Innocent who used to sell motorcycle spare parts, found Africa’s first indigenous Automobile Company: Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM), despite not having an academic background in engineering.
Innocent Chukwuma popularly known as Innoson is a Nigerian-born entrepreneur, born in the year 1961. He is the last of six (6) children of the family of Mr and Mrs Chukwuma Mojekwu in Nnewi, Anambra State Nigeria.
After his secondary school education, In the year 1978, Innocent Chukwuma applied to study Engineering at the university. He waited for a while to get his admission results before resorting to working at his elder brother’s (Gabriel) medicine store. When his university application results were finally out, he didn’t make the cut, and thereby, not getting admitted into a university that year
Being unadmitted into the university led him to decide to get busy and he used that period to work for his brother at his medicine store. It was there he realized he had a natural talent, passion and drive for trading, which then led him to learn a trade from Chief Romanus Eze Onwuka.
A year later, in 1979, Innocent left his boss Chief Romanus Eze Onwuka and returned to his brother, Gabriel Chukwuma. During which he registered a business called Gabros International. The business was funded by his brother to the tune of 3,000 Naira ($10; which had a considerably higher value back then), and he traded motorcycle spare parts.
Innocent had total freedom to run the business in his own way, and this freedom led him to rented a shop and then started purchasing merchandise.
By the end of 1980, Innocent and Gabriel, took a thorough account of everything the medicine store and the spare part business were making and realized that Gabros International was making ten times more money than what the medicine store was making.
In the year 1978, When Innocent personally ventured into motorcycle sales in Nnewi, a commercial town situated in the Southeastern part of Nigeria which was the central hub for motorcycle importation. He observed that most people were importing tokunbo (foreign used) motorcycles in Nigeria and that their prices were really high. By 1987, a brand-new motorcycle sold for N150,000 and a tokunbo one sold for N100,000 – N90,000. This incited him to develop a way to bring in brand-new motorcycles into the country, at a price far lower than the tokunbo motorcycles.
Innocent travelled out of the country and visited four companies (Leventis, Yamaco, Boulous, and CFAO) to see how they are producing and exporting the motorcycles. He observed that the motorcycles are imported in crates, and each crate could only contain one motorcycle, which would take up a lot of space. And a 40 feet container can only contain 40 crates, which is 40 motorcycles. Only the high transport fares the 40 feet container affect the prices of each of those motorcycles.
He learned to purchase the motorcycles overseas and disassemble them before he shipping them. As a result of this, he shipped 200 motorcycles in parts, in one 40 feet container. Upon arrival, he would reassemble them, and his motorcycles would cost 40% lesser than his competitors’ prices. This tactic brought down the average cost of a motorcycle from 150,000 Naira to 60,000 Naira, and subsequently exploded his sales and revenues.
At 25 years, Innocent pioneered the first Made-in-Nigeria Motorcycle brand that sold for as low as N60,000.
It was in October 2010 that Innoson unveiled his multi-million-dollar car assembly factory in Nnewi.
Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing [IVM] was set up with the assistance of Chinese, Japanese and German expatriates. Their product line includes SUVs, mini and long buses, heavy-duty vehicles, patrol vans and pick-up vans, special environment-friendly vehicles. The company carries out optimization design and assembly according to African road condition so as to produce suitable products at affordable prices.