In this episode of Business Half Hour, we speak to Chinazom Arinze, the founder of Autogirl, a company in the Nigerian automobile industry involved in peer to peer vehicle rentals. The company is involved in helping vehicle owners save and earn money through their vehicles, boat rentals and private jet rentals.
Inspiration for the creation of Autogirl
Before starting the company three years ago, the founder worked in marketing for a number of startups and was inspired to start auto girl as a regular car dealership selling cars and getting commissions while she was in university.
While doing this she discovered that while some Nigerians couldn’t afford to outrightly buy a car some others particularly those in diaspora visited the country for a limited period of time and didn’t want to spend money purchasing vehicles and then Autogirl was remodelled to include car rentals as a solution.
Arinze said, “Autogirl has survived solely by itself without receiving any funding from outside investors. The company funds itself and pays all its staff from its revenue. However, the company is looking to generate its first seed capital in the nearest future.
“The company currently has 7 employees asides from contract staff. As part of the process to meet its long term goals, the CEO has a daily meeting with the staff where she delegates daily tasks. Then there is the vetting of content for social media and calls and emails with potential investors and partners and then content creation for the brand.”
How does Autogirl ensure the safety of its cars while renting them out?
All vehicles on the Autogirl platform are insured and have a tracker in them. This is to ensure that the car is secure with clients who rent it and even in the case of theft, the car is insured and can be replaced.
“However, to avoid the issue of theft totally, the company also assigns drivers for every rental. To ensure that a member of the Autogirl staff is always with the vehicle. For clients who insist on self-driving, there is a thorough vetting process at the satisfaction of which the car may be given to the client to drive by themselves for a limited period of time.” she said.
A car could be rented for as long as six months, it largely depends on the client’s needs and the car would be subject to regular checks by the company.
For private jet and boat rentals
Owners of private jets and boats reach out to the company and show their interest in listing their private jets or boats as the case may be on the Autogirl platform. Before the jets or boats are listed, the company would send out a team to conduct a comprehensive check of the jets or boats and then check the customer service record of the company, to see if there are any complaints after which the company can then decide to list the boat or jet as the case may be. on the Autogirl platform.
Challenges of running Autogirl and government intervention needed
“One of the issues is getting good drivers. The business relies on the professionalism of drivers as they are the ones who mostly come in contact with the clients although currently, the company has engaged the service of a driver recruitment company and so far the drivers have been doing a great job,” Arinze said.
“As regards where government intervention would be required, it would be concerning taxes. There are no major fixed taxes that the company pays, rather, various tax officers come to the offices demanding taxes. Some of the taxes are even unrelated to the business.
“There is also the issue of custom valuation for imported cars, the cost has gone up and is now twice as expensive as it used to be and it affects the cost of sale of cars and subsequently the number of clients. The government needs to take a look at the cost of valuation for cars and reduce them as sometimes the cost of valuation is as much as the purchase price of the vehicles,” she added.
Plans for the future
The company currently operates solely in Lagos and Abuja for now. However, there are plans in the works to expand to at least 10 other states in Nigeria in due time.
“The next phase of growth is majorly centred on expansion as the company is trying to become the Airbnb of car rentals in Africa and all over the world,” she said.
For the founder of Autogirl, consistency is key, regardless of how slow the results are coming, it is important to remain consistent especially to attract opportunities and trust from people.