Working Lives: The Generator Seller who used to work as a Motor Boy
After some years, government authorities prevented us from selling diesel on the black market. I had to leave the business to join a trailer as a motor boy, we delivered fuel to almost all parts of Nigeria.
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Kingsley Chukwuka. I am from Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
Tell us about your education?
I had my primary education at Afikpo Primary School in Ebonyi State. After my primary education, I proceeded to Government Secondary School also in Ebonyi State.
Tell us about your family?
I am the first child of nine children. My father married two wives; my mum was the first wife. My father was a palm wine tapper and a farmer, while my mum was into palm oil processing business. Both of them are old now and can no longer work. My siblings and I are the ones taking care of them. Two of my siblings took over the palm oil processing business. None of my siblings were interested in taking over my father’s business, so, the business no longer exists. My parents live in Ebonyi State.
Why did you not go for higher studies?
My father could not afford to sponsor my higher education. For a man who had two wives and nine children, he had a lot of responsibilities. Feeding was not a problem for us, we fed off the farm produce. But raising funds to sponsor our higher education was a challenge. I had to put a stop to my education so my siblings could have secondary school certificates at least. About three of my siblings managed to obtain National Diploma certificates.
Are you married?
Yes, I am married. I got married in 2014. I have three children. My wife is from Ogun State. She is a banker and has contributed immensely to all my achievements. Without God and her, I might not have gotten to this successful phase of my life.
What was your family’s reaction with your inter-ethnic marriage?
My family had no issue with my union. In fact, they accepted my wife wholeheartedly. My parents took her as their daughter and siblings took her as their older sister.
Also Read: Working Lives: The 55 Year-Old Generator Seller who wants to study Mechanical Engineering
When did you come to Lagos and why Lagos in particular?
I came to Lagos when I was 23 years old, shortly after I completed my secondary school education. Every young man’s dream in my village was to come to Lagos. During festive period, Christmas precisely, a lot of people would travel from big cities like Lagos to the village to celebrate with their families. My friends and I would lurk by the corners of their homes and watch them spend money lavishly. I would go back home with envy and determination to go to Lagos and be successful. One day, I met with a big brother in my neighborhood who was based in Lagos, he came to the village to celebrate Easter with his family. I explained my desires to him and he agreed to help me. With my parents’ approval, he brought me to Lagos.
How did you venture into generator business?
I did not start this business immediately I got to Lagos. With the help of the man who brought me to Lagos, I was able to get a job at 7up Bottling Company as a factory worker. The factory was at Ijora and I was living at Amukoko with the man. I trekked to work every day because the distance was not much, there were days I had no food to eat but still had to work. The man I was living with did not feed me, he only provided accommodation. I was cautious of my spendings because I wanted to save as much as I could to set up a business. I worked as a factory worker for some years and within this period, I had adapted to Lagos lifestyle and could speak Yoruba fluently. I left 7up Bottling Company after five years. I could not continue with them because the pay was little. The stress that came with job was too much as well. Thereafter, I went to Apapa to hustle. I made a living from washing trailers and selling diesel and PMS as black market to companies in the area. I was able to rent a one-room apartment at Apapa. After some years, government authorities prevented us from selling diesel on the black market. I had to leave the business to join a trailer as a motor boy, we delivered fuel to almost all parts of Nigeria. That was when I started making good money. The job was lucrative but also very risky. We travelled both day and night, we encountered a lot of scary things on the road, especially at night. We slept in our trailer on several occasions. I got paid between N35,000 to N40,000 by the driver for each trip. Asides transporting fuel, we also transported goods like clothing, stationeries etc. I became a trailer driver in no time and started driving for a company. My monthly salary was N120,000. I learnt how to drive from the driver I worked with. I stopped making contacts with my family after I got the motor boy job. This was because I was always on the road. I had no time to make calls. My parents got worried at some point; they thought the man who brought me to Lagos had used me for money ritual. I decided to travel to the village in December, 2011 to see my parents. My parents were not happy with the state of my body; my skin was very dark and rough. The money was there though but the stress of the job was severe. My parents advised I quit the job and start a business; they were scared I could lose my life along the line if I continued with my trailer driving job. I obeyed and quit my job. I ventured into generator business thereafter. I had saved a lot of money from driving so it was quite easy for me to venture into a business. I chose to sell generators because that the demands for generators where high at that time, there was no stable power supply and people needed power to run their businesses. I made some findings about the business before I ventured into it. I started small, I got a shop at Festac and bought few generators into the shop. I was scared to start big because I did not learn the trade and had little knowledge about the business. I started this business in 2012.
How much money did you put into starting this business?
