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After 70 years, Mandilas is repositioning to meet new market demands – Group CEO

Ola Debayo-Doherty is the Group Chief Executive Officer of Mandilas charged with leading the company through its restructuring exercise. She is the first African and woman to attain the position since the Group started operations 70 years ago in Nigeria.

Ola joined the Mandilas Group from IBILE Oil and Gas Corporation (IOGC) where she was the pioneer Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer. Prior to this role, she was at Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Shell International, United Kingdom and Arthur Anderson where she served in Finance, Management Consulting, Strategic Business Development and Project/Process Management functions at Senior and Management levels.

With MBA from Canisius College (USA) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Accounting degree from D’Youville College (USA), Debayo-Doherty is poised to transform the company which deals on vehicle sales and service, residential and commercial air-conditioning systems. She is delighted that Mandilas has sustained strong brand equity for 70 years.  In this interview, the focus-driven Doherty said the company with a staff strength of over 400 employees will continue to re-invent to stay relevant in the Nigerian economy. Excerpts:

When you joined Mandilas, what are those things you saw on the ground and where are you taking the company to?

I joined Mandilas almost two years ago. When I met the Mandilas family, they had a great agenda for the company in Nigeria and I realised these are really the kind of people I want to work with.  The Mandilas family has been in Nigeria for several years and they want Nigerians to take over the helm of affairs. The company is 70 years old with strong credibility and strong recognition with good products and services. There are significant opportunities in the market that Mandilas can still take on and that is what is driving me in the company. As the first Nigerian and first woman to occupy this position, it comes with a lot of responsibility and accountability. I want to look back in future and beat my chest that I did something well at Mandilas.

What are the strong brand pillars that have kept Mandilas relevant for seven decades?

First, you cannot take away the personality and commitment of Mr. John Basil Mandilas. To many indigenous business adventurers, the founder Mr J.B. Mandilas symbolises what the entrepreneurial guts should visibly encapsulate – hope, hard work and humility. He has the Can-Do entrepreneurial spirit that says that no challenge is insurmountable. The Mandilas drive has kept the company going. Secondly, the products and services we offer. For instance, Carrier Air-conditioner is a strong brand that has withstood the test of time globally. Thirdly, other critical success factors for Mandilas over the years have been our commitment to Nigeria and Nigerians.

We have built up expertise and credibility over the years especially in after sales service, repair, and maintenance.

We are a learning organisation, an organization that adapts to challenges in its environment and resilient enough to be able to come out of those challenges on top. We are mindful of our obligations to our employees and place premium value on business credibility, so we live our core values and promote good work ethics.

After sales and service portfolios are important to consumers. Where can we situate Mandilas brand in this regard?

Service excellence remains a formidable differentiator for the Mandilas brand and we have been able to sustain strong brand equity over the years.

At Mandilas, we understand that service excellence is a journey and we must constantly push the bar to get better. To win, we must continuously evolve to meet current market demands and consistently deliver good service experiences at all our touch points. Delivering on this bold promise clearly involves leveraging of relevant technology, best practices, and development of innovative solutions to consumers’ pressing lifestyle issues.

What are the current business portfolios of the company in Nigeria?

Our present business portfolio can be divided into two divisions namely Mandilas Cooling and Mandilas Mobility.

Mandilas Cooling is our Airconditioning Division and the exclusive distributor of the Carrier range of Residential and Commercial Air-conditioners.  Carrier is the foremost brand in Air Conditioning in the world and the pioneer Air-conditioner in the Nigerian market.  Mandilas Mobility is our Motors Division boasting a wide array of auto solutions. Our offerings include Car sales, both new and used cars, Fleet Management and Leasing and of course our renowned After Sales Service.  Our aftersales expertise spans seven decades and we have continued to deliver unrivalled service to all our customers across the country.  Our workshops and Quick Service Centres (QSC) are manned by trained technicians with a plethora of awards from the 1950s till date as a testament to our continued commitment.

Each area has its value proposition and it is our responsibility to unlock the value in a manner that will enhance our profitability and growth as a company. We see a lot of opportunities in the cooling area, particularly in the central Air Conditioning market.

