In Nigeria, children of wealthy people typically wait for their billionaire parents to die so they can easily inherit assets. But Obinna Anyaegbu is different. Rather than waiting for his father’s transportation empire (Chisco Group) to be bequeathed to him, the young man has been very strategic in mapping out plans on how to acquire the company now. His mission is to transform Chisco into a technology-backed commerce enabler; fit for its next growth phase.
As the first son of Chief Chidi Anyaegbu – owner of Nigeria’s leading transportation firm Chisco Group, Obinna’s stake in the empire is already guaranteed. That is exactly why his plan to buy the company comes off a little surprising. But this plan is also indicative of his resourcefulness and ingenuity as a young, vibrant and astute businessman. He is determined to forge his own path in business. And just so you know, his digital ambition for Chisco Group is quite remarkable.
For years, Obinna has been preparing himself for this moment. With a B.Sc. in Accounting & Finance from Cardiff University and a master’s in Logistics & Supply Chain Management from Cranfield University, he has all the skills he needs to excel in the industry. And most importantly, he has garnered the necessary experience working in his father’s company as an Executive Director in charge of Business Development. At the moment, he is ready for the next level, which is why he established Chisco Express in 2020. I recently met up with him to discuss the newly established startup and the acquisition bid for Chisco Transport.
Meeting him for the first time, one would be taken aback by Obinna’s simplicity and joviality. I, for one, was surprised to see him already seated and waiting for me in the restaurant area of the Villa Angelia Hotel, a luxury hospitality outfit in the exclusive Ikoyi area of Lagos. Interestingly, his father also owns the hotel. And as I later got to understand, there are others like it in other parts of Nigeria and Ghana. Obinna discussed how his father built his vast empire from rather humble beginnings, and what he must now do to ensure its longevity.
“My dad has done his bit for 40 years and he did it incredibly well. However, we all know he will not be here forever. And times are changing fast. That is why I am raising capital to buy the company so I can position it for the next growth phase,” Obinna said.
How it all began: Born into Logistics
Trade and logistics have always been a part of the Anyaegbu family. According to Obinna, his father was a product of the Igbo apprenticeship system. For years, young Chidi Anyaegbu served his master who was a big-time pharmaceuticals trader. And it was during those years of apprenticeship that he developed an interest in transportation and logistics. Apparently, the business was doing well. However, Chidi and his master often grappled with a supply chain challenge due to limited logistics. In a bid to find a solution to this problem, Chidi found himself mapping out a plan that would eventually see his master’s enterprise expanding into logistics.
Before long, the entire business model was able to fully incorporate logistics; including spare parts trading. This also meant that Chidi Anyaegbu was able to get a clearer vision of the kind of business he should really be doing. And so in 1977, when he was eventually settled by his master, it came as no surprise when he started a transportation business called Chisco Transport. Over the years, he has successfully transformed this business into a major company worth billions of naira. He did that all while owning virtually all the stakes in the company.
Fast forward to many years later, Chief Chidi Anyaegbu’s success has obviously and inevitably influenced his first son’s career path. But right now, Obinna’s interest is more than just logistics and transportation. Instead, he is really interested in fostering the relationship between logistics and trade. That is why he has positioned Chisco Express to serve as an enabler of commerce, leveraging the logistics infrastructure which has already been put in place by his father’s company.
“I was basically born into logistics. From a very young age, I was immersed in everything there is about logistics – driver management, fleet acquisition, spare parts, tyres, etc. I’ve basically been in and around the situation of logistics. And I will say that my father’s mastery and success in transportation and logistics have been a big influence on me.
But most importantly, what I am most interested in is how logistics influences trade. That is one of the reasons Chisco Express was established. We are using technology and leveraging data to build a platform/marketplace for trade to happen seamlessly.
So yes, logistics is a driver for so many other aspects of the commerce value chain. That’s why we are building on logistics because that’s our base; that’s what we have honed as our strength over the past 35 years as a group.
Chisco Express is now coming along as a new kid on the block, backed by technology and bringing embedded services into the chain with our partners, all with the mission of consolidating on what Chisco Group has already done.
With Chisco Transport, we already have on ground, over $25 million worth of logistics infrastructure across West Africa. And that’s basically what we now want to build tech on top of. But then again, it’s beyond just building on what Chisco Transport already has on ground. It’s also about the other embedded services we are offering; about making it possible for other service providers to link into our technology to actually provide services to clients,” Obinna said.
About Chisco Express
Chisco Express is a Nigerian technology startup that specializes in enabling African commerce. The company’s purpose-built software and data analytics platform (which is almost ready for launch) is expected to revolutionise Africa’s logistics industry.
According to Obinna, the tech solution will provide a holistic transportation management system (TMS) which will ensure operational efficiency by offering personalized and tailor-made logistics services to clients. The software will also give clients’ the ability to live-track their consignments, whilst mitigating potential risks, optimising costs and ultimately delivering value to clients and stakeholders.
Also note that Chisco’s technology suite will incorporate APIs capable of wide-ranging ancillary services to be offered by both Chisco itself and other third-party partners.
As Obinna argued, there is currently no logistics technology interface/app capable of handling the full range of mobility services required to enable commerce in Africa. This, according to him, is why Chisco Express’ innovative and unique blend of tech and mobility assets is revolutionary.
