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Mouka @60: The Diamond Success Story Of Nigeria’s Leading Mattresses & Beddings Brand

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Raymond Murphy, Chief Executive Officer, Mouka

By Azeez Disu

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Starting poetic, “Everyone has a dream, he or she sleeps and hopes that the dream becomes that of happiness. He or she rises every morning strong or weak but determined to conquer. The mattress encourages you and wishes you good luck as you set out and welcomes you with open arms as you return. It celebrates with you on your success and wipes away your tears in times of despair. It also sings lovely blues to send you to sleep, reassuring you that tomorrow will be greater and better, what a wonderful partner”

Having a good night’s sleep on a quality mattress and sleep accessories is very important to the wellbeing of any individual. “If you want to have a good sleep, you have to have a good mattress”. Jonathan Scott once said, he added that “When you have a quality mattress, great sheets, and a good duvet with the perfect feel, it all works together to give you the perfect sleep.”

In line with the above quote, medical experts say wrong mattress or the mattress that’s simply too old can be the cause of a crick in the neck or low back pain, adding that sleeping on the wrong mattress will alter the natural curvature of the spine thereby resulting in musculoskeletal problems that could lead to possible injury and shortening of life span.

In the Nigerian market, a foremost mattress and bedding products manufacturing company that has been at the forefront of ensuring people get quality sleep and maintain a healthy lifestyle is Mouka.

Amazingly, from decade to decade and generation to generation, the brand Mouka has been giving comfort and peace of mind to consumers through its excellent range of mattresses and sleep accessories.

It recently rolled out the drums to celebrate its 60th-anniversary milestone in the Nigerian market. Interesting to note that in the mattress manufacturing space in Africa, Mouka, is a name synonymous with quality.

Memory Lane

Going down memory lane, Mouka’s journey dates back to 1959 when it was founded by the Faiz Moukarim family in Kano State, Nigeria. The company first started out as a factory named Moukarim Metalwood with the focus to manufacture furniture and iron beds. As the company progressed, they ventured into other products like mattress (which it is mostly recognised for), pillows, mats etc.

In no time the company expanded to Lagos in 1972 with a rebranded name, Mouka Limited and a mission to broaden its horizon. From then on, the company has established production facilities in Benin and Kaduna, from where it distributes to other parts of Nigeria.

Mouka rose to the top in its industry and earned the reputation as a leader in the manufacturing of polyurethane-based products in Nigeria. The company continues to gain more market share by reaching its customers through thousands of distributors and sub-distributors across the country.

Exhibiting its leadership position, in 1992, Mouka spearheaded the end of carbon-flouro-carbon (CFC) materials during production. Also in 1999, it became the first foam company to receive ISO 9001 certification (Laboratory) in Nigeria, thereby setting the pace for other brands.

Mouka has not only built a brand but has carefully selected a team of dedicated individuals to manage the company. Its staff remain committed to the brand’s values and vision.

Giving more details on the company’s trajectory, Raymond Murphy, Chief Executive Officer, Mouka said “Progressively, as the decade passed, the Moukarim family built an excellent distribution network. Through some of the network ties in the north, they found some good partners and progressively spread out through the south. At this time, when we celebrate our 60th anniversary, we are actually proud to say that, many of our business partnerships or distributorships have been passed on from generation to generation. They have stood by the company for numerous decades.”

He added “A major milestone in recent times is the expansion of the company. We built a multi-billion naira manufacturing facility in Benin and afterwards, we built a similar structure in Kaduna. Today, we have three manufacturing hubs in Lagos, Benin, and Kaduna.

“In addition, we have opened a number of depots around the country to bring our products closer to our business partners. Mouka currently has depots in Aba, Enugu, Abuja, Ibadan, Kano, and Jos” he explained.

The company has also developed an extensive distribution network with more than 1,000 branded sales outlets nationwide.

“I think we must give recognition to the original founding family for their vision, passion and their energy for all they have achieved,” Raymond stated.

Also, Raymond said “Mouka is also reputed for high levels of governance and compliance. We pay our taxes accurately and on time. We give back to society through donations and contributions to the local communities where we operate.”

Competitive Landscape and Endorsement

According to Mordor Intelligence, the global mattress market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 7.1% during the forecast period (2019 – 2024).

Today’s mattress landscape is filled with products with a wide range of features and options that can help to provide a comfortable and restful sleeping experience.

Amazingly, competitive activities have made the industry better. In Nigeria, Mouka is an undisputed leader in its industry; its recognitions locally and internationally as well as consumer surveys support this assertion.

