Universities must make a difference and have an impact on their communities and one of the ways of having an impact on the community is to give them good and healthy products.”
The above quote were the words of the Vice-Chancellor, Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, Professor Ganiyu Olatunji Olatunde, while speaking against the backdrop of the decision of the University to invest in bakery business on the campus.As part of efforts to consolidate on its core mandates, the University recently unveiled its new automated bakery. The project, which further underscores the desire of the Vice-Chancellor to open new vista of value, has excited not a few on campus and within the University Community.
Fielding questions from the OOU Bulletin Crew inside his office, Prof. Olatunde described the bakery project as a worthwhile investment considering the huge number of students of the institution and the population of the University Community.
Emphasizing on how healthy the product from the bakery is, the Vice-Chancellor revealed that “our own bread is bromate-free and vitamin-enriched. Then, if you see the hygienic environment that we have, it’s worth the while to say we are contributing something significant to our own community.”
The bakery, which is well equipped with modern baking equipment and gadgets, has ostensibly propelled the enthusiasm to fulfil the vision and mission of the University.
In the bakery, there are two ovens – deck and rotary. It also has two mixers, a dough divider, molder, stainless table, slicer, two standing fans, eight heat extractors, baking pans and plastic baskets, among other facilities.
The bakery also has a brand new delivery bus to aid product distribution. For now, three sizes of bread are being produced; the big, medium and small loaves cost N350, N200 and N100 respectively.
Currently, the bakery is under OOU Ventures headed by a Professor of Business Finance, Adebiyi Abosede. While giving insight into the bakery project, the Vice-Chancellor said it had the buy-in of the University Governing Council which believes in its self-sustainability potential.
Prof. Olatunde stressed the need for institutions and well-meaning people to invest their resources wisely and create employment opportunities rather than tying money down in commercial banks.
He said, “The bakery has always been one of the projects that we should really have. The University once had a bakery before but somehow, it got stalled. The business is a cash cow because of the total number of students and population that we have in the University. As at now, we have over 28,000 students and over 1,600 staff members.
“With the very poor interest rate that banks are offering now, it’s not advisable to fix any money you have. If you do, they give you 0.5 percent interest but if you have a good investment in terms of production capacity for certain things, I think it is better to go for production rather than just tying it down for pittance from the banks. And that’s one of the strategies that the Federal Government used in crashing the interest rate so that people can take their money and invest it and generate employment for the people in their catchment areas. So, this informed one of the reasons for this project.”
On whether the University has any plan to replicate the bakery project in its other campuses, the Vice-Chancellor noted that expansion may come based on feasibility studies. According to him, tertiary institutions in the country are now in an era where they need to generate funds to stay afloat and OOU is not an exception.
“We can also look at what may be in high demand around all those campuses, rather than even bread. But we can also study whether those are the needs or there are better needs that we can establish in other campuses so that we can also generate fund. Now is an era of generating fund to be able to stay afloat as a University in this country,” he stated.
Prof. Olatunde assured that strategies have been put in place to ensure sustainability of the bakery to prevent it from going under.
He said, “One of the things this current Governing Council has done since inception, and which we appreciate them for, is that they told us from day one: ‘don’t bring any project that is not self-sustaining.’ And that has been the basis of our proposals to Council.”
analysis to ensure that this thing, apart from giving us profit, would be self-sustaining. We’ve studied it, with the Bursar and other Management Staff, and we realised that this is something that can give us some financial income. Besides, it also has an impact on the community. Higher institutions that are not as good as OOU are into bread production, pure water production and what have you and that is one thing we felt we can do better.”
The Vice-Chancellor described the quality of OOU bread as superb and excellent. He added: “In fact, there is no bread that can match it within our community and even in some other companies that are well established, they can’t match the quality of our bread and it’s not about boasting.”
“We are also thinking that as time goes on, we will be able to create bread recipe for hypertensive patients and diabetic patients so that people can buy different bread. We’ve done the nutritional composition of the bread and it has been found to be very excellent,” he said.
