Just imagine this: You are a 21 year-old graduate working in a bank. You have a date. So you search for a befitting place in the city for the date but none meets your standard. None meets your dream of an upscale fine-dining place with cosy ambiance. What would you do?
Lament about the city?
Blame the city for being a disappointment?
Blame the people for not having foresight and good taste?
One young man had the same experience in Enugu and did something different and remarkable.
What did he do?
Upon graduation from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1990 and completing his National Youth Service Corps scheme in 1991, young Nnaeto Orazulike started work in a bank. On a certain day, he took a female friend out on a date but was disappointed that he could not find a fine-dining restaurant in Enugu that met his taste. Because he did not find satisfaction in his banking work or practising the accountancy that he studied, and because the entrepreneurship drive in him was pushing him to do something new and creative, he decided to provide Enugu with an upscale restaurant that same 1991.
He started the Genesis Restaurant in Enugu even without knowing how to cook or how to manage a business. The situation was not helped by the fact that Enugu was seen as a city of civil servants, lecturers and students, which made everybody assume that the restaurant would not be well patronised. But Genesis Restaurant was an instant success. A brand was born. So Genesis brand was created to fill a gap and solve a need.
Today, it has grown into the Genesis Group. One hears of Genesis Restaurant, Genesis Deluxe Cinemas, Genesis Fill-up, Genesis Bread, Genesis Sojourner, and more. The Genesis brand has gradually but steadily become a conglomerate that has spread across the federation, employing about 2,500 people. Interestingly, the Genesis brand spans different fields like restaurants, hotels, catering, cinemas, real estate, bakery/confectioneries, facilities management and lifestyle.
Nigeria is a typical example of a glass of water that can be seen as half full or half empty. The mindset of the person who is looking at it will determine what the person sees. Those who see only doom always see it half empty, while those who see the great opportunities in Nigeria usually see it as half full.
Unfortunately most Nigerians prefer to see the negative side of Nigeria and concentrate on that side, which has led to the lack of faith and constant spread of negative stories about Nigeria.
Recently Orazulike was honoured by the University of Port Harcourt with Doctor of Science (honoris causa) for his contribution to national development. Dr Nnaeto Orazulike, who is the Group Managing Director of the Genesis Group, urged Nigerians to change their negative thinking about Nigeria. Speaking on behalf of other recipients of honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Orazulike noted that the fact that foreigners continue to establish new businesses or expand existing ones in Nigeria is a testimony that they see what we don’t see in our economy.
His words: “We need to change our perception about our country and start looking at the opportunities and how to harness them. I am not saying that the challenges are not real, but beneath every challenge exist legitimate business opportunities. It was this desire that inspired the Genesis Group.”
Orazulike frowned at some people’s penchant for focusing on the negatives about Nigeria and hyping them without looking at the positives. Said he: “We are inundated daily with a lot of negative news and feelings about our great nation. News about Nigeria both within and outside the country is awash mainly with the difficulties and challenges of doing business in the country. The list of the challenges is endless, ranging from infrastructural deficit, to near absence of power, insecurity, low ranking on some global indices like ease of doing business and transparency issues etc. These, unfortunately have impacted negatively on the psyche and perception of many of our young people such that many of them have accepted defeat even before graduation.
“On the other hand, many fail to see, from the same media, that the multinationals already in the country are increasing their investments and deepening their shareholdings in their various business interests in the same Nigeria.
“Amidst the same challenges, you would observe a number of foreign businesses opening shops every day; and the existing ones extending their reach in many more cities. Look at what is happening in the retail landscape of our economy and the great inroads being made by the likes of Shoprite and Spar. It is much the same in the telecoms industry where MTN, Glo, Airtel and Etisalat have continued to grow and excel. The opportunities were not created by these businesses. All they did and, continue to do, was to take them where many did not see the opportunities neither did they dare to even take them when they saw them.”
The graduate of accounting from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka said that even though there is a need to reduce the poverty level in Nigeria, Nigeria’s population and the size of the economy are great assets.
He words: “People who reel out all these negatives about our country forget to tell you that Nigeria has the biggest market for almost everything in Africa. Even at that, the doomsayers will not stop to let you know that about 70% of our population live below poverty line. But what they have forgotten is that the 30% of 170 million that live above, which is about 51 million, is still bigger than the population of South Africa (44 million). They forget to let you know that Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa with about $510 billion in GDP; and expected to be growing at over 5% annually, which is one of the highest growth rates in the world.
“Even within the segment 70% of those living below the poverty line, and I certainly believe that we should work at reducing the segment of our citizens living below the poverty line; businesses have turned over billions of naira annually by providing goods and services to this bottom of the pyramid strategy. An illustrative point is the story of Cowbell milk of the then Wonder Foods (now Promasidor) and Indomie and interestingly the telecoms people.”
The Genesis boss promised to mark the Doctor of Science award by building and donating a befitting science laboratory to the University of Port Harcourt in its continuing education centre as well as a Genesis entertainment centre within the university to create a balanced life in the university community. He added that the enduring legacy of the Genesis Group would, however, be to build a Genesis school of hospitality in the university, which will create a large workforce that will revolutionize hospitality in Nigeria and continue his dream of a better Nigeria.
He concluded by saying: “My parting words to us today is for us to look at the brighter side of Nigeria and view it from a different perspective and be prepared to take the opportunities staring us in the face. This way, we can help in poverty alleviation in our country. If every Nigerian can commit to propagate one positive thing about this great country especially when we are abroad, our story will begin to change. Like I will always tell anyone who cares to listen, no one can love us more than ourselves.”
In addition to many accomplishments, Orazulike is a member of the board of Fate Foundation as well a non-executive director of Fidelity Bank Plc.