Innocent Chukwuma is a Nigerian business magnate and astute entrepreneur. He is the Chairman and founder of Innoson Group of Companies, and also the man behind Africa’s first indigenous motor brand, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing.
Innocent Chukwuma started his small business as a trader in motorcycle spare parts. He has since grown into a force in the auto manufacturing sector in Nigeria. His story is inspiring and a lesson to every young African. A lesson that show that with determination you can achieve the unimaginable.
Background of Innocent Chukwuma
Innocent Chukwuma was born on 1st October, 1961 into a humble family in Uru-Umdim, Nnewi, Anambra State. His father, Chukwuma Mojekwu was a junior civil servant while his mother, Martina Chukwuma was a stay-at-home mum. He is last of the six children, four boys and two girls.
He had his primary and secondary education in his hometown, Uru-Umudim in Nnewi. After Innocent completed his secondary education in 1978, he dreamt of becoming an engineer. He applied to study Engineering at the university but couldn’t get in that year because he did not make the cut-off mark.
Before then, he was assisting his elder brother in his medicine store while he awaited the admission result. During this process, Innocent discovered that he has a natural talent for trading.
When he didn’t meet the admission cut-off, he easily moved on since he has a flare for trade. His brother, Gabriel took him to Chief Romanus Eze Onwuka, popularly known as Rojenny where he served as an apprentice for a year.
His master, Chief Romanus Eze Onwuka is a motorcycle spare parts dealer and also the founder of the first private stadium in Nigeria, Rojenny Stadium in Oba near Onitsha.
His Entrepreneurial Journey
As already stated, Innocent served as an apprentice to Chief Romanus Eze Onwuka who was at the time the biggest motorcycle spare parts dealer in Nnewi. Within a year of his apprenticeship, he mastered the act of buying and selling of motorcycle parts, and later returned to his brother, Gabriel.
At this time, his brother has registered Gabros International to trade in motorcycle parts and gave Innocent the sum of N3,000 to start the business. With free hand to run the new venture, Innocent rented a shop and bought the first goods.
A year later, innocent and his brother took stock of both the medicine store and motorcycle parts business. They found out that Gabros International was generating 10 times more income than the medicine store.
His brother then decided to closed the medicine store and paid full attention to the auto spare-part business.
The Launch of Innoson Group of Companies Limited
In 1981, Innocent Chukwuma departed from his brother and started trading in Honda motorcycle parts. Armed with his savings and the cash his brother gave him, he began trading under the name Innoson Nigeria Limited. As time progressed, he started importing motorcycles.
He realised that people were buying second hand motorcycles because the new ones were expensive. The new motorcycles were expensive because they were imported assembled and a 40ft container could only take 40 motorcycles which imparted the cost of the motorcycle.
Solving The Problem
Innocent Chukwuma sort ways to cut down the cost of imported new motorcycles so Nigerians can afford new motorcycles. This he did by importing the motorcycles disassembled so more motorcycles can fit into the container and getting them assembled here in Nigeria.
With this new idea, he was able to import 200 units of motorcycle in the same 40ft container and reassembled them upon their arrival in Nigeria. This gave him the edge to sell cheaper than his competitors at the rate of N60,000 to 80,000 instead of N150,000.
The skillful entrepreneur, Innocent Chukwuma was the first person that introduced Jingcheng brand of motorcycle into Nigeria.
This was how Innocent Chukwuma’s company started assembling branded motorcycle just like the Leventis and Boulos Enterprises. Today, the company is one of the major importers, suppliers and assemblers of motorcycles and motorcycle parts in Nigeria and West Africa as a whole.
As the saying goes, ‘expansion comes from wanting more and more… until there is nothing left”. The entrepreneur is always innovative looking for new markets and new ways to sell to his customers.
In his words, “…I looked at a motorcycle and realised that there is a lot of plastic on the body. So I set up a plastic factory. I decided to produce all the plastic components in my factories so that more units of the spare parts can go into a container.”
Today, his plastic factory is one of the largest manufacturer of crash helmets in West Africa and also the largest manufacturer of plastic products in Nigeria.
The First Indigenous Vehicle Manufacturing Company
One of Innocent Chukwuma’s cutting edge achievement is the establishment of automobile manufacturing company in Nigeria. The business mogul established the first indigenous vehicle manufacturing company in Nigeria.
According to him in Vanguard Newspaper, he noticed everyone was involved in motorcycle business including the Indians in Nigeria. And also, the state governments started banning commercial motorcycles due to involvement of Okada riders in heinous crimes and high fatalities. So, he decided to go into manufacturing of motors.
Subsidiaries of Innoson Group of Companies
Innoson Nigeria Limited
The company was incorporated in July, 1987 and entered into a joint venture of assembling motorcycle in Nigeria with Chinese Motorcycle Manufacturer in 1994. They specialise in the manufacturing of motorcycles, tricycles, spare parts and accessories. It is located in Nnewi, Anambra State.
Innoson Technical & Industrial Co. Ltd
The company commenced operations in October, 2002 with its head office/factory at Plot W/L Industrial Layout, Emene, Enugu State. They produce high quality household and industrial plastics, health and safety accessories, storage container, fixture & fittings, electrical components and accessories.
Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM)
The company was incorporated in 2007 and commissioned on the 15th of October, 2010 by President Goodluck Ebele Johnathan at Nnewi. It’s product line includes high capacity city bus, safe and cost effective mini & midi buses, pick-up trucks and garbage collecting vehicles. The company also provides good services for repairs and parts supply.
Innoson General Tyres and Tubes Co. Ltd
The company produces motorcycles tyres and tubes. They produce about 8,000 pieces of motorcycle tyres and 13,000 tubes daily. The company’s plant is located in Enugu State, South-East region of Nigeria.
Boards where Innocent Chukwuma Serves
In 2013, he was appointed the Deputy Chairman, Board of Trustees National Coalition for Jonathan/Sambo presidency. The group was set up to promote the election of the former Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan.
He was made honorary Life Vice president of the Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture on 23rd of November, 2013. Innocent is also a grand fellow of Nigerian Institute of Strategic Management.
Innocent Chukwuma currently sits on the board of IVM Innoson Group of Companies and a member of Manufacturer Association of Nigeria. He also serves as a Chancellor at Imo State University, Owerri.
Recognition and Awards
Justice of Peace by Enugu State Government 2006
Industrialist of the Year by Nigerian Union of Journalist, Enugu State 2006
Meritorious Awards by Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) 2008
Award of Excellence, Manufacturers Association of Nigerian (MAN) 2008
Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) 2008
Honorary Doctorate Degree in Business Administration by Enugu State University of Science and Technology 2011
Officer of the Federal Republic 2011
Best Customer by Bank of Industry, 2011
Business Person of the Year by the Sun Publishing Limited 2011
Entrepreneur of the Year by Wesley University of Science and Technology, Akure 2012
Auto Personality of the Year by Guild Motoring Correspondence 2013
Most Innovative Entrepreneur by Vanguard Newspaper 2013
Honorary Doctorate Degree in Business Administration by University of Nigeria 2014
Entrepreneurial Ambassador by Nigeria Arise 2014
Accomplished Contemporary Entrepreneurs’ Award by Federal Government 2014
Professor Barth Nnaji Prize for Technology at Igbo Awards 2017.