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Nigeria’s food refrigeration industry is big, yet untapped – G.M. Cooling Division, Mandilas Group

Nigeria’s food waste amounts to over N12 billion annually, yet the country is in search of food to feed its 200 million population and reduce poverty. The wastages are partly due to poor mobile and stationary refrigeration.

In this interview, Pal Singh who is the General Manager of the Cooling Division of Mandilas Group Ltd told BusinessDay that Mandilas has made a huge investment to reduce Nigeria’s wasted food products through mobile refrigeration solution. In this connection, the company has acquired the sole franchise of Carrier Transicold business in Nigeria.

Singh who has over 30 years’ experience in large air-conditioning and ventilation equipment from different companies across the globe also spoke on needed regulations to enhance the market. Excerpts

What motivated Mandilas to go into Transicold business which led to your acquisition of Carrier sole franchise in transport refrigeration solution?

For Mandilas, the Transicold franchise is one of the initiatives geared towards sustaining our legacy in the Nigerian market. A legacy that we have continued to uphold for over 70 years. As the sole franchise dealer of the Carrier Brand in Nigeria; this means a lot to us. With this new franchise, our business model and market influence have been expanded to cater to the transportation of temperature-controlled goods with a complete line of equipment and services for refrigerated transport and cold chain visibility.

Presently, Nigeria is promoting in-country production of agricultural and all other food-related products and this is a huge boost for the cold chain sector. An effective cold chain system would aid reduction in Post-Harvest Loss (PHL) and raise the standard of health care delivery in the transportation, distribution, and storage of pharmaceutical products in Nigeria.

Demographic dynamics, growth in e-commerce and accelerating urbanisation in the country is also increasing demand for cold chain. This is the right time to provide this service in the market to enable businesses, entrepreneurs, medical personnel, and farmers to move their goods at controlled temperatures to avoid spoilage.

The ruggedness, durability and innovation of Carrier products are renowned, and the brand is also at the forefront of the Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction. The Carrier air-conditioning and refrigeration business is about 40 % of Mandilas Group business.

What would you estimate as the value of the cold chain market in Nigeria?

It is a big market considering the population and vast opportunities available in the cold chain industry and with adequate support and collaboration the potential for growth is enormous. Market forecast posits that the global cold chain market is estimated to be valued at $ 218 billion in 2020 and it is expected to exceed $ 500 billion by 2026.

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Which sectors are really the targets of the Transicold business?

Our market scope covers the food, health, agricultural, eCommerce and events industries. Good examples are the dairy and beverage companies, fast food chains, frozen food industry, medical and pharmaceutical companies, event companies to mention a few.

We offer a wide range of solutions customized to meet individual customer needs. Our refrigeration systems are environmentally sustainable, affordable, durable, energy-efficient with optimal performance. We guarantee value for every naira spent. We will equally provide full support to all our customers, from technical assistance in the selection of fit for purpose solution, to supply, installation, and maintenance with genuine spare parts.

Could you take us through the process of the operation of the business?

There are two types of machines, they can be powered by the vehicle or as a plugin on standard electricity. Large equipment are powered by the inbuilt engine in each Transicold equipment. Units are normally plug and play and thus, very easy to operate. We can install the Transicold Carrier equipment on customers’ vehicles/trucks or lease our cooling vans to individuals and companies.

When we lease, our vehicles are insured, and we provide the drivers throughout the period of the lease. We operate pan Nigeria. We have however noticed that investors prefer installing the cooling equipment on their trucks because it is more economical and fits their long-term needs.

What is your arrangement on after sales of the cooling equipment installed on the dealers’ vehicles?

Service excellence remains a formidable differentiator for the Mandilas brand. We have been able to sustain strong brand equity over the years, which can be traced to our history of excellent after sales and service delivery. We have presence in almost all the geo-political zones in the country with over 200 qualified service engineers to attend to varied customer needs.

We have a standard warranty policy from Carrier which is 12 months from date of installation or 18 months from date of shipment of the equipment from the factory. We have a very strong quality check policy at the factory level to avoid equipment failure either during warranty or post-warranty.

We always recommend preventive maintenance to ensure equipment longevity. We offer annual maintenance contracts everywhere in Nigeria with on-premises personnel of qualified Engineers. Our Clients will also benefit from the global systems standard of Carrier and the depth of knowledge and expertise built by Carrier for close to two centuries.

In this business of moving goods including medicines from one location to another in refrigeration trucks, how do you cope with poor road-network?

The equipment is designed to offer optimal cooling performance irrespective of infrastructural challenges. Refrigerated products are normally stored in the insulated cabin installed on transport vehicles. The refrigeration cabins can work on the go with vehicle power and off the road with plugin electricity.

With Carrier Transicold, food items can be stored at a maintained temperature without compromising the integrity of transported items. Our after-sales support service and qualified service engineers are also available wherever required throughout the nation.

You have maintained your forte in air-conditioning business for over 8 decades, what is the secret of such business longevity?

At Mandilas, we provide quality products backed by superior after-sales service. Carrier is a quality brand known globally for its durability, high performance, and innovative products. The brand continues to set the standard for performance, energy efficiency and sustainability.

Mandilas offers customized airconditioning solutions for individuals and businesses with a wide range of residential, light commercial and commercial units that cater to every need and budget.

What is your perspective on Nigerian market vis a vis other markets when it comes to refrigeration transport business?

In the World Bank’s International Logistics Performance Index (LPI) 2018.2019, Nigeria is ranked 110 with South Africa the top-ranked African country at 33. Kenya is ranked 68, Benin 76 and Ghana 106. Nigeria’s cold storage and mobile refrigerated logistics capacity is less than 1% of the world’s capacity according to the Organization for Technology Advancement of Cold Chain in West Africa (OTACCWA).

This shows a dearth in logistics and cold chain capacity that must be plugged to improve the profile of the country. I see more investors venturing into the food refrigeration business in large scale either in mobile refrigeration or warehouses.

What are the local components in the manufacturing of the cooling equipment for the local market?

Our equipment is imported, but there is a lot of work done locally to install and maintain the machines. To install, we need a lot of materials such as wood, steel, insulation, etc. These are the local components including the engineering manpower.

Could you quantify Mandilas contribution to the economy in its 70 years of operation in Nigeria?

There is a lot, specifically on manpower development. Today many of the consultants and technicians operating in the air-conditioning business in Nigeria have worked and sharpened their engineering skills at Mandilas. Apart from that we are paying our taxes, contributing to employment opportunities and other initiatives to keep the economy alive.

How would you say the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the foodstuff refrigeration business in Nigeria

The prevailing global health crisis has had an unprecedented impact on businesses across industries. However, with the increased emphasis on e-commerce and demand for direct to consumer or click and collect grocery shopping, the refrigeration business will witness increased opportunities for growth.

Though the cold chain sector is presently operating below par, the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the trend and demand for cold storage.

If you are to advice government on how to achieve massive refrigeration of foodstuff either stationary or Transit to save Nigeria wasted food, what are the advices?

Cold chain logistics should be an integral part of agricultural policies and strategy formulation. The government would also need to foster dialogue between public and private value chain stakeholders to develop a common vision for the sector; develop regulations particularly with regards to food safety and environmental sustainability and upgrade key infrastructure for efficient delivery of cold chain systems.

Pal Singh is the General Manager of the Air-conditioning division. Qualified as HVACR engineer, he is a member of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers. Pal has 30 years’ experience in large Air-conditioning and ventilation equipment from different companies across the globe. He is an expert in the latest and advanced technology of HVACR engineering which is a unique service that aligns comfort and technology for Corporates.

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