Monday, September 27Inside Business Africa

Renovation & Innovation Key to Mouka’s Success – Ray Murphy

For over 60 years, Mouka Foam has fought for and won the hearts of Nigerians standing one of the most recognized foam brands Nigeria. In this interview, Mr Ray Murphy, CEO Mouka Limited, highlights the factors that have kept Mouka at the top of consumers minds. 

Taking a look at Nigeria at 60, what are your firm’s contributions to the Country?

Interesting we are talking about Nigeria at 60 because coincidentally we recently marked Mouka’s 60th anniversary in November last year with a major celebratory event in Lagos. The Mouka megabrand started from a relatively humble base in northern Nigeria, Kano to be precise. With wide manufacturing and distribution footprint across the nation, Mouka provides stable jobs for over 800 staff. Also, we have been giving back to the environs in which we operate by deploying various CSR initiatives. Most important of all, we have been providing millions of Nigerians with top quality sleep solutions to ensure they are well-rested and productive the next day. As you know, quality sleep is associated with so many factors that contribute positively to the development of every economy, such as good health, academic prosperity, alertness, and so much more.

What has been the overall brand vision for Mouka?

The vision from the onset was to build a remarkable brand franchise while ensuring our products are easily accessible and affordable to our consumers. By accessible, we mean no matter where you live, whether up north, down south, east or west, you can easily find a Mouka sales outlet near you.This has always been the vision of the founders of Mouka, and over the years, we have tried to stay true to that vision.

What are the existing products under the Mouka Umbrella?

Mouka has a broad assortment of branded mattresses and pillows as well as other sleep accessories which are categorised into ranges. We have various brands in the economy, mass-market, Wellbeing and luxury ranges. These brands are of different architectures, tailored to meet consumer needs and preferences.

In the evolution of our product portfolio, over the years, we have added even more value to our products, each product built with its unique selling proposition. A couple of years ago, we launched a proposition for children based on valid consumer insights called Mouka Dreamtime mattress, which is a water-resistant yet breathable product. Recently, we upgraded our orthopaedic range of mattresses called Wellbeing, which is exclusively endorsed by the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy. We also renovated our pillow assortment, which comprises of various foam and fibre brands. Mouka caters to a diverse consumer base with specific sleep needs based on their age, body build, budget and lifestyle. We ensure there is a world-class Mouka product to provide each consumer with the quality sleep they deserve.

What are thoughts on where Nigeria stands as a Country considering Nigeria is 60?

If you had asked this question 10 years ago, you have gotten a specific response. If you asked this same question 5 years ago during the oil and currency crisis, you would have gotten a different reaction. Today with the double jeopardy of the COVID pandemic and the Impact on the declining oil prices on the economy,you will get a completely different answer. Nigeria is a powerhouse not just in West Africa, but entire Africa. I believe Nigeria has achieved its objectives in many ways,such as the resilience of its people and economy. The nation has been able to rise above everything that has been thrown its way, which is truly commendable.

I guess with the benefit of hindsight, I have looked at some of the Asian tigers, countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and what catalysts drove those economies forward. It wasn’t at all oil-based. There was a lot of Infrastructure, technology and manufacturing investments to list a few.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I think as we look forward to the next couple of decades; I think Nigeria needs to be looking outwards to learn from the Asian tigers. We should think of what we can adopt and adapt from those successful economies which can take Nigeria further. We should aim to be not just the bread basket but the supply king across West Africa and Central Africa.

What strategies can Nigeria adopt in the coming years?

What Nigeria needs to do is to build technical competence and develop technical leadership within Africa. For example, why are imported products assembled in China or Thailand or Vietnam and not Nigeria? Incentives can be put in place to encourage multinationals to choose Nigeria as the supply base for many of these imported products.

Another strategy is diversification into agriculture as the nation needs to be able to feed itself.

Also, there needs to be a change in focus on the source of revenue from oil. Our business climate needs to be nurtured to attract direct foreign investments into different sectors, such as electronics.

How would you weigh policy-making in that regard and what can be done specifically?

We should think of incentives to automate our operations in most industries. Presently, we are a labour-intensive nation and investment in automation is the way to go to improve on quality, speed and capacity. Automation will invariably drive down our product costs and increase profitability.

