Oladugba Raymond is the chief executive officer of Oloworay Autos, a company that deals in automobiles. In an interview, he spoke on his journey into auto business and how his company survived all challenges saddled with the business.
Can you briefly tell us about yourself?
I’m the Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer of Oloworay Autos. I’m from Ose Local Government Area in Ondo State. I’m married with two kids. My wife is from Ekiti State. I graduated from the Federal University of Technology, Akure.
How did you find yourself in the automobile business?
I was attracted to automobiles right from childhood. I started driving when I was 11. I remember vividly that when I was in secondary school, my dad had just two cars. But then in school, when other parents visited their kids, they came with different cars. One day, I asked my father why he refused to change cars or buy more, and my dad said I had many siblings (my father had 42 children). According to him, if he bought plenty of cars and his kids damaged them, they would become useless. He told me he would rather build houses so that his children could have valuable inheritance.
When I got into the university, I had a friend who was a car dealer. Whenever he was travelling to Cotonou (Benin Republic) or Lagos to buy an automobile, I always travelled with him and he allowed me to drive. So, that was how I got into the business. Along the line, I made some contacts and these people were able to trust me enough with their money. I would travel to Cotonou to buy cars and deliver them to the owners. I got as much as N11m from a customer who had not seen the car but entrusted me with his money. I travelled from Akure to Lagos to get his car and he was very happy. He later linked me with his friends, and five of them got cars from me. With the profit made from the trips, I was able to buy my first car in 2011.
While I was using my car, a friend advised me to sell it and buy another one. But before then, I had a restaurant. When I got home, I thought about it. The next day, I put a ‘for sell’ sign on the car and sold it that very day. I came back to Lagos to buy another car. My price has always been the secret of my success in this business because I sell at very affordable prices. I also ensure all my cars are in good shape.
In 2017, I relocated to Lagos. That was when Cars45 started and we started a working relationship that has really boosted our business. Aside from being a businessman, I’m highly focused. So, Oloworay Autos has been in existence for the past nine years now. We started from Akure and, with God’s grace, we have extended to other states. We have offices in Abuja, Akure and Lagos State. With God, by the end of 2020, we plan to establish offices in Imo State and River State, respectively.
Was there a time in the business you felt like quitting?
I faced many challenges but I’m very transparent when it comes to my dealings. I always tell customers the truth about cars. Even when I have issues, many of my customers are ready to assist me. They don’t allow me to face the challenges alone, which makes the challenges easier for me to handle.
If you were not a car dealer, what would you have been?
All I can say is that I love business. Like I said, I started driving at the age of 11. I also ran a poultry farm with my mum. I think I inherited that business trait from my parents because they did so well in business. My dad always advised me on the need to be transparent if one wanted to go far in business.
How do you gain trust from customers?
The measure we have here is that we encourage our customers to request for physical inspection before dealings, even though we have some of them who deal with us without inspecting the cars. However, we try to make inspection mandatory, which can be virtual or physical.
For instance, we do car swapping; if you have the 2005 model of a car and you want the 2010 model of the same or another car, all you have to do is bring the car, then our inspector will check the car and the inspection report will determine the value you get. After the value has been decided, you check the new car you want and we agree on how much you will add to it.
Apart from being transparent, we sell clean and affordable cars. If there are issues we’ve noticed in a car, we fix them and the ones we cannot fix, we tell buyers.
What can the Federal Government do to improve the automobile industry?
Government needs to start seeing the automobile business as a big industry like the entertainment industry. The industry is an essential part of life as everyone buys cars. Overseas, as a citizen of a country that has earnings, you can own a car, even when you don’t have the complete cash. With government’s support, we should be able to get car loans where a part is paid upfront and the balance is spread over a certain period of time.
If you want Nigerians to obey the social distancing order we clamour for in this period of pandemic, there should be measures such as making mobility easier. If automobiles were made affordable to everybody, it would have curbed the spread of the virus.
How has the border closure affected the automobile business?
Like I said before, the Nigerian government has not seen the automobile industry as a lucrative industry. By now, we should be producing cars. If we were producing our cars, importation of cars would have reduced, and the idea of border closure, hike in custom duties and hike in car prices would no longer be issues. So, I really wish the government could look into the automobile industry because it will generate more funds for the country and more employment opportunities.
How do you unwind?
I’m a workaholic. I don’t think I have time for leisure. The industry is so big and we still want to cover more territories. In my free time, I go back to study what I can do differently and how I can improve my business as well as industry.
What is your advice to people who want to delve into this business?
With what I’ve said so far, you will notice I’m not just doing the business for my selfish interests. I have a passion for it and that’s the number one drive. If you want to prosper in whatever you want to venture into, first, you have to have passion and knowledge, and make sure you do your feasibility study. But when you put money first or you start a business with the mindset of making profit first, your business might not survive the test of time because there is a gestation period. When that profit is not coming, you get discouraged and, deep down, you might have a lot to give; but because you put money first, you get frustrated. So, my advice to anyone coming up is to have passion for what they are doing and money will follow. Sincerely, money is very important but when you’re passionate about your business, you will definitely make a difference.
How are you giving back to society?
At the moment, we are still at the early stage of starting up a foundation and its core focus is on road accident victims. We want to focus on how and the processes it will take to save the lives of people involved in road accidents. Many people have died as a result of lack of immediate medical attention or adequate first-aid treatment.