A story of the battle for Cement dominance in Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria. How one man surmounted rivals, both big and small, to become the undisputed King of African Cement and another battled with the guardians of the corridors of power.
On a cold afternoon in November 2005, Federal Government operatives, acting on orders from above, swooped down on a busy factory in the oil rich city of Port Harcourt. They were under instructions to seal off a warehouse whose operations had contravened a government policy – a policy that would later prove decisive in a brutal race for market share in an industry worth over N1 trillion.
At first, the closure appeared to be due to a mix-up between an agency of the Government and the owners of the warehouse. It was expected to be resolved in a matter of days by the billionaire Chairman of the company. Emissaries were dispatched to help resolve whatever misunderstanding may have led to the seemingly excessive act by the government.
As days turned into weeks and weeks into months, it dawned on the owners of the multi-billion-naira conglomerate, which was based in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria, that they were dealing with powers that stretched far beyond the red sands of the South East. Something had to be done to resolve this issue. At stake was not only the reputation of the company, but billions of naira in inventory that could erode all the wealth that had been built over the years.
Flashback – School boy
It was January 22, 1966 in the bustling suburb of Nnewi in Anambra state, South-Eastern Nigeria. Nigeria had just witnessed a deadly coup one week earlier, and the mood in the country was still tense. But for a certain household, a major decision had to be made. Cyril, the eldest son of the home, was having a chat with his father that would decide the fate of one of his siblings.
Corporate Story: Intriguing tale of Seven-Up’s ugly fight for market share in Nigeria
For many years, competition in the Nigerian soft drink market was mainly between Coca-Cola and Seven-Up but in 2014, Rite Food came and disrupted the space.
It was early morning on Wednesday, November 13th 2019, and Ziad Maalouf was not asleep. He could not sleep, not with his mind burdened by what had become a serious problem facing Seven-Up Bottling Company, which he oversees. It was part of his job as the Managing Director to figure out a solution to this challenge. And that was exactly what he was doing as he sat in his study that early morning, typing furiously on his computer.
By 4:37 am that morning, Maalouf had sent out an internal memo and copied 25 top executives of the soft drink manufacturing company. In the memo, he made it clear that he was ready to declare war against the company’s competitors. He would not rest until the war was over and Seven-Up had emerged victorious, he declared.
But the internal memo leaked
A bitter family feud has continued to hamper this company’s growth
Sometime in early 2012, a wealthy, sophisticated, and beautiful middle-aged Nigerian businesswoman walked into a Lagos courtroom to testify before a judge.
Sometime in early 2012, a wealthy, sophisticated, and beautiful middle-aged Nigerian businesswoman walked into a Lagos courtroom to testify before a judge. She had just filed a lawsuit before the court in a desperate bid to salvage her late husband’s investments in the Tourist Company of Nigeria Plc (TCN). She was also understandably trying to secure her financial future and that of her children. Her husband had just died, and she suddenly found herself thrust in the position of the sole breadwinner of the family.
The woman is Mrs Maiden Ibru, the widow of renowned businessman and politician, Alex Ibru. During her testimony on that fateful day, she made some pretty shocking revelations, albeit with some dramatics. She told everyone gathered in the courtroom that just as she was walking in, she supposedly saw the apparition of her late husband telling her to fight. So, fight she did, by spilling all the secrets about the company.
Apparently, all was not well with the Tourist Company of Nigeria Plc, a hospitality company that owns one of Nigeria’s oldest luxury hotels – the Federal Palace Hotel. Perhaps no one would have known about TCN’s woes if Mrs Ibru hadn’t instituted her lawsuit and subsequently given her bombshell testimony. However, the sad thing is the fact that though it’s been seven years since Maiden Ibru’s court appearance, all is not still well with the company.
Corporate Story: The rise and fall of HiTV
In this latest installment of Corporate Stories, we are going to tell the story of a young man, who dared to take on a mighty monopoly with his start-up.
The story navigates through the murky waters of corporate competition. It is about displacing a corporate monopoly and the perils of riding that success.
It navigates the intersection between crony capitalism, patient capital and executive exuberance. It serves as a lesson for any self-determined visionary out there who is building a start-up to take on the next vulnerable monopoly.
Defeating the monopoly
“Power is about to change hands,” a newspaper headline read in late 2006.
A week before then, on November 6, 2006 to be precise, a competitive bid was being held somewhere in the United Kingdom. For the first time, a “proudly Nigerian owned” company was about to displace a foreign owned monopoly that had cornered Africa’s largest market for about 13 years.