11:00 a.m. Sunday morning early 199something…..
The long-drawn-out service is over-at last! And as we march out we are ooh’ing at the man on the bicycle- he is a part of our Sunday ritual just like the red tomato rice mummy would be making later on! And as other children, whilst our parents made lengthy talks on boring subjects we go tug them and they too knew that the man with the straw hat was just outside the church gate on his bicycle strapping on a white belly filled with iced fan milk products, it was a ritual they had experienced as children; one our children may just experience!
This week, I was thinking about fanyogo (that was what I used to call it)- There must be more to their story than a bunch of men with straw hats and bicycles with large white bellies. What has Fan Milk done so right that they are still in the market today? Why haven’t other competitors been able to overthrow the business even though they have not seemingly improved the quality of their products (in my opinion)? Are they profitable? Who even owns the darned thing? Why have they stuck to bicycles and not even motor cycles as their distribution channel? Who even thought up the idea of bicycles? So I started my research and I came up with some interesting facts about Fan Milk- By the way I love the direct translation of the name Fan Milk into its brand logo- even though we do not think of it consciously it actually is memorable; simple and memorable (the blue & white expanded hand fan that quietly preaches coolness). Anyway here are some of the things I discovered about the little sachet of iced yoghurt we so thoughtlessly devour:
- Fan Milk International was started by a Danish Entrepreneur called Erik Embrog- (Yup Danish not Nigerian sigh)
- The business started in Ghana in 1960 (3 years after their independence) and the model was replicated in Nigerian in 1963 (3 years after our independence)
- Independence had a lot to do with the success of this business with a combination of new born countries, availability of infrastructure(before the wars), developing agricultural and economic sectors- and their first comer advantage
- Today, they operate in 7 African countries- (by the way you totally must taste the fanyogo in Togo & Benin)
- In 2013, the Abraaj group (founded by a Pakistani Arif Naqvi) acquired 100% of the Fanmilk business in West Africa- (they must have been profitable or showed major signs of growth to have attracted a private equity investor of that size)
- According to Forbes, Abraaj is “the undisputed private equity king of investing in the seemingly dangerous markets of Asia, Africa and Latin America” (Do read more about Abraaj & Arif Naqvi)
- Their bicycle venders are a huge part of their success story and they are not looking to eradicate them too soon- why fix what aint broke right?
- I need to mention- they import their raw & packaging materials as well as all equipment utilized for production & even distribution (I know someone can hear me loud and clear)
There you have it! Fan Milk is not just Fan Milk remember that the next time you see another man on a bicycle with straw hat; and yes we do need innovators like Erik and astute business minds like Arif to stand up- we really have no excuse whatsoever for this one. Non whatsoever.
And please do share your most memorable fanyogo moments- I’ll start with mine in the comment box
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