Welcome to the world of Coscharis Group, one of the biggest, multi-billion Naira business empires in Nigeria. Founded 41 years ago, the company, has been nurtured by a six-member family dynasty made up of Cosmas Maduka as Founder, President/CEO; his wife, Charity; their four children and supported by carefully-selected experts from outside the family.
A school dropout at the age of seven, Maduka was propelled by a chil to be successful and rose from grass to grace. Today, he runs an automobile business that is arguably second to none in Nigeria. He started Coscharis Motors as a one-man business and, over the years, transformed it into an indigenous conglomerate with diverse interest in manufacturing, ICT, petrochemicals, elevators, banking, real estate, auto care, auto components sales and services, agric and agro-allied businesses. These businesses are carried out through numerous companies organized under the umbrella of Coscharis Group.
He explains: “Many people look at Coscharis as a company that is into auto business only. But that is not the case. Our automobile business is just 17 years old while Coscharis has been in business for 42 years.” Coscharis Group comprises Coscharis Motors which deals in automobile and spare parts sales; Coscharis Privileges which produces bottled water and yoghurt; and Coscharis Medicals which is into sales of medical equipment. Others are Coscharis Technology that sells hardware and software; Coscharis Mobility which specializes in leasing of cars as well as providing drivers to companies and; Coscharis Agro-Allied where we are involved in rice plantation.” The strategic placement into key sectors of the country’s economy showcases the leadership, business acumen and doggedness of Maduka, the Coscharis brand icon.
Maduka said his vision for the company is to become a timeless institution, create relevance and value. His ambition is for his empire to acquire wider business territory, and he is actualizing just that. “I have so much aspired to build a car, not just sell cars,” he said. “I saw the destination (a long time ago) but the route is vague. Today, the vision is becoming a reality. In 2015, we rolled out in our plant in Ikeja for our first Ford pick-up truck and so we are producing Ford brands today in Nigeria and we believe that other models of the brand will come on stream as time progresses.” He is also launching into the agricultural industry, a dream he nurtured for 29 years. He acquired 3, 000 acres of land in Anambra State and in its first cropping season, the Group has added Coscharis Rice to its product portfolio. “We expect to create one billion-dollar business in rice production and by the time the agro-allied business is fully developed, we should be able to employ over 3,000 people in Anambra state. We are not yet there but we are growing and the future is very bright for us.”
For Maduka, the Coscharis President, life has not always been rosy. In fact, he had to overcome extreme difficulties very early in life to become the success story that he is today. He was born in 1958 in Jos to Mr. and Mrs. Peter and Rose Maduka, indigenes of Nnewi, Anambra state. His father died when he was four years old and with nobody to pay his way, little Maduka dropped out of primary school at the age of seven and had to fend for himself selling Akara (bean cake), a cheap local delicacy, for his mother on the streets. By the time he was seven, he became an apprentice to his uncle who was a spare parts seller in Lagos. In the seven years as an apprentice, the shop floor he was trading on doubled as his bed at night. After seven years with his uncle, Maduka had issues with his boss and they had to part ways, receiving only N200 as his pay-off. With that, he partnered with his brother to trade under the business name of “Maduka Brothers.” Again, due to differences in approach to life and business, the brother left. Now alone, Cosmas ventured into motorcycle spare parts His first breakthrough came when he went to Boulus Enterprises, a major Bicycle and Motorcycle marketer then in Nigeria, to purchase motorcycle parts. There, he stumbled on an innovation called motorcycle crash ban. He bought several cartons of this and then removed the address of Boulus from the pack so that others would not know where he bought them from. Later, he set up CosDave with his friend David, but this partnership ended due to ideological differences. By this time his capital had grown to N3,000. “I tried partnerships with friends but they all failed. That was how I set up Coscharis Motors (in 1977) which later grew into Coscharis Group,” he explains. The company engaged in the importation and distribution of genuine automobile spare parts, accessories of Japanese vehicles and several kinds of automobile-related products.
His major breakthrough came in 1982 when the Nigerian Government granted import licenses to 10 indigenous companies to import automobiles. Coscharis was one of them. That marked the beginning of the rapid growth of the business that has given birth to the numerous subsidiaries that we know today. In 1998, Coscharis secured the exclusive rights to market BMW brands such as BMW X1,BMW X3, BMW X5 and BMW X6 in Nigeria. He later added Rand Rover car brands such as Range Rover Sports, Range Rover Evoque, Range Rover Vouge Discovery 4, The Defender and Freelander. In 2001, the company diversified into the sales of American car brands such as Ford and MG. Today, on the average, the company sells more than 400 cars per month with prices around N150million ($420,000) for the top end of its luxury fleet, which includes Rolls-Royce, BMW, Jaguar, Range Rover and Ford. The Coscharis Group is rated one of the top 50 brands in Nigeria by Top 50 Brands Nigeria. In 2015, Maduka appeared on Forbes Africa cover as the man who turned $1 to $500million.
