Sub-standard products threaten furniture industry growth – Tawadrous

Michael Tawadrous, an Egyptian, is the Managing Director of Vava Furniture. In this interview with Maureen Azuh, he says despite inconsistent government policies, the furniture industry has a viable growth potential

What is your assessment of the furniture industry in Nigeria?

The industry is very viable and capable of generating the needed resources to advance the cause of any economy. The industry is growing at a moderate rate and has the potential to improve from the present level to an enviable stage; and the development is a split-over effect of development from other countries such as Malaysia, Turkey, China and Italy. Generally, the industry is very viable; it generates employment and makes good return on investment.

It is often said that the importation of poor quality furniture is negatively affecting the industry. What has been your experience on this?

No industry will survive with low quality products or services; you don’t need to be an economist to know that. It does not only show red flag to customers, even the producers of such low quality products don’t enjoy their job; they only make short term gains and long term loses. Because of my experience in the industry, I can smell it; and it does no good to anyone, either the buyer or the seller.

As a matter of policy, we have resolved to dwell on not only quality products but pocket friendly prices. In fact, we offer to all our customers two years warranty even though they are going to enjoy the products much more than two years.

Some stakeholders have said that some government policies are not encouraging to producers of wood products. What is your view on this?

Well, government policy on the manufacturing industry generally has been inconsistent. I say this because of our experience over the years. Today, it is favourable and tomorrow, it is not; but as an entrepreneur, we just have to deal with every situation we find ourselves. Don’t forget that the law enforcement agencies also play a major role; because they are the ones to ensure that government policies are properly carried out.

Where there are lapses, a favourable policy can become a bad policy, so what happens? Do we cry to the government again? No, we just have to deal with it and move on.

Presently, importation of wood work is seen as contraband but they are still in our local shops. How do we address that? The aim of that policy has not been successfully achieved.

What are the current trends in the home decor and furniture industry?

Currently, the most important trend in the home décor revolves around modern furniture as against the classic furniture, and this has been aided by advancement in technology. This trend is sometimes mixed or blended with a bit of classic style in a way that shows class and beauty. For instance, the increase in the number of homes and offices has made it expedient to provide furniture in large quantity and quality. The need to blend classic with contemporary furniture has, therefore, become very high. And in all, machines play a major role in modern day furniture industry.

What informed your decision to establish a furniture company in Nigeria?

I came to Nigeria as an expatriate to manage a furniture outlet in Lagos in 2007 with a company that is a major player in the industry. While working with this organization, I realised that there was more to the way we were doing the business than what was obtainable as at that time.

I did my best to improve our mode of operation, but I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted, owing to the fact that I was only a manager, not a shareholder, and you understand how a one-man business operates. Later, I began to think of what to do. I realised that I’ve got passion for the job. I simply developed passion for furniture business while I was working as an employee in Nigeria.

How do you source materials at Vava Furniture?

Vava furniture Nigeria Limited is the home of classic and contemporary furniture for everyone and anyone who desires quality, durable and affordable furniture, though we are young in the industry, we are very vibrant and dynamic. We also create for ourselves an edge by ensuring the after-sale service that enables customers to give us feedback on what they think about our products and service.

We have offices in centre business areas to allow our customers access our products; we have offices in Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikeja. We equally plan to inaugurate both Abuja and Port Harcourt offices this December.

Our customers are dear to our heart; that is why we ensure that they have value for their money and pay more attention to finishes and prompt delivery system. I speak about relationship with our customers always; this relationship is very cordial to the extent that it has earned the company and me many awards. For instance, I was awarded both the Millennium Development Goal and the United Nations Ambassador for Peace.

Apart from the harsh business environment, what are the other challenges that players in the furniture industry are faced with?

The harsh business environment involves lack of access to funding and poor infrastructure. But the most prominent among the challenges in the business environment is the uncoordinated multiple tax system with the insensitivity of the officials from local authority.

Now talking about furniture business, the major challenge is the influx of cheap and sub-standard products in the market. The fake products pose a big threat to the survival of the industry; as customer will be faced with how to recognise real quality, and may judge all products the same. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria has a lot of role to play here to ensure that the products meet a minimum standard; don’t forget that this is an industry that is not regulated; everyone does whatever they want without being questioned.

Everyone is going digital; do you see this industry doing the same soon in the country?

Sure, the industry will assume digital position in the nearest future simply because we can’t operate in isolation, in as much as other industries are moving forward; we cannot afford to stay behind. Presently, we have achieved some feat by moving away from the usual cut and nail to a more advanced method of production through the use of machines. So, the process has started already.

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