Furthermore, we should encourage organisations to invest in their people and welcome young, educated, qualified individuals who don’t necessarily have the work experience into their workforce. This is something we do in Mouka. We have a Management Graduate Program; we also have a Fast Track Manager Program within the organisation. Also, we send the top 25 managers to Lagos Business School to do what we call the Mouka MBA, which is a significant investment in our people. We will love to do more if we have incentives from the government to employ, educate and develop the next generations of Mouka Managers.

We have a high level of youth unemployment in Nigeria. We need the intervention of the public and private sector in changing this narrative.

How can Nigeria maximise the potential in the informal sector?

Vietnam has a population of 100 million, Thailand, 60 million, and India, 1.3 billion people respectively.These economies have huge informal sectors which have progressively formalised and are now contributing to the economy. Their informal sectors are employing people formally, paying taxes, abiding by health and safety regulations as well. Nigeria needs to modernize the informal sector further to achieve this. I think we can learn from what other emerging economies have done successfully over the last 20-25 years.

As a company that is over 60 years old, what strategy would you say has driven you to stand a long while?

The first strategy is to put our consumer-first always.We are competing day in, day out for consumers hard-earned Naira, so we have to keep giving them quality products at affordable prices. We invest in our people (our staff and Business Partners), production facilities, advertising and promotions; in terms of communicating to the consumers why Mouka products should be their only option. In the last five years,we have invested a lot more in talking directly to the consumer, which is very important to us.

The consumers have choices, they can save money and buy a low quality unknown inferior product, or they can invest a little bit more money in a brand with a heritage of quality. With a trusted brand, they get value for money and durability. We must communicate this to the consumer.

The second and third strategies are innovation and renovation of our portfolio. Over the years, we have continued to renovate our brands to keep them modern and contemporary.  Sitting alongside renovation has been innovation. We have a dedicated team within Mouka who focus on research and development of our products.They are continuously developing new exciting offerings, and they committed to launching a new productevery quarter. So far, they’ve been able to deliver on that commitment.

The fourth strategy is the growth and development of the Mouka people. We have continuously invested in upgrading the skills of our people. I spoke earlier about the partnership that we have with Lagos Business school. In Mouka, It doesn’t matter if you are a factory worker or you serve in the canteen, regardless of where you are in the company there is a training plan for you. In terms of retention of the Mouka people, despite the economic turbulence, we have not retrenched our staff. On the contrary, we have increased our headcounts by recruiting new people into the company.

The fifth is our commercial strategy with our loyal base of about 350 business partners nationwide. We make sure that we have commercial plans and commercial policies in place to guide our operations. It is through these distributors that we can reach our consumers via over a thousand Mouka branded outlets.

To cap this off, our consumers, renovation/innovation, Mouka people, Mouka distributors are the five pillars to our success.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is thefutu-1024x687.jpgRay Murphy, Managing Director/CEO, Mouka Limited

 In Mouka, It doesn’t matter if you are a factory worker or you serve in the canteen, regardless of where you are in the company there is a training plan for you. In terms of retention of the Mouka people, despite the economic turbulence, we have not retrenched our staff. On the contrary, we have increased our headcounts by recruiting new people into the company.

In Mouka, It doesn’t matter if you are a factory worker or you serve in the canteen, regardless of where you are in the company there is a training plan for you. In terms of retention of the Mouka people, despite the economic turbulence, we have not retrenched our staff. On the contrary, we have increased our headcounts by recruiting new people into the company.

What would be your best advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Mouka encourages entrepreneurship and works with many young and inspiring entrpreneurs. From software to material supplies, and logistics, Mouka is currently patronising entrepreneurs.  A number of our business partners are generational entrepreneurs: their businesses have transited from parents to children.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, I would advise them to upscale their I.T. skills. Without sounding disrespectful to our elders, the younger generations are much more I.T Inclined.It is also vital that they venture into a lucrative industry.

What is next for Mouka?

I keep going back to innovation and renovation for Mouka to continue to survive and continue to be Nigeria’s number one brand of mattresses, pillows and other bedding products. We will keep renovating and innovating to keep our portfolio attractive and relevant. We will keep meeting and anticipating the needs of our consumers.

Final Comments on the Country and to your Customers

Congratulations to Nigeria at 60 in a maturing democracy. The potential to be the powerhouse of Africa lies within us. Challenges lie ahead, but tremendous opportunities are also ahead ofus as long as we can tap into the youth to work and add value to the economy.

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