When it comes to entrepreneurship, Chief Dr. Chidi Anyaegbu, CEO Chisco group has not only proved himself but has blazed a trail that others can follow.
Like most entrepreneurs from the East, he started out selling Spare parts. But with a seed fund of just NGN120, goodwill, a detailed plan and a passion for excellence, Chief Anyaegbu has grown his transport business into the conglomerate, Chisco group having arms in Oil and gas, finance, hospitality, real estate, education, import and export.
In the course of his business, he also attended several short Management and Entrepreneurial courses in France, USA, Brazil, Germany, and United Kingdom. He was conferred with a Doctorate Degree in Business Administration (Honoris Causa) by Penn State University, USA in 1996. He is a Fellow, Chattered Institute of Logistics and Transport (International) London and possesses the Business Certificate Award by University of Houston USA.
In this interview with Tobi Solarin from The Spark, this passion-driven entrepreneur shares his perspective on success, business and service to God and humanity.
TS: You have lots of achievements, but share with us what you regard as your biggest achievement so far?
Chief Anyaegbu: My greatest achievement in life is the God-given opportunity to me to serve humanity across the globe because I see serving humanity as the same thing with serving God. At this stage of my life, what keeps me going is the provision of over 4000 jobs to the Nigerian populace of which the youth segment is a clear majority.
TS: You started your business with NGN120, courtesy of your Uncle. Would you say this funding contributed immensely to your success?
Chief Anyaegbu: The NGN120 you mentioned was sourced from the NGN150 my master Mr Daniel Ofodum gave to me as settlement after completing the apprenticeship training with him. I used this money to rent my first shop from my landlady Mama Fasholati at Oyingbo. I served my master honestly and wholeheartedly and that was one of the reasons the money went far for me as I think it was blessed by God. However, I always advise anyone that it is not really about your capital that determines success because many people have received far more money than what I got but it could not amount to much for them. Astute business Planning and rugged determination can attract capital and that is why I wrote a book called “YOU TOO CAN DO IT” to encourage the youth not to give up and to keep striving for success without engaging in vices but in products or services that can benefit humanity.
TS: You were in the spare parts business before you started your transport company – Chisco Transport. What inspired the change?
Chief Anyaegbu: Yes, we started with spare parts business in 1978 and was very successful but the demand for transport and logistics services was overwhelming and was even affecting our business as people and cargo would always be stuck for days with no vehicle. Chisco Transport began its pioneer route with Lagos to Onitsha with a fairly used bus but with hard work and a keen eye on customer satisfaction we continued to grow from strength to strength And today our group have not stopped aspiring to meeting the needs of yearning populace demanding for hospitality service, energy, haulage, courier and even spare parts, tyres etc. We strive to live to the expectation of our loyal customers by being consistent in delivering quality service. Integrity and honesty are part of the core values of our brand and that is why all our stakeholders including our bankers, customers and the government have recognized us as valuable partners over these decades of active service.
TS: If you could come back into the world again, would you still go into the transport business? And why?
Chief Anyaegbu: I pride myself as a technical person and that is why I could excel in the trading of Spare parts and ultimately diversified into transport. I can name every key component in a vehicle and go on to tell you how many km’s is expected. Serving the masses through my technical knowledge is a passion for me and it is something I would do even if it is not financially as rewarding as some other industries due to its unregulated nature in Nigeria. I would advise anyone to choose what they have passion for as customers are getting more demanding and rightly so. This means it is really only the people with the most determination and love for what they do that can go the extra mile that is usually needed to succeed in this very increasingly global and competitive market.
TS: It’s been 39 years since you started business. What would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt?
Chief Anyaegbu: Success comes from knowledge and understanding of what you want to do. I gave an example of myself earlier knowing the vehicle components in and out so it would be difficult for someone to try to mislead me in my area of expertise. Working with people that are qualified and most importantly have passion for the industry you are in are more likely to get more job satisfaction and would put in their best into the work. The most valuable resources of a company is their human resources and as long as there is a spirit of teamwork then the sky is the limit. Nevertheless, one of the biggest lessons for me is to make sure that everyone is guided with operational procedures because as a company gets bigger teamwork and consistency gets harder to manage so this would go a long way in delivering consistent service to the ultimate master; which is the customer. They are the reason for our existence and they have never disappointed us, because when you make customer first and their voice is loud within the organization then that company has a future. That is how Chisco keeps being relevant through the decades.
TS: It is clear that running a transport business in the Nigeria climate is not easy, but you’ve accomplished in that area. What would you say are the key things entrepreneurs in this field must know?
Chief Anyaegbu: I agree with you that running a transport business in the Nigerian climate is not easy because of bad road network, high cost of maintenance and spare parts resulting from increasing importation duties, cost of labour, bank interest, diesel/fuel and of course the vehicle itself as everything is imported. This has gone on for a while without a commensurate increase in ticket prices and we know the current state of the economy makes our customers sensitive to price increase bearing in mind the amount of competition. Nevertheless, the key things entrepreneurs in transport and logistics are to be cost-conscious, use quality spare parts and tyres as fakes are more expensive in the long-run and the safety of human beings are at stake in an event of failure. Continuous training and retraining of personnel, and most importantly to put the customer first in all company decisions, from the board room to branch floor must be directly or indirectly improving customer satisfaction.