Industry experts adjudge Mouka as the leader of innovation in the sleep business. An attestation to this fact was the endorsement it got recently, from the Nigeria Association of Orthopaedic Manual Therapists (NAOMT) and Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy (NSP) for its ability to address the sleep needs of consumers.

Speaking on the competitive edge of the company and how it has sustained its leadership in the market, Raymond said, first Mouka listens to customers and addresses their needs through innovative products and services. Second is Mouka’s unrivalled distribution network. With over 350 loyal distributors and over 1000 branded outlets, Mouka products are easily accessible. It doesn’t matter where you live in Nigeria, and we know Nigeria is a vast country, you don’t have to travel far to find a Mouka outlet. This national reach gives us that real competitive edge.”

“Another is, we have products that suit all consumers regardless of their income. The fourth factor that sets us apart is the investment in new product development and there we have a two-fold strategy; one is to renovate what we have. Our brands have performed extremely well decade after decade and we continue to renovate them to ensure they remain relevant and contemporary. At the same time, we are investing in innovation to bring new and exciting products to the market, “he explained.

Core Values and Operational Philosophies

Speaking on the company’s core values and operational philosophies, Femi Fapohunda, Chief Operation Officer (COO), said “I will like to answer this from five key points of view and this has formed the key drivers of growth and sustainability of the business till date.

“Quality- We are fully committed to producing and delivering high-quality brands of mattresses and other products. We adhere to all applicable standards and consumer-specific requirements and our processes are ISO Compliant.

 “Customer – Customer needs are paramount and this drives everything we do. Our obligation is to continue striving to satisfy these needs within our product portfolio and services.

“Community, Safety and the Environment- We support the communities within which we operate. We proactively comply with all applicable safety, environment, legal and regulatory requirements.

“Business process – We continually assess our processes to ensure they are best in class. We improve on efficiencies while continuously monitoring objectives, reviewing performance and implementing corrective and preventive actions across our operations.

 “People – We respect and empower our Mouka people. We are committed to teamwork, while also embracing wholeheartedly the cultural diversity within. Our employee’s interest – welfare, training, and development are foremost in our business and how we conduct our affairs. employee core values are driven by passion, integrity, innovation, performance, excellence and personal development.”

In addition, Dimeji Osingunwa, Chief Commercial Officer, Mouka said “The singular factor why we are still successful even after 60 years is the fact that we are committed to excellence in everything we do. Be it in terms of quality of products, customer service or distribution, excellence is our watchword.  Our distributors see the Mouka business as theirs and that is why we call them business partners. With that spirit of co-ownership, we continue to build stronger relationships with our trade partners.

“These are the reasons why Mouka is a stronger and more successful company in comparison to other competitors in our industry. Our field team has the same orientation and philosophy and this guides their operations daily irrespective of whoever they meet in whichever channel we play and whatever consumer touchpoint.”

Innovative Products Launch

Mouka is reputed in the industry for its world-class manufacturing processes. Some of the company’s range of innovative products include Mouka Mondeo Spring mattress, Mouka Dreamtime Children’s mattress, Mouka range of pillows, Mouka Mozzi range of insect repellent products, and Mouka Flora mattresses. 

Recently, the company introduced an improved version of its orthopaedic mattress range, Regal and Regina to meet the physiological needs of users of the products.

The company revealed that it enhanced the product architecture of its Wellbeing Regal mattresses to provide superior comfort and support for a quality night’s sleep. The product is manufactured using state-of-the-art technology, which includes the combination of fiber and foam layers.

In addition, Wellbeing Regal is covered in luxury Pama fabric which is breathable and provides a soothing feeling. The orthopaedic products which bear the endorsement of the National Association of Orthopedic Manual Therapists (NAOMT), recently received another endorsement by the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy (NSP).

Speaking on the benefits of the enhanced products, Tolu Olanipekun, Mouka’s Head of Marketing said the products are not just the exclusive of users with orthopaedic needs but are designed to also address the basic sleep needs of all. She added that the innovation is an offshoot of Mouka’s resolve to foster among Nigerians, a quality and healthy sleep culture for overall wellbeing.

“Even though our Wellbeing range has features which cater to those with orthopaedic needs, Mouka Wellbeing Regal or Regina can be used by any consumer who desires that degree of firmness in their mattress. These mattresses are designed to provide our consumers with a good night’s sleep for their total wellbeing,” she said.   

On technological breakthrough and new product development, Raymond said “When I look at technology by way of product development and innovation, I will like to highlight two milestones. First of all, we introduced, Mouka Kids mattress branded ‘Mouka Dreamtime.’ We listened to the needs of parents and their kids.  For the kids, what is important to them is the comfort and an attractive looking cover, while parents want something that addresses concerns of wetness and hygiene. Based on these needs, we created a mattress that was water-resistant yet breathable with attractive kiddie designs. 

