Banjoko is delivering the goods
2007-10-11 11:56:44 -

In the latest instalment of Metro Eireann’s Meet The Boss, SANDY HAZEL speaks to Larry Banjoko from Nigeria, founder of Consolidated Maritime Limited 

Larry Banjoko is from Nigeria and has been living in Ireland for ten years. Before he left his native country, he was a contractor with a quarry in Adoe Ekiti, situated in south-west Nigeria. When Banjoko arrived in Ireland he initially worked for the food company Batchelors, before opting for work at a quarry in Rathcoole, Co Dublin for a while.

With the growth of the African communities in Ireland, Banjoko saw an opportunity to become his own boss by delivering a much-needed service. “Freight and courier services in Ireland were not really covering the route to and from Nigeria. Wherever there was a service it was incredibly expensive, so I investigated the possibilities and I set up Consolidated Maritime Limited,” says Banjoko. “At the start we used a route that was pretty complicated and so was quite expensive. It involved goods travelling to Liverpool via Dublin post to Birkenhead, then dropped down to Tilbury for onward shipment to the destination ports. Other companies offered exorbitant rates so we could offer competitive rates by comparison. Demand has now created a more direct route, which we are involved in. This means shipping directly from Cork. This will work out more cost efficient for our clients.”

The success of Consolidated Maritime Limited in the transport of freight is indicated by the destinations that the company now service: Lagos, Cotonou, Durban, Luanda, Lome, Tema, Abidjan, Douala, Matadi, Nouakchott, Dakar, Banjul, Conakry, Freetown, Monrovia, Libreville and Pointe Noire. Consolidated Maritime Limited buys space within containers on ships. This space is then sold by Banjoko to clients, and timetables are worked out. The Nigerian businessman is currently working on a webpage that will allow clients to track their cargo independently just using a chassis number for the container.

“We advertise in Nigeria in the major newspapers, as most of our clients are Nigerian. A lot of orders come from Nigeria and West Africa, from companies and individuals. Although the journey and transportation may be purchased in Africa, it could be for goods that are travelling from Ireland to Africa so there are plenty of logistics, insurance and pro formas (documents in advance of transactions) to organise. Much of our business is southbound shipping.”

A small team assists Banjoko in the running of the business. “I have one full-time and one part-time person as staff. Our part-time guy speaks French, which is a great help when dealing with overseas ports and agencies. I also use an accounts person when it comes to financial returns. The tax return is a headache but it is a national one and it is all part of doing business.

“The hardest part of running this business is dealing with issues such as late shipments and some overseas agencies; sometimes there is a perception that possibly our agency is at fault if an item is delayed. Irish ports are good to deal with but some overseas ports will have ‘Shylocks’ and occasionally we need to deal with them.”

Future plans for Consolidated Maritime Limited include strengthening the African connection, but also looking at other routes and destinations. According to Banjoko: “We are also looking at affiliating with an established air freight company, to expand our business. There are possibilities for us to bring business to them.”

So, what are the main benefits of being self-employed? “The satisfaction that I get from it is good but also the flex-time approach. I can dedicate time where I need to and it means that I can spend time with my family when they need it most. My relaxation time is always spent with family.”

Would Banjoko have any advice for start-up entrepreneurs? “Setting up a business in Ireland has been well worth it. There are many qualified Africans living in Ireland, but some people end up in a comfort zone and they are capable of more. You just need to move outside of that.

“So what if it does not work out? There will always be other nine-to-five jobs to return to, but chances are it will be good. Take a few risks.”
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