Enugu-based automobile businessman, Ugwu Nnamdi, who deals in the refurbishment and upgrade of old vehicles, speaks to TEMITOPE ADETUNJI about his motivation and work
It was reported on social media that you converted an old and abandoned vehicle into a modern and expensive ride. Can you talk about it?
My name is Ugwu Nnamdi from Oba in Enugu State, I am 35 years old, and I am married. I live in Enugu with my family. I am into upgrading cars and I have been in the business for years. I used to visit some of the automobile companies abroad to see how it is done there. So when I returned to Nigeria, I decided to establish my own business and see how I can also create job opportunities for the youth.
I must say that it was a rough beginning but all glory belongs to God. It is not easy to be creative actually. Turning old cars into new ones to give them a better shape and designs is beautiful, but doing research and coming out with an idea of what you really want to do is a difficult process. It was a business I had wanted to do right from time.
Where did you learn the skill?
I learnt it in Indonesia.
Where did you get the idea?
I must say it is something that God himself opened my mind to. He gave me the idea. Everything happened the way God wanted it. I put God first then everything started working.
It is not like the business is something I just stumbled upon. I started running the business after travelling out of the country and returning.
What is your educational background?
I am a Bachelor of Science holder from Enugu State University. I studied Business Administration and graduated in 2006.
What year did you start your business?
I started in 2018 but officially branded it as a registered company in 2020. My workshop is located at Mechanic Village, Nsukka.
How did it cost you to start the business?
I started the business with N100,000.
How much do you earn monthly from the business on average?
The N100,000 I told you about was as of 2018 when I was operating the business alone but today, I have a registered company that has over 30 professional employees who work for me and are paid salaries every weekend not monthly. So, I can not accurately tell the amount I make every month because it all depends on the type of work we get.
What do you do with refurbished cars? Do you sell them?
I don’t really sell them; I upgrade them to better and more beautiful designs. Sometimes, it has to take conviction to assure clients that I can deliver. I have upgraded cars for people and they were satisfied with the results.
What happened to the Hilux vehicle in the video that trended?
For the trending video on the internet, let me tell you about it. That Hilux had been parked in a mechanic’s shop for about five years. I told the owner he could upgrade it and make it extremely beautiful compared to the way it was. I also advised him to change the engine, so we proceeded with the refurbishment.
How much does it cost to upgrade a vehicle?
It depends. With N3.5m, a (Toyota) Sequoia sports utility vehicle can be upgraded. It depends on the model of the car.
How many cars have you fixed so far?
There are many. I can’t give you a figure.
How do you source the spare parts?
For the spare parts, it depends on what the clients want. I get the spare parts mostly from Dubai, I prefer importing them, especially for Hilux designs.
Do you have employees?
I have over 30 workers and I pay them for their jobs, it is not an easy thing to do
What were the challenges you faced when you started the business?
When you are trying to start something new, there will always be challenges. It will look as if it is something that will not be possible and all of that. The challenge comes when the owner of the vehicle asks you if you can really give them the quality and the design they want at a top-notch level.
They will ask you how you will bring back their cars to shape after turning them to pieces at the initial stage, while some of my clients would doubt how possible it is. I remembered a car I upgraded for one of my customers some time ago. At one point, I even had to beg the owner to stop coming to my workshop because he felt I might damage his car. In the end, it turned out so beautifully that the customer was satisfied. Another challenging aspect is that in terms of price; it has not been easy to make negotiations, especially with lecturers and students from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, that want to upgrade their cars.
What are the most significant things you have achieved from the business?
I have come a bit far on this (vehicle upgrade). I have achieved beautiful things through this job. There has been no time I complained of lack because I can comfortably take care of my family.
What else would you have done if you didn’t venture into this business?
If I didn’t venture into this business, I would still have thought about importing cars. I love any business related to automobiles. I think I would have established such a business. As time goes on, we will get to a stage in life where we can travel as far as we can.
What kind of feedback have you been getting from people over your job?
I must say, they are satisfactory feedback; even people that couldn’t afford to upgrade their cars give encouraging remarks. Some of them told me they were looking forward to doing business with him. And recently, I have been getting calls from people who want to upgrade their cars.
What is your ultimate plan? Do you see yourself establishing a vehicle assembly plant?
Of course, Innoson (Motors) did not just start today. I think with time, we will get to the stage of creating more job opportunities; a stage where we can accommodate up to 100 employees. I plan to have my business all over the state. The bigger dream is to start manufacturing my brand of vehicles and selling just like Innoson.
I am closer to that because this is my passion. The automobile business is something I love so much. We need steady power and are asking the government to help subsidise electricity bills for industries.
What can aspiring entrepreneurs in the automobile industry do to be successful in business?
My advice to young entrepreneurs is nobody can push their business better than they can. If they really want to start something, they should make sure they are present and intentional about it. Delegating every function to people will leave them disappointed. Put in all your best and see God reward your efforts. I am a living witness that hard work pays.