Nigerian automobile entrepreneur Cosmas Maduka is unassuming and soft-spoken. His hallmark is a ‘Jesus is Lord’ brooch that he wears and has over the years become synonymous with his style. Maduka is President and Chairman of Coscharis Group, franchise holders of over eight automobile brands and one of the largest distributors of spare car parts in Nigeria.
The company also has interests in real estate, banking, technology, medical equipment, petrochemicals, elevators and agriculture. On average, the company sells more than 400 cars per month with prices around N150 million ($420,000) for the top end of its luxury fleet, which includes Rolls-Royce, BMW, Jaguar, Range Rover and Ford.
But the man who also holds the number two position in the ICT market in Nigeria through his brand, Coscharis Technologies Limited, and its pool of partners which includes HP, Microsoft and Lenovo, had to overcome some extreme difficulties to become the success story he is today.
Maduka lost his father at the age of four and had to fend for himself and his family selling bean cake (a local delicacy) on the streets. By the time he was seven, he was already working as an apprentice and continued for seven years without pay with the shop floor he was trading on doubling as his bed at night.
Today, with those dark days firmly behind him and an estimated net worth of $500 million, Maduka spends most of his time on the road, or in the air, building new partnerships for his various entrepreneurial pursuits. We chatted with him as he waited in the business class lounge at Murtala Muhammed International airport in Lagos for a flight to Bangkok, about what it is like to travel the globe and how certain cultures resonate with him more than others.
Life in Nigeria seems to be a constant whirlwind for you and your family. Where is your favorite destination to get away?
My favorite getaway location is Japan and there are a number of reasons. I have learned a lot of things from the Japanese and I see them as an inspiration. I went to Japan for the first time in 1979 and I was so impressed by the culture and courtesy of the people. It was strange for me to witness, even at the tollgate, that men who collect money from passengers, on behalf of the government, bow to as many vehicles as they collect money from. It was a big surprise for me because this was not their personal money but the level of dedication was amazing. That courtesy is seen everywhere you go, from the airport to the restaurant and that embodies the type of person I am. From the early 80s, I used to go to Japan for business and even after that, I would spend some more time moving around to see more of the culture and their way of life influenced me as a person and Coscharis as well.
What is it about their culture that has influenced the way you run your business?
If the Japanese are not happy about their boss, they actually over-deliver instead of other places where most people will cut back on their output or even go on strike or protest. I have never heard that employees in Japan have gone on strike even when they are angry. They are efficient with time and they always keep to their promise; that is why in my organization, I always under-promise and over-deliver.
What is your favorite airline to travel on?
It used to be KLM in the early days but, in the last 10 years, I travel with Emirates.
What is your favorite city to stay in?
I am mostly in three cities in Japan – Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.
What is your favorite hotel?
I usually stay at the Hotel Plaza Osaka and Imperial Hotel Tokyo. I look for a decent and clean hotel. I want to stay in a place where there is no smoking and the staff is warm and pleasant. The cleanliness in Japan is also very impressive.
What are your favorite activities in Japan?
I usually go to Japan for work but I have also been there on holiday with the family and sometimes I combine the two. I go to work in the morning and during the evening we go out for dinner. If I am in Tokyo, I like to take a walk after dinner around the ‘emperor park’. The park is very large and beautiful and it is around the castle where the emperor lived. I also visited Disneyland Tokyo with the family during one vacation and have also seen the famous Mt. Fuji which is an active volcano, as well as other rural areas. I have been to Kyoto where there is a lot of beautiful scenery and mountain areas to explore. I like to go during the springtime when you see the beautiful cherry blossoms. It is a really amazing sight and many people travel all over the world to watch this spectacle.
How much do you spend on your travels?
Japan is quite expensive. First class tickets to Tokyo are on average about $6,000. The country has efficient train systems, both the local and express trains, which can help you save some money on your travel. You will hardly find a hotel for $100; so on average you are looking at $200 a night unless you want to go very far out of the city. Depending on where you eat, the prices also vary. Most five-star hotels are averaging about $80 to $100.
What is your biggest takeaway from the Japanese culture?