The Coscharis Group President sits on the board of several reputable companies and organizations, notable among which are CG-EKO LLP, First System Refinishes Ltd, CGBIOstadt Limited, Sixt Rentals. He served as a director in Access Bank Plc, one of the leading banks in Nigeria, for 12 years from 2000-2012. He also served as the President/Chairman of the Nigerian Table Tennis Federation for 16 years during which Nigeria led Africa in all events. He led the Nigerian team to the Olympics Games in Atlanta (1996), Athens (2000), Sidney (2004) and Beijing (2008).
The entrepreneur par excellence who is also a motivational speaker also plays mentoring role to upcoming entrepreneurs. And his contribution to Nigeria’s economy and the larger society has not gone unnoticed. In 2003, Maduka was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration (PhD) by the University of Nigeria Nsukka. In 2012, he was inducted as Harvard Business School Alumni, having completed an Executive Education Programme.. The icing on the cake came when in 2012, Maduka was among the few persons honoured by President Goodluck Jonathan with the National Honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).
Inspiration, life-style and philosophy
Maduka’s phenomenal success in business and in life can be traced to aspirations, inspirations and philosophy which he picked up in what he calls “the school of life.” He recalls that as a boy his burning desire was to be wealthy and successful. “I used to leave my head bald because that was the label for successful men in my village then. Any time I visited the barber, I would tell him to take away the hair on the centre of my head which is the reigning style of rich people, thinking that there was a magic of success that comes with being bald-headed.”
Even when fate denied him formal education and thrust him into the world of business, that desire for success guided his every step, action, relationship, and code of life generally. One person that he respects and admires so much is the late William Branham. “I can’t go a day without listening to his messages. I draw a lot of energy and inspiration from his works. I admire his simplicity and humility despite his status.” The Coscharis President who visited Japan frequently early in his business career in the course of shopping for automobile spare parts attributes his success in business to the Japanese. “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.” Maduka who has since made Japan his favourite destination for business and leisure trips, drew inspiration from the Japanese in many aspects of his business. “If a Japanese man gives you an appointment for 10.00am, by 9.30am, he is in a restaurant next door to your office. They don’t come 15 minutes before or 10 minutes after… If he comes two minutes late he apologizes for almost 10 minutes for being late because it is simply not accepted in their culture.” He said the Japanese helped him learn the value of making a promise and keeping it, “and that has completely transformed the way I do business…I model my life after them. I love their commitment, humility, precision and hard work. I learnt most of my character from them, especially commitment. If I had the privilege to write my autobiography, I will acknowledge the Japanese.”
This amply explains the unassuming and soft-spoken nature of the Nigerian automobile entrepreneur. A Christian who gave his life to Christ early in life, Maduka’s hallmark is a “Jesus is Lord” brooch that he wears and has, over the years, become synonymous with his style. As President of Cosharis Group, Maduka lives like a king or sovereign president: spends most of his time on the road, or in the air, building new relationships; visits different countries at will, particularly Japan; stays in some of the best hotels and eats the best food money can buy. But, in line with his humble and Christian life, “I don’t party, smoke, drink and I don’t go clubbing. Incidentally, I do not watch television.” He explains: “I have been able to raise five kids without television. I make do with the print media for any information I need to know about latest events. Not that I am a fanatic but the time I would have spent watching television, I would rather exchange it with my family and engage in some other things that will develop me.”
As should be expected, the Coscharis President also drives some of the best cars in town. “At a time, I used to have six different models of BMW in my garage. I love cars generally and I like driving myself. But I prefer driving manual to automatic because that’s where I get the best performance and it makes me to be in full control. Automatic is too sluggish for me, I must confess. But while he loves driving good cars, don’t be surprised that he still drives motor bikes. “We are bikers in my family. To date, I drive my motorcycle around. I drive motorcycle to work and business meetings, especially when I want to avoid traffic. I also love driving it for fun.”