I started with 1.2 million naira. I started with Tiger generators; the demand for the brand was high then. Along the line, demands for other brands like Elepaq and Sumec started coming in, so, I decided to expand. I did not have enough funds to get a bigger shop and more goods at that time, however, my wife whom I was courting that time assisted me. She worked with a microfinance bank, so, she helped me get a loan of 3 million naira. The loan process was seamless through the help of my wife. The bank officials came to my shop to verify if I was genuinely into generator business before they gave me the money. I paid the loan within the agreed time frame.
What was the process you went through before getting the loan?
The loan process was easy for me because my wife worked with the bank. I applied for the loan by filling a request form, submitted a passport photograph and two guarantors. They contacted my guarantors to get their consent about standing for me. The process took about two weeks in total.
Did you get more loans after the first one?
No. The 3-million-naira loan from microfinance bank was the first and the last loan I ever got.
How did you get to own a shop at Oyingbo?
After I got the loan, I moved to Oyingbo. I moved the goods in my Festac shop to Oyingbo. I rented a bigger shop at Oyingbo and bought more goods. The cost of getting the shop and renovating was 1.6 million naira.
Do you import your goods or you buy in Nigeria?
I do not import. I buy my goods in Lagos at International Trade Fair.
How often do you restock your shop?
I sell generators and generator parts. The demand for generator parts is always higher than generators. I might not sell generator in a week but I sell generator parts every day. I restock my shop with generator parts every week. My apprentice goes to get them most times. I restock generators once in three months.
What brands of generator do you sell and how much do you sell them?
Presently, I sell different types of brands. I sold only tiger generators and other small generators while I was at Festac. I sell brands like Yamaha, Sumec, Elepaq and Maxi. The selling price depends on the capacity; I have brands which goes for N160,000 to N200,000, depending on the capacity.
How much profit do you make on each sale of generator?
I sell only petrol generators. I make about N10,000 to N20,000 on each generator I sell. The profit is not fixed because customers have different bargaining strengths. I make more profit from customers who cannot bargain well.
How much do you buy generator parts and how much do you sell them?
Generator parts are not expensive except for half engine. Half engine could cost about N150,000 or more. I double the cost price on every generator part I sell. That is how I make profit. Some customers can bargain their hearts out, so if we do not double the price, we might run at a loss.
Who are your customers?
My customers are engineers who repair generators and passersby.
What time of the year do you make most sales?
There is really no specific period I make more sales. Sometime last week, in the morning, business was really slow, but towards the evening, customers came in their numbers to patronize me. So, sales can be made any day and any time.
Which generator brand do people buy more and why?
I sell popular brands like Elepaq, Sumec and Firman. People prefer these brands because they believe the brands are strong. However, we the dealers know that all brands are durable if the user maintains the generator very well. Maintenance in the sense that the user should service the generator often, avoid overloading the generator and avoid refilling after the fuel tank is completely dry.
On average, how much do you make weekly and monthly?
I make about N650,000 to N700,000 in a week and about 2 million naira or more in a month. These mostly comes from sale of generators.
Do you have savings and how much do you save?
Every business man must have savings. I save any amount that gets paid into my business account. I cannot give an actual figure but I save whatever I earn. With my saving style, I have been able to run my business without fear.
How many hours do you work in a day and how many days of the week?
I work between 8am to 9pm from Mondays to Saturdays. I rest on Sundays and do some reconciliations for my business account.
How much do I need to start generator business?
Firstly, I will advise you to choose a good location where you can startup. Oyingbo is a good location but the cost of renting a shop at Oyingbo is very expensive. You could spend about 3 million naira to rent a shop at Oyingbo presently. Cost of renovating the shop should be factored in too, you will need to get a warehouse to store your goods, cost of goods is on the high side lately. With the current inflation plaguing the country, I will say you need about 30 million naira or more to set-up.
What is the difference between when you started this business and now?
A lot has changed. The present economic situation in Nigeria and the level of corruption from our security agencies are the major differences. The security agencies are making transporting our goods a nightmare. We have to bribe them all the way until the goods get to our stores. When I started few years back, the cost of a dollar was not as high as what it is currently. Nigeria of the past is better than the present Nigeria. When I started this business, the cost of a 2.5kva generator was about N70,000 to N80,000, but the story is not the same presently. Starting a business back then was quite easy.
How long have you been in this business? And for how much longer do you see yourself in it?
I have been in this business for 10 years. I do not see myself quitting anytime soon.
Have you obtained any tangible achievement(s) through this business?
Yes, I have. By the grace of God and through this business, I own a 2-bedroom apartment at Ogba. I have a car and my business is growing by the day. I am making plans to start a building project in my village. I want to build a house for my parents.
Do you regret not going to the university?
I have no regrets. However, I know that I would not have suffered as much as I did if I had gone to the university. I love school; I was one of the best three students who had good grades in WAEC in my school, which is why I will train my children to achieve the formal education I could not get.
Do you have plans to venture into something else?
I do not think I want to venture into something else. However, my long-term plan is to expand my business by having branches across Nigeria.