Innocent Chukwuma also known as Innoson is a household name in Nigeria and beyond. He is famous for being the CEO of the largest West African Car manufacturing industry. Innocent is a Nigerian business mogul and entrepreneur.
He is one of the many who represent Africa on a global stage by doing something worthwhile. All his successful businesses are collectively contributing to Africa’s development. As a high school graduate who became one of Africa’s biggest car manufacturers, his story is a huge inspiration. Here is all you need to know about him.
Innocent Chukwuma: Background
Innocent Chukwuma is the last child in a family of six . On the 1st of October 1961, a year after Nigerian became an Independent Nation, Innocent Chukwuma was born. His dad Chukwuma Mojekwu was a civil servant, while his mother, Martina Chukwuma, was a full-time mum. Innocent Chukwuma had three older brothers and two elder sisters.
He hails from Umudim, a village in Nnewi Anambra State. He had his primary and secondary education in his hometown.
After his secondary education, Innocent showed interest in becoming an Engineer. He applied to the University to study engineering, but he did not make the cut-off mark. So, he was not admitted into the University. This was the beginning of the success story of the promising young man.
His Journey as an Entrepreneur
Since he could not get into the University to study the career of his choice, he had to find alternatives. Innocent Chukwuma had an elder brother Gabriel Chukwuma. Gabriel was managing a pharmacy shop at that time, so Innocent went on to assist him in his shop.
Innocent Chukwuma may not have gone through the University for a Formal Education. But, he is a learned man. He went through the traditional Igbo Apprentice system of education instead.
This is an informal type of education commonly practiced by the Igbos in South-Eastern Nigeria. Here, a young person is introduced to an entrepreneur, learning from them and gaining relevant skills and experience to start their own business. At the end of an agreed period, the person would be equipped with knowledge and startup capital to establish their own business.
Innocent’s elder brother introduced him to Romanus Eze Onwuka, a spare part dealer. For one year, Innocent Chukwuma was an apprentice, where he learned how to import and sell motorcycle spare parts. During his apprenticeship, he developed his passion for the entrepreneurial world.
After service, Innocent Chukwuma went back to his brother. Within that time, Gabriel had already registered his own business Gabros International. The company was selling motorcycle parts. He worked for his brother for a few years. After which, Gabriel gave him N3000, to start up his own business. Meanwhile, the two brothers decided to close the pharmacy shop after realizing that the spare part business was generating more revenue.
Innocent, in an Interview with TVC news, expressed his gratitude to his brothers, especially Gabriel. He said that Gabriel took him as a son, even after they lost their dad. He said that Gabriel played a considerable role in helping him become the man he is today.
The beginning of Innoson Group of Companies
Innocent Chukwuma left Gabro International to start up his own business in 1981. He rented a shop and started off selling motorcycle spare parts. He registered his company with the name Innoson Nigeria Limited.
During that time, foreign motorcycles were very expensive, resulting in people purchasing the fairly used motorcycles because they could not afford the new motorcycles.
He wanted to solve this problem so that more people could buy new motorcycles. He started to study the market and learned that only four companies in Nigeria were responsible for supplying motorcycles to the people. The companies import motorcycles from foreign countries in a 40ft Container. One container could only contain about 36 motorcycles.
For Innocent, this problem needed to be solved—being an innovative and creative thinker who is always one step ahead. He decided to import the disassembled motorcycle parts and assemble them himself. By doing this, he was able to import 200units in the same 40ft container. This opportunity gave him leverage over others. He started selling his motorcycles at a cheaper rate, slashing the price by 50%. While others sold at N150 000, Innocent Chukwuma was selling at N60 000.
He started importation with one container and continued expanding until it increased till he had about 100 containers. According to his interview with TVC news Nigeria, the other motorcycle companies caught on to his method of importation five years later and started doing the same thing.
Innoson Technical and Industrial Company
After the motorcycle market became saturated with profits dropping. In 2002, Innocent Chukwuma created another subsidiary of the Innoson group of companies, a plastic manufacturing company- Innoson Technical and Industrial Company. The company is responsible for producing plastic products of all sorts and is now known as one of the largest plastic factories.
According to him, he started the factory to serve a need for his motorcycle assembling industry. He had noticed that most parts of the bike were made of plastic. By establishing a plastic factory, he started producing some components of the motorcycle instead of importing all. Some of his partners in the business began buying their materials from him.
Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company
Innoson Vehicle manufacturing company was commissioned in 2010. He wanted to produce locally made vehicles that would be affordable and best suited for the African soil. The Innoson Vehicle unique proposition is, producing African vehicles while considering the topography and regionalization of Africa. By understanding these factors, he wanted to create vehicles best fit for Africans.
He would go to study car manufacturing and later establish motor plants. When he started this new venture, people discouraged him. They tried to make him see that others who had stated a motor plant before him had failed, but he remained resilient.
‘When you build a plant without a good foundation, it falls’, Innoson said. He did his research to find out why others failed. And, it was mostly because they built a motor assembling company rather than a manufacturing company. He knew he had to be different and continued on his path towards building a motor manufacturing industry.
Today, this factory is the largest in West Africa. They produce virtually all vehicles, ranging from sedans, SUVs, Pickup, Buses, Fire trucks, waste disposal vehicles, ambulances and others.
They are producing about 10,000 cars annually and are installing an automated system to meet the ever-growing demand. The target is to reach 60,000 annually to serve Africa.
The Innoson Academy
As a way of giving back to society by empowering youths, Innoson Academy was commissioned. It aims to equip the members with the necessary skills and education needed to achieve their goals.
After training the students, while some of the students become employed by the company. The others have the needed knowledge to become productive and start up their own business.
- Entrepreneur of the year by Wesley University of Science and Technology 2002
- Justice of Peace by Enugu State Government 2006
- Meritorious awards by Nigerian society of Engineers 2008
- Officer of the Order of the Niger 2008
- Officer of the Federal Republic 2011
- Entrepreneurial Ambassador by Nigeria Arise 2014
- Accomplished Contemporary Entrepreneurs’ Award by Federal Government 2014
- Car Maker of the year 2020
- Industrialist of the Year by Nigerian Union of Journalists, Enugu State
Innocent Chukwuma Favorite Quotes
- When you are doing anything, do it well. It will take you far.
- When you build a plant without a good foundation, it will fall.
- In anything you do, focus on where you want to go; you will reach there.
The story of Innoson Chukwuma is a great inspiration,d espite the challenges he went through, he saw them as potential opportunities. He utilized every opportunity that came his way to become the man that he is.
One of his greatest attributes is his penchant for problem-solving. First, he starts by identifying the issue, coming up with a solution and diligently applying it while evaluating its effectiveness.
Here are three things to learn from Innocent Chukwuma’s life:
- Just start
Life happens in stages. He didn’t become the most prominent car manufacturer in one day. Every step of life lays a foundation for the future. Don’t be afraid to start small. You do not have to wait until everything is perfect; begin anyway.
- Hard work
Innocent Chukwuma believes in hard work. Things don’t just happen by luck or chance, and a proactive person creates his luck. Determination and hard work will get you far in life. A determined person remains motivated in the face of difficulties. The resolution gives you a purpose, makes you dream big and work hard to achieve your goal. Innocent did not receive his fortune on a platter of gold, and he worked his way up.
- Problem Solving
Life comes with many challenges; thus, everyone should apply the skill of problem-solving in their daily lives.