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SEPTEMBER 14,  2009   VOL. 25. NO 21

Daring to Give All: Ezenna Story

Tony Ezenna
Tony Ezenna

By Ingram Osigwe
In Nigeria, setting up a business concern is like challenging the unknown. No matter how great your preliminary figures showed a prosperous future for the business, you are soon confronted with a bitter truth of how wrong your prediction was. Many businesses have failed as a result of this. Many other intending investors are dead scare to give a try. But such is not the way of great men – men who dared where others feared.
Sir, Tony Ezenna is one such great man – a man of courage and conviction. He does not observe the wind to sow, nor regard the cloud to reap. He believes in his country and her potentials. His decision to invest in the country while others invest in other countries is the result of his affection for Nigeria and belief in her economic viability. His faith in the nation’s economic and political experiments has sustained his commitment to contributing to the country’s manufacturing sector. His belief in the nation serves as antidote to the fear of business failures.
Tony Ezenna exemplifies a consistent track record of turning failures into the womb of success. For him it is the fertile ground where success succeeds. At a time of deep global recession where companies such as Dunlop are folding up and relocating to other countries, and banks are in dire straits, Ezenna does not wish to follow that path. He doesn’t want to follow where the path may lead; he goes instead where there is no path and leaves a trail. As Osen Marden puts it, no man could be ideally successful until he has found his place. Like a locomotive, he is strong on the track, but weak anywhere else.
Ezenna is strong on track here in Nigeria. He is strong on track in the manufacturing and health sectors in Nigeria. He is weak anywhere else. When asked how his company has coped under intense, stressful and unfriendly business climate in Nigeria he says: “Growing a business is usually a very challenging undertaking. Some people here may wonder how we have coped. Honestly, when we set up shop in 1988, little did we realise that within a decade, we would be one of the leaders of the industry”.
At that time in 1988, Ezenna knew that as a citizen of this country he would work tirelessly toward her development. He was conscious of a profound sense of relief when he thought of that. When he set up Orange Drugs he felt as if he were walking with destiny, and that all his past life had been but a preparation for this challenge. Nothing could reproach him or dissuade him for walking down this road. He thought he knew a great deal about it all, and was sure he would not fail. Today the story is a magnificent one. He seems to have surpassed his initial expectation.
“From small beginnings, Orange Drugs has grown in leaps and bounds. It has offices in various parts of the country and abroad, including branches in Ghana, Cameroon, Benin Republic and United States of America.
His doggedness is reflected in the simplicity and sincerity of his desires to etch the nation’s name on the minds of countries that import beauty products. Even when the nation’s economy seems to have terribly nose dived, Ezenna remains true to his vision. His vision is subsumed in the nation’s vision of becoming one of the great economies of the world over the next decade. This is no easy task.
He knew the awesome magnitude of the task confronting him. One of the tasks is the unrepentant skeptics who see nothing good in the country. The other is the inconsistent economic policies as a result of changes in political power.
These challenges might have daunted the bravest of the brave. It did not daunt Ezenna, and it might be true to say that a man feeling less than the exhilaration and the sense of destiny experienced by Ezenna would have been incapable of prospering Orange Drugs.
The wide range of Orange Drugs products are now market leaders. This bears testimony to Ezenna’s determination to infuse the whole nation with the spirit to embrace good products. Nigerians, he once said, would prefer locally manufactured products if they are of high quality.
Manufacturing quality goods and offering first class service are possible if we regard it as a core value in this country. The limits of the possible has to be extended over the whole field of national endeavour, he notes.
It is against this background that Ezenna embarked upon the construction of an ultra modern factory at a whopping cost of $50 million. the factory, constructed at an austere time as this, and employed many more Nigerians at a period of job cuts and losses, has a stored capacity to manufacture 2.8 billion tablets per year with only one shift which will double the capacity to 5.6 billion tablets. The cream and gel section is expected to produce 20 million tubes per year per shift and 40 million tubes per two shifts.
