The man behind Innoson, Innocent Chukwuma is not new to many as he has been in the news for several years over the last five years. Interestingly, his company is doing incredibly well and the Innoson brand has been enjoying massive popularity more recently.
Innoson is fast becoming the unofficial Nigerian manufacturer as politicians have been patronizing the brand, more particularly, ever since the ‘buy Naija to grow Naija’ campaign. In this post, we talk about the biography of Innocent Chukwuma, the founder and CEO of Innoson.
Innocent Chukwuma ‘Innoson’ Biography
Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma (born 1961 in Nnewi, Anambra State) is a Nigerian business magnate and investor. He is the founder and CEO of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM), Nigeria’s first indigenous automobile manufacturing company. His father, Chukwuma Mojekwu was a junior civil servant while his mother, Martina Chukwuma was a stay-at-home mum. He is the last of 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.
How Innoson Started
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 had a flair 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.
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 art of buying and selling 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 a 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 close the medicine store and paid full attention to the auto spare-part business.
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 realized 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 motorcycles 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 who introduced the 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 realized 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 manufacturers 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 achievements is the establishment of an automobile manufacturing company in Nigeria. The business mogul established the first indigenous vehicle manufacturing company in Nigeria – Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM).
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 the involvement of Okada riders in heinous crimes and high fatalities. So, he decided to go into the 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 specialize 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 containers, 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. Its 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.
Does Innoson Manufacture or Assemble Vehicles?
Although Innoson claims it manufactures vehicles, we have it on good authority to believe Innoson buys dissembled vehicles and assembles them in Nigeria, just as he did with motorcycles when he started Gabros International with his brother, Gabriel.
Further finds revealed that Innoson’s vehicles, though branded are rebadged Chinese vehicles. For example, the SUV won by Big Brother Naija (Pepper Dem) winner, Mercy Eke, which is the IVM G80 luxury is a Chinese rebadged vehicle called BAIC BJ80. Other vehicles reportedly manufactured by Innoson have surfaced on the internet, albeit the Chinese versions.
To be fair, Innoson has announced time and time again that he sources his vehicle parts from China but it leaves one wondering why his designs are a replica of Chinese vehicles if indeed all he does is just ‘source for parts’ from China.
Another thing worthy of note is that Innoson’s vehicles are much more expensive than its Chinese counterpart despite bothering on rebadging questions. For example, the BJ80 starts from 288,000 yuan to 298,000 Yuan, which is equivalent to about ₦14,900,000 to ₦15,400,000 excluding the cost of shipping and clearing in Nigeria. The Innoson IVM G80 SUV starts at ₦27,825,000.
Despite claims from Innoson that it manufactures vehicles, a simple search of most of his manufactured vehicles will readily point to a Chinese version of the same on Google which begs the question whether or not Innoson is rebadging Chinese vehicles to be sold in Nigeria at exorbitant prices.
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 the Nigerian Institute of Strategic Management.
Innocent Chukwuma currently sits on the board of IVM Innoson Group of Companies and a member of the Manufacturer Association of Nigeria. He also serves as a Chancellor at Imo State University, Owerri.
Innocent Chukwuma Family, Wife & Children
Innocent Chukwuma is married and as much as possible keeps his wife and kids away from the public eyes.
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
Innocent Chukwuma ‘Innoson’ Net Worth
Innocent Chukwuma who is the founder and CEO of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing has an estimated net worth of $1 billion (N362 billion).