TS: Are there any specific people you would say were instrumental to the success of your business?
Chief Anyaegbu: Yes. Firstly, I want to mention God for creating and making me what I am today. Occasionally, I pause and look back; and what I see is the hand-work of God who has made me what I am today. I don’t know why God gives me sense, strength, energy and the ability to do all of these things but I know that God loves me so much. However, the story of my life will not be completed without mentioning my benevolent parents late Chief Patrick and Mrs. Angelina Anyeagbu who trained me on how to be hard-working, honest, disciplined and be committed to anything I desire in life. Of equal note are my wife and children for their understanding and love. Sometimes, the road is rough and tough but they are always there to support me. No doubt, they are the strength of my joy and happiness.
I would also go on to mention our stakeholders, which include our staff and management that liaise with our loyal customers fondly, the various government parastatals we work with to keep the roads safe and accessible, our technical partners and service providers, the media and so on. They have been our business partners in progress over these years without which there would not have been any business or anything to talk about here. We appreciate all of them.
TS: How were you able to transform Chisco Transport (Nig.) Limited into Chisco Group, a conglomerate with various subsidiaries?
Chief Anyaegbu: We have grown organically over the years, putting our love for service of humanity first in everything we do. We don’t enter any industry we are not conversant with and do not feel we can add value to the customers that need that particular product or service. So I would say our growth came from recognizing demand and striving to fulfil that demand of our customers and that is why you would see that our subsidiaries are quite interlinked but have been divided into subsidiaries with autonomous management teams to drive for more market share in their respective fields of expertise. Nevertheless, the business success that transformed us into a conglomerate chain of businesses is that our customers recognize our honesty, transparency, team work, commitment, and passion for adding value.
TS: You built a NGN78 million Transport Studies facility at the Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka. What moved you to make this great philanthropic act?
Chief Anyaegbu: Yes, looking at transport business in Africa, particularly in Nigeria you will see that the transport business environment is surrounded with ill-experienced and unprofessional people, although this is becoming a thing of the past and we were the pioneers of this change. This is the challenge we faced at the initial stage of the business, which led us to source experts from abroad. Unfortunately, we discovered that the expatriates sometimes lack indigenous advantage due to environmental differences and practices.
So we took the bull by the horn to build a complex to facilitate transport study faculty at Nnamdi Azikwe University to enable Nigeria have an avenue to groom well-trained core professionals in transport management who will take Nigerian transportation to the next level. This, indeed, is the only way that transport business in Nigeria can be transformed such that transport business’ successor plan will be successfully carried out by passionate well-trained youth in the future.
TS: As Nigeria celebrates yet another year of independence, what do you think can be done to improve the transport business in the country before it clocks 60?
Chief Anyaegbu: Transportation is the backbone of any economy with direct impact on the entire economy which must be given right attention by the government to help our economy grow. Our distribution channels are not yet world class and that is why most of our products are not exportable. If there was better road and transport infrastructure, the produce of farms of the villages would be able to reach the final consumers at a cheaper price. The government equally needs to encourage private sector with checks on increasing cost of fund, adequate and functional road infrastructure, duties in importation of equipment and spare parts while power reform should be ongoing to localize all manufacturing of all these equipment to prepare the industry for the challenge ahead. Some of other areas that need improvement are information security network through provisions of CCTV on our roads.
Transportation infrastructure has direct impact on the economy and the government is also to care for the welfare of its people by providing good road network to prevent loss of life and properties that may occur due to accidents arising from bad roads. Government should provide financial assistance to support transporters such that the cost of capital which would have direct impact on the final travellers and general public. However, the government should look at all transporters as a whole and the criteria for judgment should not include the state of origin of the candidates.
Overall due to the democracy that we as a country Nigeria has just recently been enjoying, all sectors in the Nigerian economy has been improving. But it can do so at a faster pace and our government should adapt some strategies of their counterparts world-wide by looking to partner more with the private sector to solve our transport infrastructural problems as a nation.
TS: As a real busy man, how do you combine the responsibility of running your business with family time?
Chief Anyaegbu: As a business man, I have developed, nurtured and mastered an attitude of taking adequate care of my business without compromising my family responsibilities as a husband, Father, Uncle and social responsibilities to the community. However, I find it very easy to do because my family has been very supportive with lots of understanding and love. In all these things that I do, I have a schedule; and in my schedule my God comes first. Businesses and functions are segmented, shared and assigned to different individuals based on the area of individual expertise to pave way for family and business issues to be done and handled conveniently and at ease.
TS: What will you give off as The Spark – an incentive to encourage the Rookie of the month, in his / her own pursuit of success?
Chief Anyaegbu: We are willing investors in the youth and would not pass up an opportunity to activate young people’s dreams that have taken the time to construct a water-tight business plan and also have the passion to drive it to fruition. So my business development team would remain accessible to the platform to support Rookies that align with our current and future business interests. For now, The current rookie of the month will get NGN200,000 from me as a sponsor to his/her dreams and I wish the person happiness and success in their chosen endeavour. I also advise the person to be tougher than the tough situations that they would surely face ahead in doing business.