Across the African continent, there are several stories of successful business tycoons. Some had strong financial boosts from their already wealthy families, while for others, the journey was less smooth, but through sheer doggedness, dynamism, unparalleled energy and passion in the face of daunting odds, they earned remarkable success.
In this week’s edition of founder’s profile, we take a look at one of Nigeria’s most successful business magnates, Dr. Cosmas Maduka, the founder of Coscharis Motors Limited.
Dr. Maduka’s story is an inspiration that every young Nigerian can take cue from, as it teaches how resilience, hard work, and taking advantage of opportunities at the right time are important for the success of any troubled entrepreneur anywhere in the world.
Early Life and Education
The young Cosmas was born in 1958, to Mr. and Mrs. Peter and Rose Maduka in the cold city of Jos, North-Central Nigeria where his parents lived for a long time. The Maduka family hails from Nnewi, Anambra State (a town believed to have the highest number of Naira billionaires in the country). He was the second in a family with 4 children.
In 1962, at the age of just 4, tragedy struck with the passing of his father. With the poor and pitiable status of his family’s finances then, he had to fend for himself. When he was 7, he withdrew from primary school at elementary 3 to assist his mother in hawking Akara (bean cakes) in Plateau, Jos.
As he said:
“At the age of five, my mother was already making sure we worked or contributed to making ends meet for the family. I would go out early in the morning, just as the day is breaking, to go and grind beans for my mother to fry akara.”
When Cosmas was 12 years old, his uncle who resided in the Ebute Metta area of Lagos, took responsibility for his well-being by bringing him over to serve as an apprentice in his automobile shop on Lagos Island. Since his uncle had no place of his own to stay, he’d usually sleep at his friend’s place while Cosmas would sleep in the shop at the end of every work day.
Through his hard work, dedication, and honesty, he won his uncle’s trust and was given more responsibilities, such as traveling alone to Sokoto, Northern Nigeria to either work at one of their branches, or make purchases on his uncle’s behalf from Nnewi.
However, the relationship with his uncle turned sour in 1975, when his uncle abruptly terminated his apprenticeship. This was as a result of the closure of the workshop, while Cosmas attended a church camp programme. His uncle was livid and dismissed him with only N200 as his settlement.
His Entrepreneurial Journey
After the disappointing incident with his uncle, he founded an auto spare parts business called Maduka Brothers with his brother which eventually shut down, and they parted ways due to ideological differences.
Determined to succeed, Cosmas started a new business as the sole proprietor. He began by buying and selling motorcycle spare parts from Boulos Industries in Lagos. The major product that was turning in a lot of returns for him was Boulos’s new innovation, the motorcycle crash bar, worn to protect people on motorcycles. Within a short period of one week, his capital rose from N300 to N3,000.
Misfortune in business
He started importing motor spare parts, unfortunately, he was struck by a great misfortune when he received the wrong spare parts consignment. This loss plunged him into debt, and his landlord whom he owed several months’ rent, ended up locking his shop. Left with nothing, Cosmas had to start all over again. He then picked a weight scale that he had received as a gift from his wedding, took it to the market, and started to charge 10 kobo from everyone who measured their weight. This daily routine got his wife in tears because of what her husband was going through, remembering their previous comfortable state.
According to him:
“I lost all my first Capital due to wrong imported goods. I made a mistake on the part number and the goods were unsellable. I then had to sell them way below the cost price and this put me into debt”.
The Road to Coscharis
After saving up a little capital, Maduka teamed up with a friend of his, Dave, to start a new business called CosDave. Not long after their new business partnership, they had a falling out. This led him to start yet another business called Coscharis. The name Coscharis was formed from the combination of two names: his name, Cosmas, and his wife’s name, Charity.
Cocharis Motors has since become a leading automobile sales and servicing company in the country. In addition to other brands of cars such as Range Rover, Ford, and Jaguar, he is the sole distributor of BMW in Nigeria.
Light at the end of the tunnel
His big break finally came in 1982, when the Buhari/Idiagbon Government granted 10 motor companies import licenses, and his Coscharis Motors was selected. This was the turning point in his business after which his company has continued to grow, with several branches around Nigeria.
“This was actually the turning point where I made a quantum leap. I made money that drug pushers could not make because it was a seller’s market. From there I bought the building in Maza-maza. I bought the place in 1984 and by 1986, I had built it up to what it is now and started manufacturing some motorcycle parts. The success was like wildfire and I had enough money. So, I built on it and started doing so many things.”
His investment in Agriculture
In 2016, Anambra State approved 5000 hectares of land for Coscharis Farms to cultivate rice. The project has been reported to generate 3000 jobs upon completion.
The Coscharis Group is rated as one of the top 50 brands in Nigeria by Top 50 Brands Nigeria. Cosmos Maduka sits on the boards of several reputable companies. He served as a Director in Access Bank Plc, one of the leading banks in Nigeria, for 12 years from 2000-2012.
In 1977, at the age of 19, Cosmos Maduka married his wife, Charity and together, they have three sons and a daughter.
In 2012 he was inducted as a Harvard Business School Alumnus, having completed an Executive Education Program.
Cosmos Maduka was among the few persons honored by President Goodluck Jonathan with the National Honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) in 2012.
According to his interview with Forbes in 2015, his personal net worth sits at over $500 million US dollars and still counting.