A prophet could after all be honoured in his own country. He is Sir Tony Ezenna, Chairman of the Orange Drugs Group, and the honour giver is Sun Publishing Nigeria Limited. Ezenna is no stranger to awards offers. But he does not play to the gallery and therefore is not award freak. If heis, he would have had a legion in his kitty by ‘purchasing’ them.
However, TheSun’s Manufacturer of the Year Award which the publication has bestowed on him is an Award with glistering difference. One, it comes free of charge. It was neither ‘sold’ nor ‘purchased’ as some Award givers and receivers want to. Secondly, The Sun Newspaper award comes with floodgate of memories of the industrialist’s humble beginning. When Ezenna happened on Nigeria’s business scene almost three decades ago with Orange Drugs as a platform, little did he know that that mustard seed will grow into a giant tree which would eventually earn him TheSun’s recognition as 2016 Manufacturer of the year.
Thirdly Ezenna’s zero to hero life story is refreshing and scintillating just as it is inspiring. Managing Director of the Sun, Eric Osagie, while presenting the foremost industrialist with letter formally notifying him of the Award, alluded to this as one of the reasons he was chosen: “You are an iconic Nigerian manufacturer, who will go down in history as one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time. From a humble beginning as a chemist apprentice and later a skilled drug salesman, you have, through uncommon determination, courage, hard work and belief in your country’s economic potential, left indelible marks in the pharmaceutical, personal care, beverage and lighting product lines”
Essentially, very few people on earth are actually pencils in the hands of God. Ezenna is one of them. He was neither born great nor with silver spoon but through the dint of hard work, abiding faith in God and His special favour, he would later acquire the proverbial silver spoon and achieve greatness on his own.
The Orange Drugs Group boss says this of the Sun Award: “It (the Award) came free of charge…I don’t normally accept awards because awards here are mostly attached to payments. When you are paying for an award, it means it is not given on merit. This award came free of charge and it made us believe you must have seen something around us that made you give us the Award”
Ezenna said the Award will spur him to contribute more to the economy through manufacturing and creation of jobs. From small beginning in 1988 at Owerri, the Imo state capital, The Orange Drugs Group and its brands have grown in leaps and bounds to become leaders in the manufacturing sector and market respectively. The conglomerate has offices across Nigeria and branches in many countries. The company’s brands are also manifestly choice of consumers.
At inception, Ezenna had positioned Orange Drugs to be a net importers and marketers of drugs and pharmaceutical products. Ezenna himself recalls: “It soon became imperative that in order for us to achieve our full strategic objectives we would have to grow the local content. That reality became even more compelling when the Federal Government, NAFDAC announced its policy on drugs importation. That policy banned the importation of certain categories of soaps and pharmaceutical products”.
Almost 30 years down the lane, Orange Drugs has grown to become an indigenous conglomerate now known as the ‘Orange Drug Group’. The Orange Drugs Group is comprised of three subsidiary companies which include:
*Orange Drugs Ltd (ODL)-manufactures soaps, distribution, and marketing of drugs, cosmetics and energy drinks.
*Orange Kalbe Ltd (OKL)-Involved in manufacturing of drugs.
*Orange West Africa Ltd (OWA)-Whole sale franchise partner to represent Osram GmbH, Germany.
A compendium of Orange Drugs Group’s products produced by its three subsidiaries includes:
Soaps and Cosmetics
*Delta soap variants
*Devon soap variants
*Val soap variants
*First laundry soap
*Gardia mosquito repellant
*Passion Energy Drink
*Extra Joss Energy Drink
*Cannon Extra Paracetamol
*Zaiki After5 powder
*APC Plus caplets
*Medik 55 paracetamol
*Goodman Brand of electrical switches and sockets
*Goodman Brand of Energy bulbs and Lamps
*Franchise with Osram GmbHin West Africa as sole distributor (The Orange Drugs Group pioneered the biggest energy evolution in Nigeria by introducing the first ever energy saving bulb, Osram, to the Nigerian market)
In 2006, the Orange Drug Group took a giant leap when it invested in a state of the art soap finishing line in Lagos. Earlier in 2005, the conglomerate had set up a joint drug manufacturing firm in Nigeria with the name Orange Kalbe Limited. It was a partnerrship with Kalbe Group of Indonesia. Orange Kalbe was inaugurated on April 21, 2009, which incidentally was Ezenna’s birthday, by the late Minister for Information and Communication, Professor Dora Akunyili.
