By: Evangeline Anumba eanumba@financial freedomng.com
The inspiring story of Jonathan Hussaini, chief executive officer of Globe Cab Services, who strategically grew his business from the scratch, he also shares how joblessness drove him to search for solutions.
After graduating from University of Abuja in 2008, my initial plan was to travel abroad to study for a Masters degree but my school refused to grant me my transcript. This forced me to start looking for a job but couldn’t get one for a long time. Really, all I wanted was a job that will pay me N40,000 monthly. In 2010, I volunteered to work for people who owned and ran their businesses. It was at this point that I decided that I would run my own business and began to look for what to do.
Love for driving
It occurred to me that I really enjoy driving, travelling and meeting new people and that I could fulfil these desires while running a transport business. So in December 2010, I decided to start with my mother’s car. I ran one month transport service for family and friends asking them to pay to go to the airport for hourly services. I started by charging low fares because at the time, airport return trip was about N10,000 but I charged only N4,000. I soon increased it to N6,000 and began charging only N1,000 per hour for services within Abuja. After the first month, I made so much money. I then decided to speak with my father to help me start a transport business. Thankfully, he listened.
In January 2011, I bought a taxi and painted it green so that I could provide cab services to people outside my friends and family. I realised that it didn’t make sense to wait for only friends and family to call and when they didn’t call, I was idle. That was how I started to provide services to others outside my immediate family and friends. But I encountered a great challenge from the road transport workers union, touts and other people who were bent on frustrating me.
I realised that doing just green taxi business in Abuja was not sustainable but will need to build a customer base where people can call and regularly use my service. I differentiated my cab service by providing my customers with bottled water and newspapers. I also printed complimentary cards to give people, especially my customers after dropping them off.
The next level
Within three months, I had built enough customer base and was unable to meet their demand and now needed to expand my business. I went back to my dad and explained the situation to him and how much I had saved up. I asked for more money to expand the business and buy a more comfortable car with air conditioner. My plan was to go more into car hire service where only people who book in advance will be offered cab services. I convinced him and he invested again. From there, I hired my first driver and gave him the green taxi on hire-purchase agreement. This was giving a regular income. I started providing car hire services when people called in to make demands but soon needed to employ another driver to support me. During that time, I asked one of my clients to invest and that was how I bought the second car. So in the first six months of 2011, I had the green taxi from where I made regular income, a Peugeot 406 and a brand new Toyota Corolla which was bought by the investor.
Someone heard about me, a graduate driving taxi, and decided to introduce me to a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Save The Children, needed someone to manage their business of providing transport services to children. At that time, they were doing a monthly turnover of about N40,000 to N50,000. I reorganised their structure and mode of operation, trained the drivers and provided them with a new driver’s manual and code of conduct. Within a short time after making the changes, the monthly turnover rose to over N700,000. But I felt short changed by the commission they were paying me so I resigned.
I returned to focus on Globe Cab Services and concentrated on providing services to only people who booked in advance. But another NGO invited me to provide transport services for the European Union, International Rescue Committee, IMC, COP and ACR. Today, I provide transport services to about eight international NGOs and I have 30 vehicles and 31 employees.
Capital follows viable ideas
Did getting capital from my family make my start up a little easier? Of course, yes. But having a good and viable business idea must precede capital. It was clear that my father would not have given the initial capital if the idea didn’t seem viable. Prior to that,
I had presented him with several other ideas and he didn’t support me because he didn’t think the ideas had any prospects of success. He only funded the first two vehicles. The other vehicles I bought were funded by other people who believed in me and thought I could become successful from running the business. Before they provided the finance, I had to write up a business plan showing cash flow projection. I needed to demonstrate my commitment and capacity to run the business successfully. If you have a good idea, you will have to clearly define how you are going to make money for any investor to put in their money.
It is always about clearly defining your purpose and putting in all the hard work to make the business succeed. I had a clear idea about what I wanted to achieve and set out to achieve just that, despite the odds. I did not take any investor’s money for granted and I understood that there must be returns on investment for anyone who decided to invest in the business. There was a particular investor who loved the fact that I worked very hard that he referred me to several other people and it became easier for me to raise funds to buy more vehicles.
The weather in Abuja is usually hot and I thought that my customers will be happy if I provided them with water. I also thought that since most of my customers were busy people, they might not have the time to read the papers. So I always bought papers for them to read while being taken to their destination. This worked well for me as it encouraged them to use my service again. I gave them my complimentary card so that they did not have to ask for my phone number after dropping them off.
The customer is the heart beat of a business. For any business to succeed, the business owner must be willing and ready at all times to do anything not just to get the customers but to keep them happy and delighted.
It has not been an easy ride to get to where I am today. For instance, I had to change from using green cabs to car hire because of the stifling regulations. During my first days of running the business, I faced stiff opposition from the people who control green cab business in Abuja. But instead of getting discouraged, I was motivated to do more to succeed. I lost my first car in an accident and because it was not insured, I lost everything. It was a great lesson because I did not have the resources I needed to continue my business and I also needed to repay money I had borrowed. But I was relentless in pursuing my goal of being Abuja’s preferred option for car hire service.
Our market segmentation is different. Uber has challenges and we thrive on them. Our business has also benefitted greatly from the threat of terrorist attacks in the northern part of the country. We have designed our services to meet the needs of corporate organisations who will otherwise have needed to purchase a car, train drivers and deploy them. So they are happy to outsource that function to us. It’s a market segmentation, a niche market because these companies pay very good money for this service, and we are concentrating on that, majority of our business comes from that but it doesn’t stop us from providing individual services. Our own market design is for private car hire services that you have to book ahead and make arrangement that also guarantees safety, comfort and reliability.
For the first three years of the business I never paid myself any salary but now I do. There were days I worked for twenty four hours but now I have people I delegate certain responsibilities to and who can carry them out effectively.
When you have money, there are so many things you can do. Initially, all I needed was a job to take care of myself. What inspires me today is the desire to provide jobs for other people. This desire stems from the fact that when I needed one, I couldn’t secure it. It has become an ambition to make it happen for others.
The business is profitable. We are growing so fast, we are having to borrow money to keep up with the demand. So we plough back whatever we make into the business through acquiring more vehicles and other assets. Staff are paid well, including myself.
Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs
The trick is to start. When you have an idea, you must put in the required work to show the workability and profitability of the idea. I had to convince many investors that invested in my business. As an entrepreneur, you must put in more energy and make sure your plan works. You must remember that potential investors will not invest in your business idea if you are unable to show them that your plan will work and bring profit. Capital always follows good idea.
Our future is to grow Globe Cab services to a fleet of 100 cars that provide private car hire services. We also want to own a car maintenance service that provides maintenance to Globe Cabs and the general public. I am also involved in a company that focuses on building aspiring entrepreneurs. I see this as way of giving back to the society.
- Did volunteer work for people after his Masters degree ambitions hit a snag in 2008.
- Using his mother’s car, he ran an airport drop off service for family and friends.
- His green taxi service was fraught with many problems from transport unions and touts. By 2011, he had a green taxi, a Peugeot 406 and a brand new Toyota Corolla.
- Managed an NGO’s transport services on a commission basis – which was not satisfactory.
- His father provided the cash for first two vehicles before outside investment came.
- Currently provides transport services to about eight international NGOs with a fleet of 30 vehicles and 31 staff.