From the Oil Sector to producing Ready Stews- The Kaptain Foods Story
Onyekachi Ekezie is our Young Agropreneur of the Month (YAPM) of the month of January 2o17. He is from Imo State, and the CEO of Kaptain Foods Limited. Majid Tokurah met with him at the #Afritech2016. Read more in the interview that follows.
How was growing up like for you?
Answer: I grew up in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria where I attended primary school and then went off to Benin to attend Igbinedion Education Centre Secondary School. I completed my secondary school education in the UK and then went off to university in the US where I obtained a degree in Computer Science.
What brought you into Agribusiness (family, business, passion, friendship, course of study etc.)
Answer: I worked in the Oil & Gas Industry for 10 years spanning across the US and Nigeria. However, I have always had a passion for creating products that people all over world can consume
How did you develop the interest in Agriculture and when did you consider it as a business to venture into?
Answer: I got the opportunity to chase my dream with the current downturn in the Oil and Gas sector. After speaking with a friend, I got the idea to create Kaptain Ready Stews. It took me close to a year to carry out all the research needed to make the product commercially viable
Tell us how your operation at Kaptain Foods works, your products, with a short description about the business (Your Mission, Vision, Goals and Objectives etc).
Answer: We started from a very small factory where we started our operations to keep our overhead costs low. We are now moving to a bigger factory to scale up our operations. We have 6 variations of Kaptain Ready Stews and we plan to launch new products in the market as we grow as a business. Our goal is to develop products that are of high quality, affordable and can scale across different cultures and Ethnicity
How was starting up like, tell us the challenges you faced while starting up?
Answer: Starting up was a lot of work because I basically had to do everything from engaging NAFDAC, meeting with suppliers for raw materials and then of course production. I was a bit nervous in the beginning when I gave the very first samples to customers because I wasn’t sure if they would like the product. After a couple of days, the feedback started coming in and they were all good.
What societal problem are you experiencing, and what measures have you implemented to curb it?
Answer: Access to foreign exchange presents a problem for us. In the medium term, we hope to source 100% of our inputs locally to eliminate this problem.
What is the most challenging part of your Agribusiness?
Answer: Constant power is a challenge today in our operations. However, we are incorporating solar to help reduce our electricity costs
How do you source for raw materials for your Agribusiness?
Answer: We partner with farmers directly for our raw materials to ensure we always have a robust supply chain
How do you access markets for your products?
Answer: We market our products both offline and online. We have a presence on social media as well as a sales force that go out to the field.
What do you think the government should put in place to improve the sector?
Answer: I think the government needs to prioritize investments in power. This will not only significantly reduce the cost of local production and but allow locally made products to priced competitively in the international market
Have you gotten any level of support from the government?
Answer: No we are yet to receive any support from the government. We have gotten a lot of technical and financial support from USAID which has been very helpful to our progress thus far
What do you think about youth participation in Agriculture? Do you think funding is a major challenge for youths?
Answer: I think youth participation is critical for the nation. I believe more young people need to go into agriculture because this will help the nation move away from over-dependence in Oil & Gas. Funding shouldn’t be a deterrent because there are a lot of grants that young people can apply for.
What do you advise young people who wants to go into Agribusiness from your experience so far?
Answer: The most important thing is to create a plan and start small, mistakes are going to be made but it’s easier to correct them when you start on a smaller scale. Ultimately the scope is enormous and we need more young people to get into the agriculture sector
Do you plan to extend your agribusiness? If yes, what is your plan, please share future prospects for your business?
Answer: Currently we are just into processing but into the future we plan to operate our own farms and launch more products into the market
We met at the African Technology Summit #Afritech2016, what technology have you implemented or hope to implement to make your business run better?
Answer: We are very bullish on being technology driven company. We plan to use technology to drive our supply chain and distribution. This solution will give the farmers access to end users as well as give us better control on our raw material inputs and improve sales.