Drugs are not the only business concerns in which Ezenna is contributing to the nation’s development and making the desired impact, as the energy problem in the power sector continues to torment Nigerians, his company, Orange West African limited pioneered the biggest revolution in the energy sector of the economy. This new energy revolution is achieved through the introduction of energy saving bulbs into the Nigerian market. The energy saving bulbs known as Osram uses low voltage electricity thereby saving energy and at the same time reducing heat. A 20- watt Osram bulb shines as brightly as 100-watts bulb with less energy consumption. The import of this revolution is that 500 households using Osram bulbs for a specific period of time would conserve 80 percent energy more than the same number of households using 100 – watts bulbs. Some countries in the world have experimented with the energy saving bulb technology and found it to have solved their energy problems. Such countries include Ghana and Cuba.
Speaking recently on the introduction of the osram bulbs into the Nigerian market, Sir Ezenna said that if energy saving bulbs is used, Nigeria will be better for it considering the low voltage generated throughout the country. Ezenna added that Nigeria generates a paltry 2,500 megawatts of electricity compared to South Africa’s 45,000. Egypt a fellow African country generates 17,561 megawatts and hopes to increase it to 26,000 MW by 2010. United States generates 900,000 megawatts and since it will take some time for Nigeria to generate more, the best alternative for now would be for the country to resort to use of low wattage Osram bulbs.
Ezenna is an actor, rehearsing always for the great part that awaited him. It was with remarkable interest that he took hold on the challenge of restoring the nation’s football legacy by instituting the Boska/LDFA football champion’s cup in 2007.
The Boska Cup championship is today the pivot of grass root soccer development programme in the country. The competitions seek to discover and nurture hidden talents into international commercial success. Orange Drugs Limited in Partnership with Dexa Medica has continued to encourage and develop the round leather game in the country. Some of the discovered talents like Philip Asuquo, Ayo Filani and Allen Asogba now play for Plateau United, Union Bank FC, Lagos, and Ozankoy FC of Cyprus in Europe. This tournament has a sponsorship figure of 6 million naira annually. If other corporate organizations follow in the footsteps of Orange Drugs, the standard of our football would record exceptional improvement in a short time and again place us on the map of great football leagues in the world as the English premiership, La liga and Serie A.
That is not all about corporate social responsibility. Ezenna feels a great hunger for social responsibility and he feeds it in many other ways. His capacity for work is prodigious, and his choice of what to do eclectic and non-eccentric. His projection of police image is unique and it underscores his approved cooperation with government agencies. In Lagos State alone, Orange Drugs has constructed over 200 stands costing about N20 million. The stands are branded. Apart from projecting a positive image of the Nigerian Police, it provides shelter from the sun and rain to the police and traffic wardens on duties in such strategic locations. The company is also working on spending N15 million each on the provision of stands in Kano and Onitsha for the police. It is amazing that in an economic meltdown situation of today, a company could afford to splash N50 million on Police stands.
Whereas Ezenna’s major business is to produce and market goods, his determination to improve the status of his society is his secondary business. His collaboration with the Lagos State Table Tennis Association is geared toward developing that sport. Sponsorship of this tournament, named Procold Championship, is seven million naira. The figure is expected to increase at the next competition when, hopefully, it would have secured the ITTF approval.
Orange Drugs last year sponsored the Kano State Arm Wrestling competition. The competition took place at the famous Ado Bayero Square, Sabon Gari. The sponsorship was done through “Passion Energy Drink” one of the many products of Orange Drugs and the first sachet soda energy drink product to be introduced in Nigeria. Over $3,000 prize money was made available by the sponsors.
Orange Drugs success as a company has been swift and remarkable. This is because the centerpiece of the company is people. The Orange Drug Company way of business is a fascinating and historic example of one of the nation’s most legendary companies. For many, the company is synonymous with Delta Soap and African beauty. But this is an understatement.
Ezenna is a passionate man. His passions are his God, his family, his country, and his business. The Orange Drug Company Phenomenon is the result of a strong culture and clear values, sound strategy and vision, outstanding leadership, and disciplined management execution- necessary ingredients to any great organisation’s success.
Orange Drugs is the realisation of a unique vision espoused by Ezenna. It manifests the essence – from Ezenna’s vision that started it all; to the unrelenting focus on the customers; to respect for people and values, teamwork, and relationship; to the never-ending quest for improvement and growth and commitment to excellence. The story of Orange Drugs Company and Ezenna shows us how we can be responsible role models in our business and committees. The story of Ezenna and his company is an exciting and encouraging example of the unlimited opportunities available in the nation’s free enterprise system.
Ingram Osigwe is the media consultant to Orange Group Ltd.

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