Young entrepreneurs are taking the bull by the horns by manufacturing things that hitherto were produced outside the country or by foreign firms. Industrial welding and fabrication of weigh-bridges for measuring of heavy weights such as trucks and industrial goods is no small fit. But Tola Oyelesi, an engineer, incorporated Weigh-bridge & Scale Services Limited in 2009, and has been combining his engineering and entrepreneurial skills in leading the firm that employs 25 personnel – professionals and artisans to construct weigh-bridges.
The challenges have been numerous because of the difficulties inherent in doing business in Nigeria, but this young engineer is unrelenting in his determination to make his firm the preferred choice for industries that need weigh-bridges, not only in Nigeria but in the whole of Africa.
He reflects, “I started with two assistants, without a single tool or equipment. We got our first job through divine intervention. The Quarry Company that gave us the job paid 70 percent upfront. We used part of the money to purchase the most needed tools. We have since grown, acquiring virtually every equipment.”
He says, “Our brand of digital meter weigh-bridge is called the Nigerian Magic and is built to give precision weighing of heavy items. The company also deals in baby weighing scale, medical, platform and laboratory scale and indeed all kinds of scales.”
He adds, “We use steel, beams, checker plates, iron, computer system and sensors. The steel materials can be sourced in Owode Onirin and Orile Iron Market, both in Lagos. Our brand, Nigerian Magic is designed and fabricated for extra heavy duty applications in measuring the capacity of roads, in industries such as mining, construction, agro-allied, quarries, bitumen and asphalt plants, and so on. The weigh-bridge is movable and transferable to any point within a short time. It is specifically designed to meet up with the harsh nature of Nigeria and Africa, and comes with one year warranty.”
The staff consists of 10 engineers – mechanical engineers, computer engineers, industrial welders, and 15 artisans. Oyelesi says, “The engineers fabricate one weigh-bridge at a time in seven days in our workshop. We also have an architect/civil engineer who monitors 15 labourers and bricklayers in the construction of the concrete and pillars that the weigh-bridge will rest upon at the client’s site, and this takes about three days. As our job order increases, the staff strength will also increase.”
The weigh-bridge buyers are manufacturing companies such as cement producers, mining, agro-allied, haulage and transport, and construction companies, refineries, breweries, toll gate plazas, oil and gas, and any sector where logistics is an integral part of the day-to-day operations.
Oyelesi says many of the challenges come from Nigerians. He explains, “Foreigners have been helpful to our business, going out of their ways to give us referrals and bring out the business potential and opportunities for our locally fabricated weigh-bridge platforms. But unfortunately, many Nigerian firms and business owners still have preference for imported weigh-bridges. Decision makers of multinational companies and big Nigerian firms should provide opportunities to SMEs to grow by buying the products they manufacture, as long as they are of good, high quality and meet international standards. After all, majority of the big companies in Nigeria today also started small and grew big because their products were given a chance. So, I urge companies such as Dangote Group, BUA Group, WAMPO, Lafarge plc, Honeywell, Flour Mills, PZ, and so on to check out our weigh-bridges to see if they meet international standards.”
He further notes that government’s delay in making payments for jobs done as a major challenge. “Weigh-bridge fabrication and installation is very capital intensive, running into millions of naira. We successfully installed two weigh-bridges, one at Ife – Ilesa and another at Aba – Port Harcourt toll gate last year. But till date we have not received the final payment. This is connected to delay in passage of the national budget. These are things the government inadvertently do or doesn’t do that kill businesses in spite of the other genuine efforts of the government at encouraging entrepreneurship. We are surviving but such delays in full payment make doing business very difficult, limiting the opportunities one can embark upon to expand the business and the opportunity to employ more staff.”
We are in partnership with four foreign scale companies that supply one of the materials we use and provide us training. These are Masskot Scale of South Africa, Satwick Scale, HMT in India