But having the best of everything that life can offer does not insulate any one from personal or environmental challenges, as Maduka’s experience has shown. He has faced both types of challenges in good measure and has always striven to get the best out of them. Of the latter he says, for instance, that challenges in the country generally become challenges in the business world. “Last year, our sales volume dropped by over 50 percent; that was traceable to the economic situation. As an optimistic entrepreneur, I believe I am living in the best time of my life because the present situation will enable us to think deeply and come up with new strategies to survive, thus making us even stronger when the storm is over.”
Incidentally, one of the biggest personal challenges he has faced in life, which he also regards as his lowest moments, was financial; and it almost brought down his business empire in 2011/2012. A bank granted a loan of nearly $300 million (about N21billion then) to a trusted friend whom he stood for as guarantor based on personal recognition. About $180 million of the loan went bad and the bank wanted him to sign a document that would have obligated him to the commitment. “I could not have done that and I could have as well exempted myself from the transaction because there was no documented evidence. My family and colleagues at work also advised me against signing because they were aware of the huge implication it will have on the company.” After some time he reflected on it again. He did not enter into the obligation, but went ahead to pay. “It was tough though. I was relieved and I saw it as a test which I won. Every month, N300 million dropped in my account as interest (payment) on the obligation. I used to own 25 percent of Access Bank, but I had to sell all my shares in the bank to pay the obligation. I thank God I’m out of it now but the most important thing is that I didn’t lose my integrity.”
Maduka who loves playing and watching Football and Table Tennis, is already looking ahead to life outside his palatial, Presidential office at Coscharis Group.. “I do not plan to be here in the next 15 years. I am most passionate about Coscharis Farms because I love nature. I love seeing things I put on the ground germinate and yield fruits. Ultimately, I am going to retire there.”
The Maduka family
Just like his entry into business which came rather early in life, Maduka entered the marital institution quite early. The only differences was that this time, the decision was not forced on him by fate but by an irresistible attraction he developed for Charity, the girl he wanted to marry. “Oh, she is beautiful! She has got the right curves in the right places and in the right proportion. She is slim and I love slim ladies. Immediately I sighted her, I said within me that this is my wife and wouldn’t let her go. Aside the physical attraction, I love her because she is God-fearing.”
His quest to marry Charity almost got fatal. “I met my wife when I was nothing…she was from a wealthy home while I was still struggling. Her family told me they didn’t want to see me anywhere around her and threatened to kill me … I remember there was a time I was shot at by her uncle because I went to her house to pay a visit. I had to drop the pick-up car I went there with and took to my heels.” Fearing for the life of their young son, the Maduka family also warned him to keep off Charity who was also playing hard to get. The young man insisted he must get her even if it cost him his life. He had to use a borrowed pick-up vehicle to her father’s house to pay her dowry. “Today, she is in my house. She struggled along with me to make it to the top and that is why I have decided to honour her in my business name. If you care to know, the ‘charis’ in Coscharis came from her name which is Charity, while the ‘Cos’ came from my own name. Cosmas. She is also a signatory to my account.”
The marriage is blessed with four children – three boys and a girl – all of them now grown up and assisting their parents to build the Maduka business dynasty. While Maduka, the Founder/President occupies the topmost rung of the dynastic ladder, his wife, Charity, the matriarch, deputizes as the Vice-President with all the children serving as directors in the various operations within the group. Because of his busy schedules, the President hardly finds enough time to spend with his family. “My weekdays and Sundays are tight,” he explains. “ I don’t play with my Saturdays because that is the only day I have to spend full day with my family.”
While he looks forward to having more quality time with his family after retirement, the President must ponder on who will inherit the empire’s leadership baton. However, based on his vision to see Coscharis Group become “an institution that will be timeless in its relevance’, he is more interested in the continued health and growth of the organization than who succeeds him. To him, it could be anyone. To him, the best wears the crown. “Coscharis is not built on a particular individual,” he says. Our succession plan is very clear. We are looking for the best brain that will take the organization to a greater height and he or she may not come from my family. But if the person comes from my family, it’s all good. I do not buy the philosophy that one’s child must take over one’s business upon retirement. I would rather hand over to someone who has the drive, competence and mind to run the business and not attach sentiments to it. I have made myself clear to my children that it may never be them and if it is, lucky them.”
All he can venture about his children’s role at Coscharis Group for now is that they are under tutelage and mentoring. Two of them have obtained their Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and joined the company only a few years ago. “so, it’s too premature to say whether they are qualified or not. The taste of a food is in the eating. With time, I should be able to tell whether they are capable or not.”