I will be honest and admit that there is no way I will have my success story without the Japanese. Meeting the Japanese transformed my way of thinking. I started setting up my office model the way I see them set up their office model. I drew inspiration from them in many aspects of my business. I learned integrity from them. It is a way of living for them. Respect for time is paramount. If a Japanese man gives you an appointment for 10AM, by 9.30AM, he is in a restaurant next door to your office. They don’t come 15 minutes before or 10 minutes after. Once it is 10AM, they knock on your door. If he comes two minutes late, he apologizes for almost 10 minutes for being late because it is simply not accepted in the culture. They helped me learn the value of making a promise and keeping it and that has completely transformed the way I do business.
First-class air ticket from Lagos: $6,000
Hotel room per night: $200
Meal at a five-star hotel: From $80 to $100
Bad Times For Billionaire Branson–Staff At Virgin Atlantic Asked To Take Unpaid Leave As Coronavirus Cripples Air Travel
Billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has been criticized by a U.K. politician for airline Virgin Atlantic’s request on Monday for staff to take eight weeks unpaid leave during the coronavirus pandemic.
Labour MP Kate Osborne, the second U.K. politician to be diagnosed with coronavirus, described Virgin Atlantic’s decision as “an absolute disgrace” on Twitter.
Author Liam Young tweeted, “Virgin Atlantic have 8,500 employees and Branson has asked them to take 8 weeks unpaid leave. It would cost £4.2 million to pay all of these employees £500 a week to cover this leave. In total that’s a cost of £34 million for 8 weeks.”
The implication appears to be that billionaire Richard Branson, whose net worth Forbes estimates $3.8 billion, could afford to cover this cost.
Virgin Atlantic confirmed in a statement Monday that it plans to reduce its schedule and prioritize routes based on customer demand. The airline predicts an 80% reduction in flights per day, and adds, “As a direct consequence we will be parking approximately 75% of our fleet by 26 March and at points in April will go up to 85%.”
Virgin Atlantic describes the changes as “drastic measures” put in place to “ensure cash is preserved, costs are controlled, and the future of the airline is safeguarded.”
Adding, “Staff will be asked to take eight weeks unpaid leave over the next three months, with the cost spread over six months’ salary, to drastically reduce costs without job losses.” The airline confirms its decision has received the support of unions BALPA and UNITE in agreeing to the unpaid leave.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “The aviation industry is facing unprecedented pressure. We are appealing to the [U.K] government for clear, decisive and unwavering support. Our industry needs emergency credit facilities to a value of £5-7.5 billion, to bolster confidence and to prevent credit card processors from withholding customer payments.”
Bad Times For Branson
Branson’s business empire has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
On March 14 the Virgin Voyages cruise ship operation decided to postpone the launch of its new Scarlet Lady cruise line. “The current global health crisis is understandably making many people rethink upcoming travel plans,” Virgin Voyages confirmed in a statement.
On March 5, British airline Flybe — which is part owned by Virgin Atlantic— collapsed after it succumbed to its financial woes and weakened demand because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Following the announcement of Flybe’s collapse, Virgin Atlantic said: “Sadly, despite the efforts of all involved to turn the airline around, not least the people of Flybe, the impact of Covid-19 on Flybe’s trading means that the consortium can no longer commit to continued financial support.”
Flybe, which once was Europe’s largest independent regional carrier, narrowly escaped collapse in January, after being bought by Cyrus Capital, Virgin Atlantic and Stobart last year.
Virgin Galactic, Branson’s publicly traded space tourism arm, has seen its shares slump since its mid February high of $37.26 on the NYSE. Having lost another 10% of value as of 4:30 pm U.K. time on Monday, Virgin Galactic is priced at $13.30 and falling. Branson’s Virgin Investment Limited owns 47% of Virgin Galactic through an investment entity, Vieco.
Emerging Economies, But Weaker Passports
Africa dominates the bottom of the rung in the 2020 Henley Passport Index. A majority of the continent’s passport-holders don’t have the luxury of visa-free travel around the world.
The African Union may be gearing for a common African passport, but for now, it seems like most African passports don’t have what it takes to get to other parts of the world.
In the recently-released Henley Passport Index, which measures all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa, only two African countries –Seychelles and Mauritius — are in the top 50.
The rest of the continent dominates the bottom quarter of the rankings with weaker passports than most, pointing to difficult and intensive visa processes in most cases.
Africa’s biggest economy and one of its most influential, Nigeria, is at the end of the travel freedom spectrum, at a pitiful number 95 with Djibouti. Nigeria’s population of 200 million can only travel to 46 countries without obtaining a visa in advance.
Even passport-holders from Samoa and Serbia have a better chance of traveling to most places in the world, visa-free, than those in South Africa, the African continent’s second biggest economy.
