Nigeria represents the hope of Africa – Hakan Misri, Country General Manager, Pladis Global Nigeria
Hakan Misri is the Country General Manager at Pladis Global, Nigeria. An experienced international executive with vast experience and expertise in general management, sales, food & beverages, tissue & baby food, home & personal care industries, he assumed office in 2020 at which period the whole world was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. Notwithstanding that challenge, Hakan has in the last three years led the company to greater heights through focus on the company’s competencies and capabilities; a redefinition of its portfolio; through innovations and optimization of efficiency across board.
Before Pladis Global, Hakan was the Managing Director at Hayat Kimya Nigeria Ltd from 2015 to 2019.
In an exclusive interview with MARKETING EDGE, he reviews the growth trajectory of Pladis Global Nigeria under his leadership, assesses the Nigeria manufacturing sector and reflects on his eight year-long stay in Nigeria. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of the Nigerian manufacturing sector in recent times?
Manufacturing activity is concentrated in large cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Ibadan, in the south of the country.
The Nigerian manufacturing sector is dominated by the production of cement and building materials, food and beverages, tobacco, chemicals and fertilizers, wood, and textiles.
Out of all only 3 subsectors (food & beverage, cement, and textile) account for 77% of manufacturing output generating the greatest value.
According to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), the manufacturing sector accounted for 8.6 percent of real GDP in the third quarter of 2022 which is marginally lower than the 9 percent recorded in the same quarter of 2021.
The overall decline adverse effects included lower manufacturing turnover, heightened forex challenges, increased cost of production, lowered sectoral profits, and slow infrastructural development, as well as a fall in manufacturing investment in both aggregate and sectorial performances.
To what extent has the current economic challenges impacted the sector particularly the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods, FMCG industry where you operate?
Nigeria’s fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) firms faced challenging macroeconomic environment, which is characterized by rising inflation, high energy prices, interest rates, and weakened consumer purchasing power.
Additionally, Nigeria has been facing significant challenges such as foreign exchange scarcity, government regulations, smuggling, insecurity, a high-cost business operating environment, and a highly competitive market environment.
All these impacted the sector negatively for the last 3 years eroding the turnover and profits.
What are manufacturers doing to mitigate the adverse impact of inflationary pressures and rising cost of production exacerbated by the forex crisis?
Unfortunately, companies have more focused more on their internal business models, as they cannot pass on increased costs to consumers.
They encourage saving initiatives on Manufacturing, Procurement, and Trade Costs.
Productivity and Innovation are getting more important to maintain customer and consumer.
Despite all challenges, pladis is not a company that pursues short-term interests but seeks to create long-term value in the countries where it is operating countries.
Our commitment is to continuous improvement and to bring happiness with every bite to our consumers.
As a professional with cross-border experiences managing several iconic global brands, how would you describe your career trajectory?
Thank you for your kind question.
I would describe my personality as someone who is positive and enthusiastic. I believe you can overcome any challenge that comes your way if you have a positive mindset and focus on your objectives.
I would describe my personality as confident. I am confident in my abilities, I am confident when communicating my team, customers, client, and co-workers.
I am also reliable and trustworthy, flexible, and adaptable.
Finally, I describe my personality as selfless. Although I have my own ambitious and goals, I always put the needs of my team first and be a supportive team member.
You mounted the saddle as the Country General Manager of Pladis Nigeria in 2020, the year of the pandemic. How was the company able to cope despite the headwinds?
Is the headwind a good thing or bad thing?
On the one hand, headwinds are factors or events that slow down growth or cause negative effects on profits and revenue.
But on the other hand, headwinds give opportunity to leaders to focus on the company’s capabilities.
We also focus on efficiency and our competencies.
We redefined our portfolio and focus on biscuit innovations. We invested in 2 new lines and optimize our efficiency.
During last 3 years we launched under our global brand McVitie’s Finger, Cookie, Dark Sandwich, Tea Biscuit, Cracker, Rich Tea and reformulated Digestive and Hobnobs.
We adapt our pack sizes according to market needs.
We consolidated the Go-to-Market operation and increased our direct coverage. We implemented a Direct-to-Retail structure in 3 main cities, Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, to serve directly to neighborhood stores.
We also focused on manufacturing efficiencies and procurement initiatives
The last but not the least, we focused on “One pladis” culture. We developed our people to be the best in the industry.
We believed we will be stronger together.
What are the milestones attained since you took over the reins of leadership?
· Understand how the business has already evolved.
Seek to understand how things have already been changed for the better – and then amplify that by applying your own experience to further motivate people and encourage them to make bolder step-changes for even better results.
· Hire and foster the best talent you possibly can
Good ideas can come from across your organization – your role is to ensure collaboration and seek out those ideas from both seasoned and new team members.
· Encourage intelligent risk-taking
Both success and indeed failure – especially when grounded in both data and common sense – should be celebrated.
· Build a vision for transformation
Highlight what success will look like and at what points it should occur.