Mrs. Charity Nchedo Maduka
Mrs Charity Nchedo Maduka, the matriarch of the Maduka business dynasty has been the Vice-President and co-owner of Coacharis Group since its inception in 1977. In fact, the ‘charis’ in the name ‘Coscharis’ was derived from her name, with her husband’s name, Cosmas, contributing the ‘cos’. In that capacity, she once doubled as Executive Director supervising the administrative, legal, works/maintenance, export, technologies teams of the organization from 1984-2003.
She was able to grow the business by creating value via the various strategic departments she supervised. In addition to being a board member of the Group, Charity was, in 2005, appointed Executive Chairman/Chief Operating Officer of two of the subsidiaries of the Coscharis Group, namely, Coscharis Beverages Limited and Coscharis Properties Limited. She still manages them till today (?).
Mrs. Maduka is a trained professional teacher and caterer. She attended Teachers’ Training College, Nsugbe, Anambra State from 1979-1981. She also attended Consortum Institute of Catering and Hotel Management, Idi-Araba, Lagos State from February – July 1983 She had a brief stint as a teacher at Akamili Central School Umudim, Nnewi, between October and December, 1981. She also taught at Tolu Primary School III, Tolu Village, Ajeromi Ifelodun/Apapa LGA, Lagos, between January 1982 and January 1983. She attended various leadership and entrepreneurship training seminars/courses both in Nigeria and abroad. Her marriage to Maduka since 1978 is blessed with four children: Cosmas Jr; Jonathan, Charity Ngozi and Peter.
Cosmos Jr Maduka
The first of the Madukas’ children, Cosmas Jr. is the Executive Director of Coscharis Farms Limited. Prior to joining Coscharis in 2014, he had acquired experience in the Banking industry right from his National Youth Service days with Zenith Bank in 2008/2009. At Zenith bank, he worked in the Credit Risk Management department, gaining key understanding into the intricacies of banking and finance. His NYSC experience at the bank was sandwiched between two periods at Access Bank as an intern in 2008 and October – December 2009 where he worked in the Economic Intelligence desk and subsequently Financial Control department. Cosmas Jr. finished off his banking run with the Commercial Banking Group of Guaranty Trust Bank, May 2012 – October 2013.
He obtained his B.Sc in Economics from the University of Lagos in 2007 and later proceeded to the United Kingdom where he completed his Masters in International Business at HULT International Business School, London, in 2011. He is also an Alumnus of the Lagos Business School, 2014.
The second son, Jonathan Maduka, was appointed Executive Director in 2014, where he is responsible for assisting management in the reform and restructuring of businesses under Coscharis Motors Limited. He was expected to draw from his pool of fresh and innovative ideas.
He also graduated in Economics from the University of Lagos in 2009. After graduation, he joined Coscharis Motors under the tutelage of his father, undergoing management training involving inventory management, negotiation and strategic planning. Subsequently, he went into management consulting where he built his problem-solving and analytical skills working with a team at PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in providing advisory services to various companies between 2011 and 2012. Jonathan also acquired an MBA from the HULT International Business School in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Charity Ngozi Maduka
Charity Ngozi Maduka, the only daughter of the Madukas is a medical doctor, and a non-Executive Director. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery in 2013 from the University of Lagos. She did her housemanship at the Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Yaba, from August 2013 to 2014. She did her National Youth Corp service at the Nigerian Medical services, Falomo, Ikoyi in 2015.
Passionate about health and lifestyle, she is actively involved with outreaches, counseling and various medical trainings. She is also involed with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and AIDS Prevention Initiative in Nigeria (APIN) programme which have harnessed her skills in the treatment and care of People Living with HIV/AIDS.
Cha, as she is fondly called, understands that the private sector must emerge and be actively involved with the delivery of affordable medical services that are of international quality and standards. She has, therefore, made it one of her goals to equip herself for a medical revolution in Nigeria. When Charity is not in her professional white coat, she indulges in her other interests which include educating others on Black Hair care, the need to be financially prudent, amongst other career-boosting initiatives.
Peter K. Maduka
Peter K. Maduka, the youngest son of the Madukas, was appointed non-Executive Director in 2015, two years after joining the Coscharis Group. He is also the General Manager, Auto Care and Auto Components Division of Coscahris Motors.
Peter joined the company in September 2013 as a Management Trainee and underwent an induction programme in auto sales, after-sales, auto care and auto components divisions. He acquired a Bachelor of Science degree in Telecommunications and wireless technologies at the American University of Nigeria in June 2013. In November, the following year, he got certified in Management Leadership in Sales and Marketing at the Lagos Business School.