The Group Managing Director of Sona Group of industries, Mr. Ajai Musaddi recently spoke with journalists after the inauguration of some of their new facilities. Below are excerpts of the interview:

The Ogun state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Minister for trade, industry investment recently inaugurated a flexible packaging facility and a plastics recycling plant both at Ota in Ogun State. Why did you decide to go into this line of business?

At Sona Group, we go into every business for the long haul. Since we established our presence in Nigeria over 3 decades ago our main principle had been to positively impact our immediate operating environment through a process of regular environmental scan for productive opportunities, commercial operating challenges and socio-economic challenges. Shongai Technologies Limited and the new recycling plant at Shongai Packaging Limited was established along these principles. Shongai Technologies has been established to provide total labeling and branded packaging solutions comparable to facilities in the most advanced economies. We have done this because we can see that Nigeria is on the verge of repositioning herself as a major productive hub in sub-Saharan Africa through the visionary policies being enunciated and implemented by the federal government and various state governments. We realized that if you have great products inside substandard packaging you will soon fizzle out of business. So to support the fledgling manufacturing sector we ensured that we procured the most modern plants, equipped with best-in-class technology. That way, Nigerian-made goods can compete even at the global stage.

What are the special features of the Shongai facilities?plant pix

Thank you. Shongai Technologies is an ultra modern flexible packaging and printing plant in Ota. All the plants and machinery are from Europe mainly from Germany. It has a 5-layer blown film (the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa) which can produce barrier film for packaging to preserve the vegetable oils and other food products which are very sensitive. We also have a state-of-the-art technology 10-color printing machine. The machine runs at high speeds of 450 metre per minute and can print on various substrates like papers. BOPP, PE, PET films etc, giving very high quality, world  class printing solutions. We utilise tolwene-free ink, highly required for food packaging. Already, we are supplying laminate materials to various well-known customers like- Beloxi, Niger Biscuits, NDL, ReckittBenkiser, unilever , PZ Wilmar etc. In addition, we produce self-adhesive labels with Gallus Plant from Switzerland which can produce up to 15 million labels in a day.

Also, our cutting edge 5 layer blown film facility produces barrier film for packaging to preserve vegetable oils and other sensitive food products, providing not just consumer appeal but protecting the integrity of the packaged product by keeping it fresh and wholesome. So, Shongai Technologies is primarily established to make both the manufacturers and consumers happy by providing them access to world-class flexible packaging solutions.

What about the recycling plant?

Truly, at Sona Group we believe strongly that mankind owes its progress and even existence to our environment. Our environmental scan results of recent years revealed that at the rate the poly and plastic products are being dumped indiscriminately, every available space and channel may soon be covered and clogged by non-bio-degradable plastic and poly wastes in the country. We are also mindful of the fact that government alone cannot cope with the challenge of doing the necessary mop up of these waste materials. Our approach therefore was to create an industry out of it. We have thousands of youth in Lagos, Ogun and around the South west earning a  decent living, clearing all manner of plastic debris which we pay  for through our suppliers and then recycle same into world-class plastic pallets and other products. Benefits of the recycling plants include: long term reduction of product cost; preservation of the forest assets; improvement on the hygienic conditions specially in food  and pharma Industries as wooden pallets can sometimes lead to contamination of packaged products. All recycled materials used in pallets are washed, ground and fully decontaminated. Our vision is to drastically reduce the mis-use of forest assets by producing pallets with millions of tons of recycled plastic waste for economic and bio-diversity benefits.

So, the recycling plant at Shongai Packaging Limited is an extension of our plastic packaging solutions which was incorporated in 1977 but commenced production in 1981. Today, Shongai has an injection molding division producing crates, paint containers, cosmetic jars and caps and closers, a pallets production plant, a recycling plant injection/Blow HDPE and PP,  a flexible packaging division- known as Shongai Technologies Ltd as well as a blow molding division known as Techblow Nigeria Ltd. TBL produces all kinds of blow-molding products from 500 ml to 50 liter plastic jerry cans, Plastic coolers, Pharma-bottles, Yoghurt bottles and other containers to cater to the needs of food and beverage as well as chemicals industries and other retail-end sectors.  We use plants and machinery imported mainly from Germany.

Does your group have a partnership with Germany, why do get virtually all your equipment from there?

Well, yes and no. usually we have a maintenance partnership agreement with all of our equipment suppliers whether they are in Germany or any other part of Europe. For the kind of business we do, usually the preferred plants and machines are those with European specifications and German Technology is respected globally for their sophistication and ruggedness and since we have our eye on global standards we have to invest heavily to pay the extra premium costs associated with such procurements. We don’t mind you see, because Sona Group is repackaging manufacturing business in Nigeria for global greatness.

You seem very prepared for business what would you attribute your success to and what are your challenges?

Firstly, we owe our success to the various arms of government for creating the enabling environment and secondly to our corporate and individual customers who had faith in our capabilities early enough. Though we do not have a perfect operating environment but it is work-in-progress even in advanced economies. So to that extent we thank the federal, state and even local governments under which we operate. We would however wish to appeal that Nigerian businesses such as ours need to be further supported especially in the area of tariff application for imports. For instance, it beggars belief that completely packaged goods and bulk products of the same category pay uniform tariff in Nigeria.             That is a disincentive for investment in Nigeria. It leads to loss of jobs in Nigeria and loss of income for companies such as ours since ultimately it is cheaper to import the packaged product rather than bringing in the base bulk product and coming to add value here in Nigeria. For our customers we would say that they should continue to have faith in Nigeria as great things are happening in our industries. A visit to any of our industries always leaves a lasting impression of pleasant surprise and fulfillment on all our visitors. That was the case when the Dr. Olusegun Aganga, the honourable minister for industry, trade and investment came calling at some of our facilities recently. When the Ogun state commissioner for commerce and industry, Mr. Gbenga Ashiru and acting MD of Bank of Industry, Mr. Waheed Olagunju also visited they were also very excited at the sophistication and depth of our investments. Sona Group believes that a lot of progress will be made if we begin to look inwards both for our raw materials and finished products. We have what it takes to meet most of our needs as a nation and Sona group is a dependable ally that manufacturers and consumers alike can trust, always.

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