Orange Kalbe Limited, at inauguration, had the stored capacity to manufacture 2.8 million tablets per year with only one shift. The cream/gel section of the company has the installed capacity to produce 20 million tubes per year per shift and 40 million tubes per two shifts.
Following the success story of the Orange Drugs Group’s factories in Lagos, the company decided to look east-ward culminating in the birthing of its state of the art Onitsha factory located at No 1 Sir Tony Ezenna Road, Head bridge Industrial Layout, Onitsha, Anambra state.
The Orange Drugs (ODL), Onitsha plant is comprised of High Tech and fully automated saponification process plant with twelve finishing line. The concept is to produce locally, the basic raw materials, “Soap Noodle” for the company’s internal consumption and sale to other companies in the same industry both within and outside Nigeria.
This diversification has given the Orange Drugs Group a competitive edge in terms cost advantage and consistency in quality of the company’s basic raw material input.
The ODL Onitsha plant was fully installed in April 2011 and trial test runs conducted in May 2012.Then on Thursday, August 30, 2012, Nigeria’s industrialization drive recorded a giant leap when former President Goodluck Jonathan commissioned the plant. The novel thing about the ODL Onitsha plant is that it’s the first and only plant in Nigeria that manufactures bulk packaged goods that will be finished in other smaller factories.
The import of Orange Drugs Group plants in parts of the country is that they have created jobs for thousands of Nigerians.
The Onitsha plant alone has about 1,200 work force making it the single largest employer of labour in the Southeast. Indeed, Ezenna has his imprints boldly stamped on the sands of time. As a businessman, job creator and employer of labour, he has saved many young Nigerians from labouring in vain in the labour market.
What would grow to become a flourishing conglomerate, at inception on July 20th 1988 was simply known as ‘Orange Drugs’. The birthing of Orange Drugs of course was to signal Ezenna’s many other milestones that would establish him as an industrialist and business mogul, on the same pedestal as Aliko Dangote,Chief Okoya Thomas, Emma Bishop Okonkwo , Stella Okoli among others.
The then young company was situated at Owerri. However, the need for ease of doing large volume business given the advantage of sea port prompted Ezenna to relocate to Lagos. Orange Drugs was initially located at 14 Okupe Estate,Maryland,Lagos.The company grew into a behemoth, branching boldly into manufacturing thus in 2001 Orange Drugs moved to a bigger place at its current Head office at 66/68 Town Planning Way Ilupeju,Lagos.
Born on April 21, 1957 in Port Harcourt to Ernest Ukwandu Ebiliekwe Ezenna and Mrs. Comfort Ebiliekwe Ezenna of Owerri Akokwa in Ideato South Local Government Area of Imo state, traits of resourcefulness in Ezenna manifested early in life as he underwent tutelage under his late father. His shrewdness in handling his father’s business at a young age had signposted the success story that has become Orange Drugs today.
A passionate philanthropist, the Orange Group Chairman has put smiles on the faces of many.In 2006, to further drive home his passion for the downtrodden, Ezenna set up the Tony Ezenna Foundation with the sole aim of providing scholarships and financial support to indigent families that cannot afford to send their children to school.
He is also involved in providing financial assistance to small scale businesses. Ezenna has contributed immeasurably to the infrastructural development of his immediate community and other communities within the Ideato axis.
A devout Christian of the Catholic faith, he is not unmindful of the fact that God is the unseen hand behind his success in life. This explains why Ezenna puts God first in all his endavours. His philosophy is that life without Christ amounts to crisis, wealth without Godly love is vanity, and that if one must live here on earth to live again hereafter, one must show love and know God.
He contributes to the Church financially and has also built edifices to promote the work of God. This includes the Portaceali Cistern Monastery of Orlu Catholic Diocese, completion of the ultra-modern building for St. David Catholic Church, Owerri Akokwa among others.
The Ikenga Akokwa loves Nigeria so much and has demonstrated this love and patriotic fervor by citing all his companies in Nigeria, always insisting, in his words, that “if you don’t love your country, then you love nothing…my affection is for my own country, then generally, for all mankind”
As Anthony Ifeanyichukwu Ndubuisi Ezenna receives TheSun Manufacturer of The Year Award today, he stands tall among his peers, fulfilled. He shines brightly in the eyes of his benefactors. And grateful to God for His exceeding, uncommon favours and blessings.
Ingram Osigwe is the Media Adviser to Orange Group.