“Previously, Parents often protected a basic mattress with a mackintosh sheet. This was uncomfortable for kids due to the hard texture and the excessive heat produced during sleep which made them sweat.  Based on this insight, we developed a fabric that is water-resistant while still breathable so kids can remain cool and comfortable at night.  We fell that technically, this is a breakthrough and we are the first company in Nigeria to bring such a product to market.

“Last year, we launched a spring mattress product called Mouka Mondeo Spring into the Nigerian market. This was based on consumer dissatisfaction with old generation spring mattresses. They said the spring after a period of use often pops out and pokes the user. So, we introduced state-of-the-art spring technology which makes it impossible for the spring core to poke out.”

Mouka’s dint of innovation also translated in the launch of a bio-technologically driven Mozzi repellents; a multifaceted insect repellent range. Widely described as the first of its kind in Nigeria’s beddings industry. This innovation remains a no mean feat yet to be matched in bedding sectors across the African continent.    

Marketing Campaigns

As an innovative company, the brand has consistently churned out customer-centric products that have been backed by a series of campaigns. In recent times, influencers like comedy duo Emmanuella & Mark Angel, Lotachukwu, Adunni Ade, Smart money Arese, Sisi Yemmie, Tobi Bakare, Sola Sobowale have equally helped push its campaigns to consumers which have resulted in remarkable consumer engagements.

Explaining some of the campaigns launched recently, Raymond said, “We teamed up with Mark Angel Comedy on a video with Emmanuella that went viral. It was a wonderful 2-3 minutes creative which ended up having more than five million hits in a space of two months. We also launched a follow up viral comedy skit called MANCHELOR Part 2 which garnered a whopping 19 million views in 8weeks. 

According to Tolu Olanipekun, Mouka recently launched a new campaign called There’s a Mouka for Everyone which seeks to educate consumers that irrespective of their age, body build, lifestyle or income, there is a Mouka product specially made for them so they can wake up feeling good and ready to take on the day. Feedback received from consumers on social media termed this campaign as very relatable. Shedding light on this campaign, Tolu had this to say. “We realised that consumers were not well informed of the different types of mattress and the need to buy the right mattress or sleep accessory based on certain factors which include weight and age. According to experts in the field of physiotherapy, sleeping on the wrong mattress for you can alter the natural curvature of the spine. This can lead to various musculoskeletal problems which manifest as aches and pains. This ultimately hampers your ability to function well during the day.”

 Mouka@60: The Landmark Events

To celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Mouka, the company organised four landmark events. According to the Tolu, the “First was the Comfort a Home Initiative which was well-publicized in the digital and print media. As you know, the mission of the Mouka brand is to add comfort to the lives of Nigerians. Mouka is a brand that is truly passionate about its consumers and often gives back to the society in which it operates. For this reason, we launched this CSR initiative where 60 homes were selected to get free donations of Mouka products. Nigerians were asked to nominate families or underprivileged homes, they believed deserved to be comforted. Out of the hundreds of entries received, 60 homes and families were selected from across the nation.

“Next was the Staff Wellness Walk featuring Emmanuella and Mark Angel. The Mouka people are the engine room of the company. 60 years of remarkable craftsmanship could not be possible without the committed and passionate people behind the Mouka mega-brand. To encourage a lifestyle of health and wellness, all 400 staff in Mouka Head office, including the CEO and Management team took part in the walk around our locality. Our partners, the police and LATSMA officials were fully on ground to ensure we did not disrupt traffic. Nurses conducted basic health checks, followed by dance aerobics, a presentation by a Doctor from Wellness HMO and then the celebration continued with other activities.

 “Third was the launch of the Wellbeing range of products. We launched a new range of Orthopaedic products which are endorsed by the Nigeria Association of Orthopedic Manual Therapists (NAOMT) and the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy (NSP). The Wellbeing Regal orthopaedic mattress provides superior comfort and support for a quality night’s sleep. Manufactured using state-of-the-art technology, which includes the combination of fiber and foam layers, it promises to be a delight to our consumers. In addition, Wellbeing Regal is covered in luxury Pama fabric which is breathable and provides a soothing feeling. The Wellbeing Regina semi-orthopaedic mattress is covered in a premium grade gold damask fabric for a touch of class and sophistication. These mattresses are designed to provide our consumers with a good night’s sleep for their total wellbeing.

