Before the Ebola outbreak, carrying a hand sanitizer around was considered a fad. Many Nigerians did not know what a hand sanitizer was, except for a privileged few who had been exposed to them abroad. Some of those early adopters even opted for the flavoured sanitizers such as aloe vera, lavender or strawberry, without paying much attention to alcohol content or efficacy, creating even more mystery around the product.
So, it is not surprising that hand sanitizers were not produced in Nigeria. The high-end stores which sold them stocked the imported Dettol and Carex brands.
But the devastation caused by the Ebola virus created a reawakening for frequent handwashing and the recognition of hand sanitizers as a germ-killer by the populace. The imported products became inadequate to meet a sudden surge in demand, so Cormart, Cybelle Cosmetics and May & Baker applied for the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) licence to produce hand sanitizers locally. Thankfully, Nigeria quickly curtailed the spread of the Ebola virus, but Nigerians reverted to old habits, forgetting about the use of hand sanitizers.
However, if there is one truth about history, it is that it repeats itself. And so, five years after the deadly Ebola outbreak came the novel Coronavirus causing a global pandemic. Despite the five players in the market, Nigeria witnessed a shortage of hand sanitizers in the market. And, while several organisations made monetary donations to the government to curb the spread of COVID-19, Hello Products joined in the fight by taking a holistic approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR) as suggested by American academic, Michael Porter.
Porter introduced the creating shared value (CSV) concept. He advocates “for corporate practices and policies that enhance the competitiveness of the company while simultaneously advancing economic and social conditions in the communities in which the company operates.” Porter explains that a business must focus on those areas in which it most intersects with the most important social challenges.”
For those to whom Hello Products does not ring a bell, Tetmosol certainly will. The Tetmosol Citronella soap is the company’s flagship product. It has been trusted for its unique germ-ﬁghting properties since 1977 because it works.
Hello Products embarked on the production of Tetmosol hand sanitizers thereafter donating the sanitizers and soaps to the Lagos State Ministry of Health for use in isolation centres through the Jagal Group Foundation. The company is also running a consumer education campaign which shares tips, facts and counters myths associated with Coronavirus. Furthermore, before the closure of schools, it had a schools’ handwashing drive. Shining Star School and Oregun Junior High School are some of many schools impacted.
Formerly Jagal Pharma, Hello Products a 100% indigenous company, has been a valuable contributor to Nigeria’s economy with its headquarters and a manufacturing plant situated in Lagos, and providing hundreds of direct employments to indigenes and thousands more through its distribution networks and value chain.
In one month of securing NAFDAC approvals, the company has flooded the market with affordable Tetmosol hand sanitizers which come in three sizes. The 60ml, portable enough to fit into a pocket or handbag, 300ml table-top size and 500ml suitable for spaces with high human traffic. Hello Products’ packaging can compete with any imported brand.
Managing director of Hello Products, Chedli Ben Frija said the company’s distribution network of over 10,000 distributors and eight warehouses located across the six-geopolitical regions of Nigeria (including Lagos, Enugu and Kano), enable the company deliver products throughout Nigeria within 48 hours hence, Hello Products was able to quickly make the Tetmosol hand sanitizers available to Nigerians.
Since the world became a global village, one never imagined that there would a time when countries would refuse to export equipment and medical supplies because it could not cater to local demand, or travel restrictions would impede importation. One of the biggest lessons from the COVID-19 crisis is that local manufacturing is critical. While certain good and services such as travel might be considered a luxury, life would be unbearable if we couldn’t access basic consumer goods because of an overdependence on importation. Consequently, this indigenous organisation decades deserve a pat on the back for engaging in 100 per cent local production for over 40 years. It should be encouraged to do more.