Chief Executive Officer, Bennie Technologies Limited, Jerry Isaac Mallo, made national headlines last November when he unveiled Nigeria’s first luxury sports car – the Bennie Purrie. Designed with carbon fibre to give it a more robust safety quality, the Bennie Purrie is not the first notable product this entrepreneur and automotive engineer will launch. Mallo had long made a brand out of the Jos based Bennie as a ‘machine design, fabrication and manufacturing company that simplifies local agricultural processes via mechanisation and automation.’ With the COVID-19 pandemic, and the overburdening of health facilities worldwide including the scarcity of ventilators, Mallo and the Plateau State government inked an agreement for the fabrication engineer to manufacture what has now turned out to be Nigeria’s first locally manufactured ventilators. Mallo believes challenges fuel creativity; government has eternal mandate to support ingenuity and drive bottom-up or grassroots development. For Mallo, while commending the strength of support from Plateau State and Governor Simon Lalong, when government and indigenous entrepreneurs collaborate, the result is impactful in several ways. He tells IT Edge News that product acceptance by Nigerians will ultimately happen as more local entrepreneurs create a critical mass of solutions uniquely addressing both home and global needs. The IT Edge News eTerview series is anchored by Olusegun Oruame and Nwakaego Alajemba.
You studied mechanical engineering. You are an auto designer and a hardware developer. You unveiled the country’s first locally manufactured carbon fibre sports car and just unveiled the country’s first homemade ventilator.
What is the inspiration for this?
I studied automotive engineering, that’s the manufacturing of cars not mechanical and I’m building agro equipment and other hardware not because that’s what I studied in school but what I’ve learnt. It was self-thought. I learnt it online. Google and YouTube are where I spent most of my time and my personal time in the morning. I learn from there.
What level of support did you get from the Plateau State government?
Plateau State government has been very key in publicity. Any small thing I do they make sure the world knows about it. They have been very supportive.
How did you deal with sourcing material locally for your prototype ventilator?
Most of the parts used in the ventilator production are parts that we are familiar with in the manufacturing of cars; in building cars, so we adapted those parts and used them to make the ventilators.
“Challenges and tough times like the COVID 19 pandemic feed creativity. Plateau State government has supported us financially in building the prototype.”
Were your raw materials locally sourced or imported?
For the ventilators, I won’t say the raw were locally sourced. Yes! Locally sourced but not locally manufactured per se. We used metals. I don’t think Nigeria has any metal manufacturing plants; it’s still imported. We use plastics, I’m not sure if Nigeria has a plastic manufacturing plant, they are all imported. Resistors, capacitors and other electrical parts are all imported but yes, we sourced them locally. They are all sold around the country here, they are used for different other gadgets and implements. We just adapted them for the ventilators.
What is the plan now in terms of mass production and further collaboration with other stakeholders including Plateau State?
When you say plans for mass production, I believe you are talking about the ventilators. Yes! We are doing our best to develop the ventilator further. We want to make it better than what it is now and then from there, we want to make it more available and more affordable.
Would you say Covid-19 and Plateau State government have been a mix of challenges and prospects for your ingenuity as an investor and entrepreneur?
Yes! I’ll say Plateau State government has helped in overcoming some of the challenges. Challenges and tough times like the COVID 19 pandemic feed creativity. Plateau State government has supported us financially in building the prototype.
Judging from your experience as an automaker, will Nigerians accept your products considering we are lovers of foreign products?
Well, I don’t expect Nigerians to accept Nigerian product at once. I know and believe it’s a gradual process. Gradually, you’ll have to give them reasons to believe in it; you’ll have to prove to them that it has a better quality, you’ll have to give them a reason to use Nigerian. Over time, I have confidence that the patronage would get better.