With the nation’s economy grappling with rising prices of wheat flour and other baking ingredients, thus resulting in high cost of this staple food, Prof. Olatunde said there was no cause for alarm as the University has plans to handle the hike in raw materials so as to guarantee profitability for the institution.
His words: “We have a viable research outfit in the University that can look at the possibility of substituting some other products for flour to bring down the cost. Like I told you, we are thinking of making bread for diabetic and hypertensive people. That means hypertensive bread will not have any salt, and diabetic bread will not have any sugar and these are suggestions from our research unit when we started it.
We can also substitute wheat flour with, perhaps, cassava flour or any other flour that is cheaper that can be sourced locally and won’t affect the quality and the taste as well as the health of those who consume it.”
While pointing out that there are business insights to learn from the recent coronavirus lockdown, the Vice-Chancellor suggested holistic reorientation of students and effective entrepreneurship development in Nigerian Universities.
He said, “Student reorientation is very key to the growth of the community, the country and the economy. We must change the orientation of the students away from getting-rich-quick and try to enhance entrepreneurship development in Nigerian Universities. It’s not enough to establish an entrepreneurship unit, you also have to ensure physical involvement of the students in entrepreneurship.
For instance, we have a very viable entrepreneurial unit where students are exposed to practical training and production. At the bakery now, we are thinking that some of our students who are interested in confectionery and bakery, can spend some time there.”
Also speaking on the fresh baking experience on campus, the helmsman of OOU Ventures, Professor Adebiyi Abosede, said the high quality machines of the bakery have been test run and production has commenced in earnest.
He explained that the University had taken into consideration the profile of its potential customers and resorted to producing different bread sizes at competitive prices to suit their needs. He assured that the University was prepared to strategically enter the market and further project the positive image of the state-owned tertiary institution.
The Professor stated that adequate steps had been taken to sustain the bakery for healthy living of staff, students, the University Community and the general public.
He said, “Sometime ago, the University had a bakery that became moribund and now we are resuscitating it but with high quality equipment such that we now produce bread for the University Community and our immediate environment.”
“Of course as the bakery grows, we are going to reach out beyond Ogun State. That is our intention. We have taken into consideration the profile of our potential customers. So, our bread would be in different sizes to meet the different profiles of our potential customers.”
Considering the fact that other bakers abound within the community and could pose some threat, Prof. Abosede said the OOU bread was well positioned to scale the hurdle of competition.
He said, “We are very mindful of competitors. But as a University, we have the financial muscle to enter the market. We are getting into the market with high quality bread and a high level of aesthetics.
When you see the branding, you know that there is a difference. Because we know that apart from making bread available, we are also projecting the image of the University. So, we are more than competent and ready strategically to enter the market.
We have well trained hands and we even have special recipe that we are going to make. And, of course, given my own background, we are going to start with minimal staff number. So, as we grow, we add to the staff because there is no point getting into a competitive market with high overheads.”
“We have to measure our activities and that is the quality of a University set-up because this is an opportunity to now further practicalise the theory and practise what we have learnt over time in terms of strategy, delivery of product and management of staff. So, OOU bakery is on a good footing.
Most of the machines here are those that are available around so that we would have easy maintenance. We didn’t just go to the market and buy any machine, we considered maintenance. As time goes on, there may be issues. So, we have bought machines that when such happens, we can quickly address it, so that we won’t have a situation where we have to stop production.”
One of the bakers employed in the bakery, Mr. Olawale Fagbemi, said there are great prospects for OOU bread in the market. Fagbemi, who stated that he has been in the business for 25 years and possessed the cognate experience in bakery management, said he would bring his expertise to bear on the University project.
“I’ve been in this business for 25 years. My father has a bakery and I too have managed one. I have a lot of experience, both with local and modern baking equipment,” he said.
Fagbemi further stated, “With God with us, we are going to reach greater heights, within some months. There are great prospects for OOU bakery in the market.
As demand is growing, we may need more staff. We are not afraid of supply. There is no level of production that we cannot reach. We are working to make the OOU bread unique.”