• Saturday, March 02, 2024
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BusinessDay

Peju Adebajo, unswerving dedication, bringing comfort to Nigerians

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This is one interview I looked forward to because of the story of my guest for this week. I admire her doggedness and celebrate her for holding her head above water even in a male dominated sector.

She grew up in a family of seven which included five children and her parents were peacefully and happily married for almost fifty years…Amazing!.

Her mother was a teacher and ended her formal career as principal of Methodist Girls High School Yaba after twenty-five years in education. Her father started as a teacher at Kings College Lagos and was amongst the pioneer Nigerian management at Shell and then became a very successful industrialist and exporter of agricultural produce, a career he started at age forty-seven after retiring from Shell.  “I am a complete product of my upbringing which includes three areas. Firstly: A Christian home-The Bible says teach a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it when he is old so, my children observe and imbibe from me.” She tells me and continues “Secondly,  values. We grew up in a home where there was unity, honesty and integrity. My upbringing was privileged, not from a material perspective, but from the luxury of having total stability and an assurance of love and worth. Thirdly, Work ethic – At age forty-seven, my father

 started from scratch, the company that afforded us all a good education in the best institutions around the world.  By the time he started, my mum had retired and joined him, which means I was old enough to have a first class view on business issues, the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship, industry and hard work.”

Peju Adebajo is the Managing Director/CEO Mouka and she is my Leading Woman for this week. She holds a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering degree from Imperial College of Science & Technology, London, a Master of Engineering (Chemical Engineering), University of London, and Master of Business Administration, Harvard University, Boston, USA.  She is an also alumnus of INSEAD Business school in France. (Advanced Management Program and AVIRA program).

Truth is that Peju has proved her onions in a field dominated by men. She is bold to share her story. “I was the youngest of five very intelligent and highly achieving siblings and therefore striving to be successful in any field of endeavour, whether as a home maker or a career woman is natural to me.  I have never known otherwise.  My father never treated any of the girls differently or expected less of us because of our gender.  I keep going back to the foundation.  I was a 2% minority as a black woman in my chemical engineering course at Imperial College London and in my early career in the City in the UK, I was also a double minority.”

“One’s attitude to diversity depends on whether it is seen as a challenge or an opportunity, I see it as the latter.  Having said that, we know that women are underrepresented in leadership positions around the world. Given that women are 50% of the population, something has gone wrong somewhere.   Not every woman makes the choice for a career, not every woman wants to be in leadership, but for those that do, it is important for us to understand the issues that make them drop out or opt out along the way. Studies show that boards with female representation, over time, take better decisions than male dominated boards.  I am grateful for the efforts of organisations such as WIMBIZ and WISCAR for bringing these issues to light in Nigeria, and the institutions such as the CBN and the FGN that have responded positively to this situation.  My advice for women who want to start a business is to “Just do it!”.

Every organisation is governed by rules and mandates that keeps the organisation going. At Mouka, Peju tells me their mandate is to bring comfort to the life of every Nigerian.  Adding that “we spend every second, every minute and every hour trying to improve on the way in which we do this.  We bring comfort to life through the bedding products and accessories, which bring comfort in the home and environment as we carry out two very important human functions of sleep and sitting. We also ensure our products are affordable to all. Mouka’s products, tried and tested over 50 years by ordinary people all over Nigeria, have become a brand that people trust.  Our mandate is to make sure that this trust and promise of quality is always met or exceeded.  This results in constant innovation into what constitutes quality, research into textiles and foams characteristics, new products and new ways of serving the customer.”

Speaking further about expansion and client satisfaction, Peju reveals that “at Mouka, we are always expanding out reach. This year in particular, we will open more distributor outlets in the North and the East.  We are very careful that the consumer has a good shopping experience, in a pleasant environment, with enough information from the shop assistant and product literature, to ensure that this is an informed purchase.  A mattress will last for several years and so it is important to make the right choice.”

“We are also constantly expanding the types of channels through which customers can make purchases, so it can either be online through Mouka’s website, through third party retailers like Jumia, Konga, Webmall, or over the phone, or through Mouka retail outlets. Our entire set up is to ensure cost effective manufacturing so that we do not pass on every increase in input cost to the consumer.” She said.

Ever optimistic about Mouka, hear Peju give her projections for 2014. “Mouka, though a mature company, is in a high growth potential industry and this creates the most exciting platform for transformation. With the growth and development expected in the consumer market, from the sizeable population growth rate, to the large youth segment, new consumers emerging, new geographic frontiers to be conquered, there is ample room for geographic expansion and growth in every product category. This is within our product segment of ‘flexible foam’.  We have not even begun to tap the rigid foam segment serving construction, oil and gas and automotive, nor have we really tapped into speciality foams and the luxury segment.  With all of these in mind, the future for Mouka is bright indeed.”

Ask Peju what makes Mouka tick and she will readily tell you it is God! But that is not all, for her, it also includes her staff. “Working through the people who are part of the Mouka family- our employees, our managers, our shareholders, our distributors, our customers and the communities in which we operate and serve.  We are all united around our mission of adding comfort to life.”

With the joy of a successful business come challenges.  Some of which Peju shares as the interview came to an end. “The challenges of running a business are also opportunities.  When the well articulated issues of power, infrastructure, security, cost of finance, exchange rate stability are brought up, my thought is that if we can achieve so much with all these challenges, how much more when the constraints to growth are removed?  I prefer not to dwell on problems, but to search for solutions, in this, all our creative instincts come alive and we function in dominion, as God intended us to.”

By: KEMI AJUMOBI