Woodstyles made a great impression at the recent Made-by-Design Exhibition held to mark the 57th Independence Anniversary of the country. At the event, the firm showcased a real five-star hotel room produced by its Nigeria technical staff. In this interview, the Managing Director, Samir Bader, Woodstyles Limited, talks about the company’s sojourn in Nigeria
How did you come about being a furniture maker?
I loved furniture making since I was a kid. Growing up, I was doing some of my furniture by myself because I had passion for it. This is something I love so much. I read a lot of books about it as well. My father used to be engaged in construction and he had a small store in the house where he kept his tools, so I found it easier to spoil his doors and repair them.
How long have you been in Nigeria and what has the experience been?
We have been in Nigeria for 13 years now. The technical know-how has been a challenge for us. We had to develop some training for our staff and things have been much better. You can tell from the quality of our work. Nigerians are the ones manufacturing our furniture. My production manager is a lady and she is just 25 years old. She has been trained to handle the production.
From where do you source materials?
Most of the raw materials we use for our production come from America, South Africa or Europe. There is no country in the world that can do everything all by itself. Every country has to import some part but instead of importing the finished products, they will bring in the raw materials and manufacture. In Spain, they still import the oakwood from America but they manufacture in Spain. So why should Nigeria go to Spain to buy finished products when we can bring the woods from the right source and manufacture locally?
How have you been able to import raw materials and sell at affordable rates despite the foreign exchange constraints?
The situation is still manageable, it is a challenge but we have been able to pull through. If the foreign exchange issue reduces and we have a solution, that will help us. I am from Lebanon and we have in Lebanon, policy for manufacturers. Any raw material that comes in has zero duty. Lebanon can produce and export to all countries. It is just a small country and they have about 150 thriving factories because government has supported this sector.
Government has stopped the importation of furniture because it is illegal. If we support this sector with zero duty on raw materials, Nigeria will be the hub of West Africa when it comes to manufacturing. Nigeria has the potentials such as the land, the people and everything we need. So why can’t Nigeria export to the rest of West African countries?
What is your staff strength and what percentage of Nigerians do you have working for you?
We have a staff strength of 150 and 146 of them are Nigerians. I am trying to get all Nigerian staff. Most of our experts have been in the country for a long time, so they consider themselves Nigerians. We have our factory here where we have installed updated machines. It is the biggest factory in Nigeria with the state-of-the-art facilities.
There have been issues of maltreatment of Nigerian staff by foreign companies. How do you deal with your employees?
We do not call ourselves foreigners because we have been here for a long time and we have proved that we do not have such a problem. I believe in Nigerians.
Nigerians have the potentials and they are hard working. We are providing the right training, paying good salaries and giving them a good life. If you give people what they need to live a good life, they will work well. We are trying our best to prove that Nigerians can do it themselves. We are a team and we operate as a family.
What is your unique selling point?
We are manufacturing products of international standard. Locally, five-star hotels in Nigeria have always had a challenge of fitting out their hotel lobbies, walkways, bars, restaurants, and rooms with the appropriate furniture style and quality.
We manufacture high quality luxury joineries and cabinetry. We are here to prove everyone that we can manufacture furniture of high quality locally. We distribute to five-star hotels. Everyone believes we have to import. People who develop hotels in Nigeria believe that we need to go to Italy, Spain or Europe to import our furniture for our five-star hotels but we in WoodStyles have just proved to everyone that we can manufacture standard furniture locally.
We also have furniture for kitchens, for wardrobes and beds for different classes of people. So, we have proved with our products that locally, everything can be done. We need to support a company that is feeding almost 150 Nigerian families.
What are your major achievements in Nigeria since you commenced operations?
WoodStyles is one of our achievements. We are trying to make Cozy Concepts one of the biggest suppliers of retail furniture sold at affordable prices.