The company is leveraging the infrastructure that is already in place courtesy of Chisco Group, and this has taken care of the problem of assets inadequacy which is a major challenge in the African logistics industry.
One major advantage Chisco Express gets by leveraging Chisco Group’s transportation assets is that it remains asset-light, whilst focusing on using its cutting-edge technology and custom-built TMS to achieve 100% fleet uptime. It is, therefore, in furtherance of this obviously effective model of operation that Obinna wants to acquire Chisco Group from his father. But more than that, the company also plans to partner with other related service providers to fully cater to the needs of its clients.
Interestingly, Chisco Express is barely one year old. It was established in March 2020, around the same time COVID-19 hit Nigeria. Despite the initial snag it experienced due to the pandemic, the startup has since found its balance and has managed to grow its clientele base to almost fifty corporate businesses which it currently services across Nigeria and Ghana; with over 2100 diverse capacity trucks. Obinna attributed this rapid growth to certain factors, including the fact that logistics is “a pandemic-proof business” as well as the goodwill of Chisco Group, its parent company.
“Thanks to Chisco Group’s years of serving Nigerians and West Africans in general, Chisco Express now has a range of customers from the big manufacturing companies to the SMEs and even individuals,” Obinna explained.
At the moment, Chisco Express aims to develop its technology capability to be able to drive the movement of African goods across sub-regions. The technology will also enable the company to develop a global logistics capability to forward freights anywhere in the world, irrespective of the amount of tonnes. To a large extent, the startup is already doing this.
Besides freighting FMCG products across Nigeria and elsewhere, it also moves electric metres, solar panels, diapers, etc. It is truly a full-service supply chain company capable of both importation and exportation.
“While our app is still undergoing final fine-tuning prior to its official launch, customers can contact us for all their logistics needs by visiting our website at Chiscoexpress.com or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our office is at number 104 Funsho Williams Ave, Costain, Iponri Lagos. Once again, these processes will eventually become seamless once our mobile app is ready for launch,” Obinna said.
Chisco Express does not see “competition”
When asked about his startup’s Unique Selling Proposition and whether he is worried about competition from other players in the industry, Obinna Anyaegbu said he doesn’t see any competition in the industry as a matter of fact. He then backed that up with a plausible explanation:
“I don’t think we are even scratching the surface as far as logistics demand in the market is concerned. The market is quite big. So, even if there are twenty of us competing, we still won’t be enough to meet the demand. We have a $102 billion addressable market size here in Africa. Even focusing on the top fifteen African markets alone, we still won’t be able to scratch the surface.
“Now, because there are so many aspects of logistics, what obtains is that most people will focus on just one mode of transportation. Some people are focusing on trucking while others are focusing only on last-mile delivery. We, on the other hand, focus on facilitating the supply chain by all means. What our clients want is to move their products from Point A to Point B. And to accomplish that for them, we make use of different modes of logistics; provided it is the smartest and most cost-efficient solution.
“Another reason why we are different is that we can actually tailor our solutions to customers’ needs, utilizing the infrastructure and physical network we have at our disposal. We also have a very robust and strong management and operations team. We have in our team people who were former MD of DHL, wonderful Board members with vast business experiences. With all these experiences and capabilities, we can easily tailor services to our clients, whether they be Tier-1, Tier-2 or Tier-3 clients. That’s what makes us different. And we will remain committed to building the product so we can continually serve our clients better.”
Obinna has also been courting investors…
In the course of my discussion with Obinna, I asked him about his experience with fundraising and let’s just say he has had a rather interesting experience in that regard.
Apparently, fundraising is not easy for anyone; even for someone like him. But inasmuch as his startup has been able to perform well without any investors up until now, the next stage he is taking it to requires external funding. Now, the goodness is that Chisco Express is currently in the middle of a capital raise.
“Fundraising has recently been a very tumultuous experience. It was a lot easier some years back, say in 2016 and even 2018. However, in recent times, it has become more difficult, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily for us, we have a lot of values that we’ve been leveraging on all these years that have enabled us to perform quite well.
“Right now, however, we are currently in the middle of a Seed Round/Pre Series A fundraising stage. The pre-seed round was completed successfully with investors very passionate about our story and where we are headed. There are a number of investors showing interest in the current round and we are quite excited.
“We plan to deploy the funding towards financing the next stage we are taking the company. For one, we need to rejig our network of terminals. We also need to ensure that every aspect of our technology is properly built out to ensure optimal functionality. All things being equal, we hope to finalise the fundraising round in the next three months,” Obinna disclosed.
Chisco Express: Committed to enabling commerce and supporting African companies
It’s important to reiterate that the main reason Chisco Express is in business is to enable commerce. A lot of businesses already rely on them for logistics solutions. The startup also specializes in helping Nigerian exporters to move their products such as clothing materials and food to foreign markets.
Obinna emphasized that this high level of commercial enablement is at the forefront of everything they do. He also believes that the only way to drive economic growth in Africa is by encouraging indigenous manufacturing through the provision of all the necessary enablement.
To this end, Chisco Express is committed to empowering/supporting African companies and hopes that its impact would help to lift as many as 20 million Africans out of poverty in the long run.