Ranked 56, the number of global destinations South African passport-holders can travel to is 100.
It is followed by its southern African neighbor, Botswana, ranking at 62 with a score of 84.
Seychelles, the archipelago country in the Indian Ocean, is Africa’s top-ranking African passport in this regard, at 29 with access to 151 destinations worldwide.
It is quickly followed by Mauritius which is at 32 with a score of 146 destinations passport-holders of this country can visit.
The lowest-ranking African country is Somalia at 104. Passport-holders from this tiny nation in the Horn of Africa can only visit 32 countries without a pre-departure visa
Globally, Asia dominates the list. For the third consecutive year, Japan has secured the top spot on the index — which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) — with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 191. Singapore holds on to its second place position with a score of 190.
Executive Travel: Slikour’s Mexico
The South African hip-hop artist and entrepreneur experienced a hurricane and a seismic spiritual shift in the city of Cancun.
It has been a journey, a lot to learn and a lot learned,” says Siyabonga Metane, popularly known on South African hip-hop stages as ‘Slikour’.
The learnings have been in music and business, but the journeys have been beyond both.
Just two years post South Africa’s democratic elections in 1994, Slikour was part of a rap group named Skwatta Kamp, formed on the streets of the country’s Gauteng province, with the aim of commercializing the local hip-hop scene.
The group consisted of seven members and most of them went on to release solo albums. Slikour released two, Ventilation Mix Tape Vol.1 and 2, in 2005 and 2007. Long before that, in 2002, Slikour had turned entrepreneur, co-founding Buttabing Entertainment, a record label and artist management organization.
Today, he is also the founder of SlikourOnLife, a prominent urban culture online publication that he started in 2014 catering to music lovers.
Returning to the word ‘journey’, it especially sparks memories of a trip he undertook in 2011 to Cancun, a Mexican city on the Yucatán Peninsula bordering the Caribbean Sea, known for its beaches, resorts and nightlife. Slikour was there for a television shoot as part of a group. The trip still stands out in his mind.
He was not blown away by the city initially, but as he visited some of Cancun’s tourism attractions, he began to change his perception.
Ultimately, it proved to be what he calls an amazing rendezvous.
“The people were pretty much speaking Spanish,” he chuckles, recalling being immersed in the local culture.
READ MORE | Executive Travel: Mpho Popps’ Ghana
“There are a lot of laborers there and the people are beautiful and accommodating, but we never really spoke or interacted with the community.”
Slikour decided to savor the city’s famed nightlife instead and see for himself what all the hype was about.
It all began and ended with tequila, a distilled alcoholic drink and one of Mexico’s most famous exports, made of the blue agave plant from the city of Tequila in Mexico.
“Everything you do there is done with tequila. I don’t drink alcohol, but I had to accept and apply myself because there, they don’t use tomato sauce, they use tequila; I literally had to get into the tequila swag; it’s everything there. Tequila started there,” Slikour says.
Mexico is known for its recurring hurricanes too, which Slikour also got a taste of while there.
“After a few days of getting there, we were warned of a hurricane, and asked to close our doors and windows, and because these things happen regularly, there’s a drill to follow. The hurricane wasn’t a major one but I was excited because I wanted to see it. I had to look through the window,” he says.
The hurricanes are so frequent in Mexico that he likens the precautions taken to lighting a candle during South Africa’s frequent power cuts.
Despite this exhilarating encounter with nature, the real earth-shaking experience for him, however, happened deep inside a cave in the city of Cancun – and also deep inside him.
READ MORE | Executive Travel: Nomzamo Mbatha’s Kenya
“My spiritual [epiphany] was when I went into those caves. You go in there with your self-assurance, claiming you understand everything. Thereon, they tell you where everything comes from and all of a sudden, you become this very small thing in this big ecosystem. It just shows how everything affects everything,” Slikour says.
The tour guides explained how everything inside the cave came from rain, elaborating how it was connected to the core of the earth; which is where they were at the time.
Slikour was in Cancun for two weeks, and also visited the pyramids.
“The Mexicans didn’t have all the mathematics that we have now but the pyramids were built to perfection. It just showed you how forward-thinking they were and how behind we are in as much as we think we are forward; we just have technology. We don’t think the way historic societies used to think,” says Slikour, in deep reflection.
Mexico is a place he would return to, anyday, in a heartbeat.
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