“To round off the line up of activities, was the Mouka 60th Anniversary Green Gala. In attendance were key stakeholders of the business such as our esteemed business partners, our shareholders including members of the founding family; the Moukarim family, our partners (banks, agencies, suppliers, auditors, government agencies, associations, our media friends etc) as well as celebrities who are currently vested in the brand. It was a night where we celebrated those who have stood solidly behind us,” she disclosed.

Generational Business Partners

One factor that can be regarded as the staying power of Mouka brand is the recognition of its distributors as business partners and they stop at nothing to delight, train and support them with loans to boost their businesses.

Recently, the company took its distributors on a business trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. Some of the distributors who could not hide their joy after returning from the seven-day trip, well treated to a special time also pledged their commitment to the growth plan of the iconic brand.

“Mouka as a company has done something wonderful. It’s a good thing they have done. They took us for a boat cruise and desert drive in Dubai. In so many sectors, no company can be compared to that of Mouka, I dare to say that,” declared Timothy Ifurunwa, one of the beneficiaries of the business trip.

Igboko Chinonso, owner of Ideal Plux Investment Limited, distributor of Mouka  also said,

 “I will write a letter of appreciation to the management of Mouka. Not too many establishments can do what the company did. I call them ‘talk and do’. They kept their words.”

According to Funmi Paulo, who also embarked on the journey, the experience was quite an opener as it availed beneficiaries the opportunity to reinvent themselves.

“It was a pleasurable experience, and what Mouka did was fantastic,” she said. “I’ll like to say thank you to the management of Mouka for the gift because to me it was a gift. I had never dreamt of travelling out of the country, but this opportunity has now enabled me to do that. They made the promise and they kept their word.”

On his part, Chukwudi Okoro, owner of Picotex, said the trip was not just entertaining but was also an eye-opener. “Mouka has shown that it is not just a company but a family. With this trip, Mouka has shown that it has the interest of the distributors at heart. We do have meetings in five-star hotels but this time they surprisingly took us to Dubai. This present generation of administrators in the company treat distributors as family. It’s like a father-son relationship.”

On his own part, Mouka’s CEO said “What we try to do is to manage a win-win situation, as we develop the commercial partnerships with distributors. If I can use the word profitable, it has to be profitable for them or they would divert the capital into other products. So, we work closely with distributors to make sure that they are winning.

“We have quarterly meetings with distributors where we review the business performance. It is not a hands-off relationship and is very much a hands-on relationship to make sure it is a win-win situation. I will say a key factor in that success is a close working relationship. Apart from that, when we are speaking to our business partners, we are also meeting with their children because we know in the next decade or so they will be saddled with the responsibilities to carry on with the businesses. So, it is like a family relationship that we have with our key distributors.”

Similarly, Dimeji said, “Because, at the end of the day, it is a win-win situation. Our innovations need a route to market hence we don’t joke with that relationship.

That is why we have done everything necessary to support our business partners to grow, assisting them with credit in situations where we feel there are opportunities in the market. This will help to increase their financial capability which will eventually grows their business and ours.”

Furthermore, he said “our expansion has been driven mainly by appointing distributors in areas where we feel there are opportunities across the country. Our distributors are categorized into two major levels. We have what we call the business partners and below the business partners, we have the sub-dealers. Sub-dealers are essentially the customers to our distributors. So, we equally leverage on them to further get distribution and expansion and that automatically helps us to grow our market share. We also have a direct relationship with the sub-dealers too. We do not only have quarterly review meetings with the business partners, but we also have quarterly review meetings with the sub-dealers too.”

Consumers Say

According to an independent survey done by Nairametrics, to know which mattress brand makes people sleep “sweeter” between Mouka and Vitafoam, a key competitor. The respondents adjudged the two brands of mattresses based on yardsticks such as affordability, durability, comfort, luxury, etc. In this vein, one of those interviewed who identified herself as Mrs Okorie said that she and her family use Mouka Foam at home because the brand is very durable. Remarkably, most of the respondents picked Mouka as their favourite.

Meanwhile, a Twitter poll also conducted by Nairametrics revealed that more Nigerians may actually prefer Mouka Foam too. The Twitter poll asked the question- what’s your preferred choice of mattress: Vitafoam or Mouka Mattress? In response, some 84% voted overwhelmingly in support of Mouka Foam, with only 16% voting in support of Vitafoam.

Developmental Programmes for Staff

Raymond said the Mouka staff are instrumental to the success of the company in the past 60 years and would be counting on them to achieve more in years to come. He added that the company empowers them to be the best they can be.

