On several occasions, working as a journalist, one gets to meet with highly experienced and seasoned professionals with different backgrounds. And while talking with them the realization comes that the younger generation and indeed other Nigerian citizens and the world at large should learn from the hands of the achievers and what it has taken them to reach their enviable heights.
So it happened recently, when yours truly caught up with Mr ‘Deji Alonge. It was an opportunity to let him open up on his journey into his exciting world of food business and its value chain.
Apart from using this column to highlight the activities in the industry, it has become expedient once in a while to beam light into the brains behind the companies’ success stories. Stated below are related issues, direct from the horse’s mouth.
His foray into the food industry is best described as ‘Serendipitious,’ though an inspiration from an home economist mother was definitely a boost. The earlier desire was to be a pharmacist but life’s events and happenstances saw him graduating as a food technologist, though not without the initial reluctance and cold feet due obviously to the fact that the course was very unpopular then.
Today, Deji is a multi–disciplinary professional having had a stint in Environmental Management with an MBA in Marketing. He has garnered about 30 years extensive work experience in Technical Operations (Production, Quality Assurance, Research and Development), Marketing and Retail Operations. He has also been into Sales, Customer Service and General Management. These came to the fore, having worked in three diversified conglomerates. These include Cedar group, UAC of Nigeria Plc and Flour Mills of Nigeria. Others include Accion MfB – an International Microfinance Bank and currently Head of a Business consulting firm – Ethos Sonia Consulting which focus on Market Insight, Marketing Knowledge Management, Experiential Marketing and Business Advisory.
This golden career started in 1995 with Nigerian Oil Mills, Kano – an edible oil processing company (now one of the BUA group) when he was recruited as a Lab./ Process Control Analyst. He later got promoted as the Head, Lab Services , a quality assurance role within three years of engagement. One key achievement was being able to turn the lab from a cost center to an income-generating unit for the company.
He joined the UAC of Nigeria group in 2001 and seconded to Mr Bigg’s Kano as a Restaurant Manager after the training period. There he managed over 60 employees. The team won Gold medal in Restaurant Excellence Award in 2003 then was promoted as the Consumer Services Manager – North, a strategic member of the regional team. This special role gave local expression to the corporate strategy in Northern Nigeria. In fact, the regional leadership team grew the brand from 3 to over 30 restaurants within 3 years.
Transferred in 2006 to SWAN, the bottled water subsidiary of UAC as the Brand Manager heading the Marketing unit; where he championed the re-positioning and re-launch of the pioneer bottled water in Nigeria back to reckoning and profitability. The brand in a short time recovered and had its pride of place.
In his words he stated that: “We also launched its carbonated soft drink. UAC in 2009 undertook an administrative merger of its two water brands and I managed the integration and realigning the brands segmentation of the (SWAN & GOSSY) portfolios as the Marketing Manager.
“The Strategic decision of UAC to increase the capacity of the fish feed business saw to my transfer as the Category Business Manager – Animal feed category of Grand Cereals Limited (GCL) in 2010. GCL successfully commissioned the then biggest fish feed plant in West Africa. Undoubtedly, my food technology background came handy in growing this top quality floating fish feed in the Animal Feed market.
“Having spent over 10 eventful years in UAC, I joined Flour Mills of Nigeria, one of the leading consumer food industry in Nigeria as the Manager: Product & Corporate Marketing where I took a key role in the corporate rebranding and also championed the New Product Development Initiative in the Snack & Ready – To-Eat (RTE) Category. These included cheese balls, chi-chin, powered sugar drink , breakfast cereals, edible oils & spread and sugar”. But there was more to come.
“After my stint in FMN of about 5 years, I joined Accion Microfinance Bank as the Head of Marketing and Business Development to explore the opportunities in the financial sectors. In Accion MfB I championed the massive Roll out in about 5 states. In fact, I currently oversee a thriving Marketing and Transformational Consulting firm – Ethos Sonia Consult
“In my career, I have been actively involved in more than 40 major projects in terms of product launch, food supplementation, micro insurance value addition, merger and acquisition. Others are consumer insight, due diligence, business repositioning and commercial expansion.
“My good understanding of the geography and demography of Nigeria Market having lived and/or worked in virtually all major towns and cities of Nigeria is an asset.” Breaking it down he had these pedigree to add.
Abiodun is also a Charter holder of the prestigious Chartered Institute of Marketing – CIM UK, (MCIM) and an Adjunct Faculty at Simon Page College of Marketing – the Approved Study Centre of CIM . A Fellow of Institute of Brand Management (FIBM), Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants(FIMC), Member of National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (MNIMN) and also Member, Nigeria Institute of Food Science and Technology(MNIFST).
He is proudly a consultant, Minister of God and conference speaker on strategy customer service & business development to organization in FMCG. Others are retailing , restaurant operations, micro-financing, agribusiness, government agency and non-governmental organisations in the secular and also on Christian Leadership, Church Governance and Management. His strategic planning and resourcing and personal development for churches and para-church set ups is inspiring. He currently sits on the Board of Executive Intervention Consult – a turnaround consulting firm and other companies. He has attended many professional courses globally.
He has over the years exhibited his interest in social work, especially in the area of Youth Empowerment, Mentoring and Marriage under the auspices of The Renewal House. Happily married and blessed with lovely children, Abiodun is a role model to the younger generation.