How did your past experiences shape your perspectives of the business landscape in Nigeria and impact on decision making?
My career in multinational companies has taken me across the world to lead businesses at a global, regional, and country level. It has sharpened my ability to overcome major challenges while driving growth, innovation, new market entry and business model transitions essential to future success.
My value to an organization rest on change. I re-think, re-engineer, and re-position businesses and iconic brands for growth, with a particular specialty in emerging/new markets.
Over 30 years of great experience in multi-national, multi-cultural, and multi-discipline environments developed my skills and qualities to be flexible, adaptable, and a good team member in my decisions.
How would you describe the evolution of Pladis Global as a loved brand in Nigeria?
Pladis Global (styled as pladis) is a British confectionery and snack foods company encompassing United Biscuits, Ülker, Godiva Chocolatier and DeMet’s Candy Company.
Its global brands are, McVitie’s, BN, Flipz, Godiva, Jacob’s Carr’s Ulker, and Go Ahead.
In Nigeria we have both our local jewelry brand Haansbro and global brands McVitie’s and Jacob’s.
As a multinational company we have been bringing to Nigeria our 75 years’ experience, tens of thousands of products ideas that are produced in our 46 facilities around the world.
Because after all these years, we still believe biscuits bring people together. We bake happiness, connecting people with a bite of magic.
As a global brand with a long history of exciting consumers, how is the company’s broad range of products resonating with the Nigerian consumers?
We are so proud that according to Ipsos Brand Heath Check Report, approximately 9 out of 10 consumers are aware of Mcvities and Haansbro.
McVities is differentiated on the following key drivers “Brand I Love”, “It Tastes Delicious” and “High Quality”.
The favor of the Nigerian consumers motivates us more and we invest in Nigeria more. Especially, we do most of our new product launches on our global brand McVitie’s.
What are the specific initiatives introduced by the company to deepen its brand persona in the Nigerian market?
We are a consumer and customer-oriented company. All our products, services and processes are aligned with the needs of customers and users.
Here is where innovation plays a pivotal role. Innovation is about establishing desirability, feasibility, and viability. Do customers want it? Can we make it? Can we make money from it? Innovation is as much about insights as ideas. The insights come from knowledge of consumers, users, and customers, and provide opportunities to meet recognized needs, as well as to identify potentially unrealized ones.
How does the Nigerian market compare to others that you have operated in?
Nigeria represents the hope of Africa.
Given its resource endowments and market opportunities, Nigeria is uniquely placed for strong economic growth. Nigeria is rich in agricultural and mineral resources.
Its population of about 200 million people presents a huge market—the largest in Africa—for domestic production. In addition, a large segment of Nigeria’s labor force is young and entrepreneurial.
Moreover, market access to other member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the wider African region offers opportunities to Nigeria’s private enterprises.
There is significant potential for accelerating growth and export diversification through increased private investment in sectors such as agribusiness, mining, manufacturing, and the digital economy.
What is the company’s unique selling proposition?
Our USP is to bring happiness with every bite.
It’s a commitment shared by every pladis colleague, all around the world. Family and ideas have always been our ingredients. Our founding families believed biscuits and chocolates could bring moments of happiness to the world.
When you move on from this market, what legacy (ies) would you be leaving behind at Pladis; and what will you miss about this market?
Our careers are often central to our contribution to the world—and we can make a lasting impact through our body of work. Working not just for money but with a deeper sense of purpose connects us to a source of meaning beyond ourselves.
I touched positively many people’s life in Nigeria, in both companies. We lived successes and failures, happiness, and sadness together.
I believe as a leader, whether my tenure is deemed successful or not, I will be admired as a role model for behavior. I will be remembered with respect even long after I’ve left this position.
Nigeria is a country full of surprises with different shades of experience. There is a discipline and vitality in the chaos.
After 8 years in Nigeria, I will have a long list to miss about Nigeria.
Diversity: 200 million people living together though tribe and languages differ significantly.
Faith, Hope, Dreams … despite challenges
Resilient Nigerian women
Food, Music and Dancing, Nollywood, Festivals and Celebrations, Fashion and Textile, great Climate…
The most I will miss is my friends and colleagues. They are warm, friendly, and helpful, always willing to look into your eyes and offer a smile.
Tell us more about you. What is your inspiration? What’s your leadership philosophy? What challenges you?
I am driven, industrious, and conscientious employee who understand the importance of helping my employer grow and be commercially successful in my work.
I consider myself to be a high achiever. I have the knowledge, experience, and the qualifications to succeed. I always be a positive role model for the company, and the take the ownership of difficult challenges and problems as and when they occur.
I am motivated by several things. First and foremost, I motivated by learning new things. If I get the new opportunity to take a new role or learn a new skill, then this motivates me because I feel as if I am improving my depth of knowledge.
I am also motivated by achievement. When I have worked toward an important goal and finally achieved it, it allows me to see my ability in a greater light.
My biggest challenge is to be impatient. I believe that success in today’s fast paced business environment requires us to be fast.