You introduced a transformation agenda to reposition the company, what is it all about?

Apart from the company being resilient, we are constantly studying the market. We need to be able to address what the market is expecting. There are opportunities and new generation of consumers emerging. There is need therefore for us to transform ourselves in a manner that will be appealing to the younger generation. We have done some market research to understand the market more. The agenda also speaks to the relaunch of the Mandilas brand as one of the foremost indigenous companies in Nigeria. Consequently, our renewed market focus of ‘Committed to You’ is a brand repositioning statement that realigns our business model to be more customer centric. In a nutshell, it is about bringing quality service closer to Nigerians.

In the sectors where Mandilas plays, what do you consider as its unique selling points?

We offer value products. We have experience. We understand the terrain. We understand the business. We are continuously evolving to meet market demands.

The franchised brands in our portfolio are global market leaders with an indisputably track record of success over the years.  For example, Carrier is the pioneer air conditioner in the world and the first brand in the Nigerian market.  The ruggedness, durability and innovation of Carrier products are renowned, and the brand is still the market leader globally. Our Technicians and Engineers are Carrier trained and exposed to global standards in air-conditioning engineering, sales, repairs, and maintenance. Carrier remains the foremost provider of Air-conditioning for domestic and commercial buildings with unrivalled expertise and excellence in sales and after sales service at Mandilas.

Mandilas Motors is the foremost automobile company in Nigeria with a 70-year history of tried and trusted expertise in automobile sales, repairs, and maintenance. Our aftersales and service portfolio is trusted for personalised services backed by competent and experienced personnel. Mandilas is currently one of the leading Toyota accredited dealer in the country and we have the largest geographic spread of workshops in the entire Auto industry. Our plethora of awards is a tribute to our consistency and reliability over the years till date. Some of our awards include, 2015 Best Toyota Dealer of the Year, 1st Runner-Up Toyota Dealer of the year in 2016 and 2017, Best Service Team, 2017, 2019 Best Auto Workshop of the year by Nigeria Auto Journalists Association, 2019 Best Auto Dealer by The Nigeria Automotive Industry.

What policy direction are the operators in private sector such as Mandilas expecting from government and the society to unlock the opportunities in your operating areas for the benefit of the economy?

For instance, in cooling, a lot of our business offerings are imported. This puts a lot of demand on foreign exchange and its availability and accessibility at the right rate for manufacturers at the right time. We want policies that will create stability in that area so that manufacturers can quantify the risk and price it in their offering.

For the auto industry, there are great auto policies that are attractive to manufacturing of auto-mobile in Nigeria. But for “Tokunbo”, government can draft some guidelines, regulations on the type of vehicles that can be imported. The country should not be a drop for all sort of cars from anywhere in the world. Nigeria, with its population has the potential of becoming an auto-mobile hub for Africa. What we need to fix it is to drive policies and regulations that support local manufacturing but at the same time develop policies and procedures that would protect those investments in the auto industry. Policies for local and foreign investors who want their investments protected need to be clear. There is much government can do to de-risk the auto-mobile business in Nigeria.

The world is currently faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, which is ravaging economies and businesses globally, how is Mandilas adjusting to the new regime and what are your post pandemic plans?

Covid-19 is still such an evolving phenomenon that its total impact on global business is still largely unclear. At Mandilas, it is forcing us to challenge ourselves both in terms of our business model and business operations. There is an increased emphasis on being more efficient and utilizing technology as a first option. We have embraced virtual working, creating awareness on hygiene and safety habits with ongoing sensitisation of staff on what COVID 19 is and how to protect ourselves. We have also found a balance between mixing physical and virtual elements into customer interactions for better service and brand experience.

Building from the transformation agenda, where do you see the brand at 100years?

I see tremendous opportunities and possibilities still for the Mandilas Brand to sustain our legacy over the next 70 years. With solid partnerships, and strategic alliances, we are on course to becoming a conglomerate of vibrant and formidable corporate entities over the next decades. One thing for sure is that Mandilas will remain committed to supporting Nigeria and Nigerians, as has been our practice over the years.

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