should not be relegated because many things will come up, people are now beginning to realize that this is our own we have to develop it and make it work. Every Sunday, I see people drive from here to Shoprite in Asaba for shopping in those days, but such practice has stopped because of the quality Fast Food shops that are now in Agbor.
Question: What inputs do you feel that Government should put in place to attract more of such investments in Agbor and environ?
Answer: From what I have noticed the non availability of stable electricity supply within Boji Boji Metropolis is a major problem, but I believe now that we have the Governor of Delta State being from Ika extraction he should help us to make sure that the Electricity Step down at Boji Boji Owa is energized and made functional to serve Ika people effectively.
The major problem of any business establishment is electricity, just like at my Gas office I spend Six thousand to Seven thousand naira everyday on diesel. Calculate how much that will give you in a month. While for the Fresh Mart I spend the sum of Twenty thousand naira daily on diesel, so if the power distribution company brings a bill of Two hundred thousand to Two hundred and fifty thousand naira every month for me, I will be very happy because when you check the amount of buying diesel which is twenty thousand naira multiply by thirty it will be going to Six hundred thousand naira, so when they bring a bill of Two hundred thousand to Three hundred thousand naira why won’t I be happy when I have the electricity supply that can carry everything?
Power supply is the major problem, I spoke with some officials of the power distribution company and they disclosed that the dedicated lines did not pass through the Old Lagos/Asaba Road; this is what the Governor should do for us before he leaves the office, knowing that if he does it many viable businesses and investments will spring up because they will have stable electricity supply to run such businesses.
In Asaba they have that dedicated lines that passed through the major Asaba – Okpanam Road, so once you have them here in Agbor Multinational companies and Hotels will all spring up along Old Lagos/Asaba Road for businesses.
Imagine a situation where you are supposed to make a profit of One Million Naira, most of the bulk of the running cost is from electricity not even payment of staff salaries.
The Governor can greatly influence the energizing of the Stepdown transformers to make them operational so that it can supply power to the Old Lagos/Asaba road in order to make the area a bubbling business environment.
Question: What are the unique features of Fresh Mart Supermarket that will make it remain on top ahead of other competitors?
Answer: The other features that will make us remain on top is the standard of our products, our value here is of paramount importance. We don’t compromise on standards, if you are looking for quality and original products Fresh Mart Supermarket is the place to get them. Like I said earlier we get all our products directly from the companies, knowing that customers are always after durable and quality products and that is our mandate of satisfying our esteemed customers with the best of whatever they want.
Question: Let’s go back a little bit, you did not tell us about your parents and siblings how are they?
Answer: Let me talk a little about my family, I was about 10 years old when I lost my mum, it was my father that stayed with us all through, he struggled to raise his five children. I am the second child of the family.
Question: What is your father’s name and what was his occupation?
Ans: My father’s name is Mr. James Nwokolo. He was mainly into farming; he dedicated all that he had then struggling to raise us up; that’s why when I was in school I thought so much on how I can be of great assistance in supporting him to raise the family because he cannot do everything. That was what spurred me into making efforts to venture into viable businesses to raise me.
Question: Are you married?
Answer: Yes, I am married to Mrs. Chisom Ukperegbulem Jonah, we have been trying to work together to see how we can build up the business together, the family together, so that our children will be proud of us.
Question: What is your advice to the youths of Ika Nation?
Answer: My advice to Ika youths is that they should not be running away from our town, it is our town nobody will develop it for us we will do it for ourselves. In this establishment our staff is almost Sixty, 80% of them are from Agbor here, so even if we are making little profits they are still getting something to take care of themselves and them being engaged in a meaningful job will reduce their involvement in criminal activities and other social vices. The little capital that we have let us try and use it to set up one or two investment in our community so that Ika Nation will develop speedily for the betterment of all.
Question: How do you see Fresh Mart Supermarket in the next Ten years?
Answer: Not even Ten years, in the next Five years we are going to build Ten stores that is the vision, our next target is to do another store here in Agbor, but not just Agbor alone but throughout Delta State and beyond; we want to build a name where if you mention retail you will understand that we are part of the game; that is the vision of the management.
Thank you very much for sparing your time for us.