Giving details on how the company is empowering its staff, Ifeoma Okoruen, Head of HR & Admin said “Mouka prides itself in being a learning organization and as such our people agenda is intentional in driving our ‘Good to Great’ vision. Against this, the need to continuously upscale our in-house capability becomes paramount to the sustainability of our business. To this end, we have designed a well-structured Learning & Development framework which largely aligns with best practices and global standards. In our FY18/19, over 750 employees were trained with almost 90% of our full-time and non-full-time employees being beneficiaries of such interventions.

“Some of such initiatives which have been deployed in the last 1 year include our FY19/20 Training Plan which is focused on 4 key pillars. First is leading the Mouka Way, which has seen our Leadership Team and Senior Managers being exposed to a 4-month Leadership programme at the prestigious Lagos Business School

“Secondly, our middle managers participated in an Emerging Managers Programme facilitated by a highly reputable training consulting firm- Workforce Management.

“Third, we introduced the World-class manufacturing process at the plant which aims to change the mindset on the shop floor and improve overall efficiencies and productivity.

“Lastly, we are also committed to building and sustaining our leadership pipeline, through a Fast track programme which aims to develop talent from within- the 1st batch of 6 participants cut across the junior to mid-level managers and will be guided through a 1-year journey of self and business leadership programmes. Our leadership pipeline is also fed through a robust succession planning system and graduate trainee programme.

“Like any best-in-class manufacturing business, we ensure that formal and informal HSE engagements happen regularly across the organization. We keep abreast of global standards through international conferences, workshops and consultancy.

“Knowledge sharing sessions are held quarterly with a view of spreading topical functional /generic knowledge across the organization. These sessions are held in 1 location, however, staff across locations are expected to participate remotely via our Google Meet Facility.

“In this financial year, we intend to continue to build on our existing developmental programmes while leveraging on our newly designed competency framework to methodically highlight functional, organizational and behavioural skill gaps which will be bridged through various types of learning interventions,” she explained.

Local And Global Recognitions And Accolades

At 60, Mouka has been winning series of awards, recently it won the Iconic Brand of the year at the Marketing World Awards which was held in Accra, Ghana. Also, recently, it was recognized recently by the National Employers Consultative Association (NECA) for safe work environment.

Interestingly, it remains the only Nigerian brand recognized twice by the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG), in the group’s Companies to Inspire Africa report.

The company was listed in the – LSEG’s companies to Inspire Africa 2019 report after it made the 2017 inaugural edition.

Raymond said “We have had a significant number of local awards and recognitions. Internationally, we have been recognised for excellence as well. This company which was founded 60 years ago in Kano is now being recognized by the London Stock Exchange. Not only are we achieving recognitions and milestones internally within Nigeria but the news about Mouka and its success is now spreading internationally.

“I was in a conference in Dubai, a couple of weeks ago and there were a number of international players from around Africa and the Middle East there.  It was actually called out at the event that Mouka is the largest foaming company in the Middle East and West Africa.

“I said to them that we are not a foaming company but we are a branded mattress company. It is significant that a company in Nigeria was called out to be the largest in its industry in the Middle East and West Africa.”

Also, through hard work and dedication, the company won series of other awards both locally and internationally. Some of them are “Mattress Brand of the Year 2017, 2018 & 2019” by the African Brand Congress. In March 2019 it emerged the foam and mattress company of the year at the Nigeria Real Estate and Property Awards, among many others.

A Look Into The Future

With the contributions of Mouka to the manufacturing sector, it has set standards for players within the beddings sector through its innovations and customer-centric products.

Raymond hinted that the effort at redefining the industry would involve a yearly upgrade of manufacturing facilities, ensuring that its operations are in line with the highest local and international Health, Safety and Environmental Standards with Information Technology (IT) as a major enabler of its innovative drive.

On the creative innovations the marketing team would deploy to further entrench the brand’s leadership in the Nigerian market and beyond, Tolu disclosed “We will continue to deploy tactics to ensure we maintain the emotional connection we have with our consumers. We will continue to invest in market research to gain insights into our consumer needs/desires, behaviour, and perception. This is the only way to ensure our campaigns are impactful, our innovations are relevant and successful.”

Speaking on plans to invest in state-of-the-art technology in line with its sustainability strategy, Femi said, “We have been investing and will continue to invest in technology as enabler and driver for sustainable growth; We will continue to invest year after year in upgrading our manufacturing facilities and ensure we operate to the highest local and international Health, Safety and Environmental Standards. We have a state-of-the-art BOSH camera fire detection system in all our plants, our machinery is best in class to achieve the high-quality standard we are known for. We have the most equipped laboratory in our industry in the country, we are investing in RFID for our finished goods. We have several convenient platforms for customers/partners to make payment transfers, customer feedback etc. Investment in technology will continue to be an enabler for sustainable business growth.”

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