“We have a special person here today. He is the youngest CEO in the room. He runs Luxury Real Estate Company – Sujimoto, and he’s the son of one of our oldest distributors. I’ll call him my friend. I think he has something interesting to say.”
MD Nestle Nigeria, Dharnesh Gordhon, introduced me to a crowd of Business leaders and CEOs.
?“Bienvenue Monsieur Bulcke. Ekabo si ipinle eko. (Welcome to Lagos)” I reminisced Mr. Paul Bulcke’s arrival, during his initial visit to Lagos.
I was honored to have been invited to this roundtable lunch. Indeed, ti omode ba m’owo we, aba agba jeun. That is a Yoruba adage, which can be safely translated to mean ‘a diligent child earns the respect of his elders’. Never could I have imagined that I was going to be in the same room with such distinguished personalities. My confidence soared. I felt as though I was standing on the shoulders of giants. Mr. Paul Bulcke, Nestle Group CEO; Mr. David Ifezulike,Chairman Board Directors Nestlé Nigeria Plc.; Dharnesh Gordhon, Nestle MD Nigeria; Mr. Kais Marzouki, Nestle MD for West Africa; Ms. Wan Lin Martello , Executive Vice President Nestlé S.A., Head of Zone Asia, Oceania and Africa; Mr. Jimi Awosika, CEO Insight Communications Limited; Mr. Segun Fagboyegun, CEO JOF Nigeria; Mrs. Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli MFR, Head of Sahel Capital and the amazing Mr. Ladi Balogun, MD of FCMB.
“Yes it is very easy to think only of Nestle as the 2nd largest company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. But then, it is also important to understand Nestle’s fundamental social responsibilities and how it’s impacted our society.
It is a norm especially within our clime, that without education, success is not guaranteed. However, Nestle broke this norm, by supporting an uneducated woman, my mother who went from being a simple sales girl to becoming one of Nestlé’s top three distributors within Nigeria. Nestle transformed a girl’s vision to a woman’s reality. She became successful and sent all of us to school. Without Nestle, I might not be standing here today.”
I turned to the charming and very energetic Mr. Bulcke, a man that controls more than 86 Directors in 86 countries.
“How do you manage 86 DHARNESHes?”
Everyone laughed. His response?
‘I can’t manage all of the Dharneshes. I do not have to manage this Dharnesh in particular. One of the principles of Nestle, and I believe it’s a fundamental core of our business, is our people. We take our time to choose the best and trust them with our mission. We set principles. We understand our visions and we set our targets. Above all, our people are our strength.
Mr. Bulcke went on to add that during his first years in Peru, Nestle went through one of the most difficult times. But what he has learnt from that, which he holds till date, is RESILIENCE. Resilience in times of trouble, resilience even when others are nervous, resilience and the strength of character to stay focused, even when the going gets tough.
His final words got me the most. Mr. Bulcke maintained that no matter how terrifying the current state of the Nigerian economy was, “we are here to stay, we aint going anywhere….”