INTERVIEW: How we built  Nigeria’s largest ride-hailing service – Country Manager, Bolt Nigeria

MEDIATRACNET
 
Excerpts:
 
How easy has the journey to top been as market leader in the business?

AKIN-LAGUDA:
It’s been an amazing ride, one of the stories that we should be speaking more about, because when we arrived in the country in 2016, there were other players and platforms in the market.  Many joined about the same time. But fast forward four years plus today, we are now the leading player in the business.
The core of our story is people. The amazing team we have been able to put together in Nigeria has been the core of the success that we have. Our team is one of the best I have worked with – a group of young people who are focused, hungry, passionate and smart.
We have a structure that is flat, such that everyone can take ownership of what they do; everyone can see the result of their hard work.
Also, being focused has helped us to achieve things with more limited  budgets than other players, and we do it more effectively.
In a business such as ride-hailing, where the margins are extremely narrow, you need to be extremely efficient in the way you operate.

Navigating the difficult period of the COVID outbreak and eventual lockdown in 2020.

AKIN-LAGUDA: That period was not easy. We lost 95 – 98 percent of our business at the height of the lockdown. It was challenging to keep all active staff on board. Yet we ensured no one’s job was laid-off.
The advantage of what we did was that when the lockdown ended, and we started recovering, we had all our resources available to be able to kick off right away. And there was a huge recovery for us and our drivers in the months that came after.
Within six months after  the worst wave of the pandemic, we edged full recovery and by the end of the year surpassed the numbers we had before the pandemic.
So, in the end, it was a good year. It was a tough year, but it was a good year for us. That was because we were always looking at the situation and looking for ways to improve the value proposition to our customers constantly.
We are currently operating in 25 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the Federation (i.e. in 29 cities) with plans to expand further.
We would love that one day we can be everywhere. But we will let the data decide.
The data has to back up our plans and thought processes.
We have good relations with the Ministry of Transport across the different States of the Federation. We don’t enter without their permission or approval. There are some States where we haven’t gotten to a point where we can move forward. However, we’re still  engaging with them until we get to that point.

Partnerships

AKIN-LAGUDA
To make it easier for more people to drive and earn on their platform, we recently went into an agreement to collaborate with Sterling Bank Alternative Finance to launch a vehicle financing programme.
This is the first of many deals we have done. We have a couple more deals in the pipeline. We have also rolled out a ride-hailing insurance programme to mitigate risks and improve user experience on our platform covering all drivers and passengers in all cities.

Return on investment
AKIN-LAGUDA:
On return on investment in the country, the ride-hailing business is a long-term game.
I will say the industry is still in its early stages. We are not yet at the point where we are looking for those returns yet. What we are looking for is growth, and we are still in the investment stage to drive the growth of the market in Nigeria.

Capital investment
AKIN-LAGUDA
Since we launched in Nigeria, we have invested more than €50 million in the country into everything, from campaigns to technology and our people. And we have only scratched the surface of what the ride-hailing sector will be in Nigeria.
So, there is still a long path for us. We do have confidence that in the next five to 10 years, when the market becomes a lot more mature, the revenue will be there to set a solid return on investment. Still, every company I know in the market that is successful is focused on growth and not returns on investment yet.

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