The Managing Director, Enyo Retail, Mr Abayomi Awobokun is someone who believes that the downstream sector of the oil industry, has a lot to offer Nigeria. Enyo is an oil firm founded in 2017. The company is into the distribution and retail of petroleum products. In this interview with the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Nigerian NewsDirect, Dr. Samuel Ibiyemi, he speaks on the vision of the company, what makes Enyo different from other petrol retail stations in the country, government policies in the downstream sector and the company’s corporate social responsibility. Excerpts:
Can you give us an update on what Enyo Retail is all about and why the investment in downstream is at a difficult and tough time?
Enyo retail was founded in 2017 by shareholders who are very passionate about the downstream. The shareholders are led by Mr. Tunde Folawiyo who is also the chairman of Folawiyo Energy. They have invested across the energy value chain. Folawiyo Energy has investments in the upstream as a matter of fact; their upstream business is in the offshore of Lagos. They have always been in the downstream; they own and operate one of the most sophisticated and one of the largest tank farms in Lagos, which is the Folawiyo terminal in Apapa.
They also have other investment in the downstream. Together with ourselves, Enyo was conceived and founded.The purpose of the company is to make the most of its expertise of its shareholders to deliver to the local market a unique business; not just retailing. Our business includes retailing and partnering other brands to provide alternatives to consumers in the retail space using fuels retailing as the lead, but there would be other opportunities in the forecourt.That was the idea when we started and that is what we have pursued.
The first phase of the project was to roll out the stations. The roll-out started earnestly in 2017. I think by the end of 2018, we had 40 sites operational and at the moment I believe that we own up to 60 outlets in the country and we are still expanding.
You asked, ”why now when things are tough?” I have to tell you, there are many challenges in the local downstream space. Indeed there are many challenges even internationally. And secondly, there is really never a good time or a bad time. But what we are taking the advantage of, however, is the goodwill that our shareholders possess locally. We have a good management team led by myself. We have a lot of experience in the board. We have some experience in the management and then we have a good young team. So, to put all that together, you have a good blend of innovation of resilience of a good brand and perhaps there is never a better time. That’s really how the business has been birthed.
We are now operating in at least 13 states. In most of the states, we have at least three, four sites and in some, we have more. In Lagos, we have more. By the end of the year, we will probably have close to 30 retail outlets in Lagos. Abuja and environs will be close to 15 outlets and then we are also in the East. Our business is going very quickly in the Eastern part of the country (Enugu, Onitsha and Owerri axis) you will start to see some of our stations coming up there. We have also made huge investment in Kaduna, Kano and Nassarawa. We probably have another ten outlets. So, the intention is to continue to grow our market share, investing in good outlets and provide quality services to the public. That’s really what is thriving us.
Let’s talk about your stations. What will make them different from the already existing ones in the market?
Some research has gone into the brand. So, I think the first thing you will notice is that it is an attractive brand. We have invested in research, we looked at what exists and we put out a good blend of colour and efforts to make the station attract customers. I think that is the first step.
The second is that we are investing in world class equipment. So, at the stations, you will also see that our machines and equipment are best in class. The equipment we are using is only used by the major marketers locally and internationally, because that is the way we see ourselves. We have also invested in technology which may not be visible to the ordinary eye, but there is a technology underbelly that the business runs of and that technology allows us to be competitively efficient with supplying the stations, distributing fuel to all the stations from the different terminals we load from. It also allows us to build customer interfacing solutions, which is the phase we are going into very soon, to use our technology to make life easier for customers. In the next few months, we will start to make announcement of products and solutions in that area of our business that will set us apart even more in the downstream.
So, the things that are different is that we have a good brand and great equipment; there is a technology underbelly. We are investing and we still have a long way to go, but a lot of investments in training of the team on the forecourt motivating that team and training that team. We want to differentiate with the human resources we have as well and we are always looking for great partners.
Enyo wants to consistently leverage on available expertise to gain appreciable market shares, which is something we are very keying into.
What is your idea of a downstream sector that will encourage invest-ment?
I always say that the downstream is a fundamental industry in any country. Actions of policy makers or players in the downstream affect citizens very directly. There are other sectors that are important, but they are few as important. As a result, the downstream must continue to attract investment and growth. It must continue to be a big employer of labour. It must continue to innovate,so that it stays relevant. It must continue to pay taxes to the government, so it also stays as a decent corporate citizen.
Nigeria’s downstream is not different. The downstream also has a value chain and we are only playing in a part of that value chain. We are not in refining as we have no refining capability or plans; to an extent that is still downstream. We have a storage affiliate company which is Folawiyo terminals, and we are primarily only in the supply and distribution. We have invested substantially since the inception of this company and the board is keen to continue to invest as we roll out in gaining appreciable market share. And we are doing so because, even though the returns are very small, there are returns as you scale and so our goal is to scale and to do things properly. I’m not saying it is easy or it is easier for any other player. It is not. I think if there is anything that is cushioning the challenges we are having, it is the quality of our board. The expertise of the board, the experience of the board and the guardians that the management is receiving is really what is cushioning some of the challenges we are having. But, we are also very optimistic that over the next five, ten, fifteen years, the downstream in Nigeria will change tremendously. Nigeria will become self sufficient when it comes to fuel and even become a net exporter refining fuels in the near future. The business will change, there would be innovation at the forecourt, hopefully in a short term and the business will contribute a lot more. We see that coming for sure and we preparing ourselves to be players in that industry when it arrives.
How do you manage the transportation of your products?
We have a blend of trucks owned by us and also partners who own trucks. So, we have both in our company and we use those trucks to deliver from the terminals to the stations.
Besides technology and colours, what are other things that stand you out?
We have all those too. We are competing variably. We have our own brand of cooking gas which the market now calls superior. Indeed, the name is Superior Liquefied Gas (SL Gas), but the nickname in the market is Superior which is good for us.
We retail and market Castro Lubricant. We are not the exclusive marketer; we are actually partnering the local company called Eterna, and we are partnering Eterna Energy and retailing Castro Lubricant which Eterna is licensed to blend in Nigeria. So,we enjoy partnering other brands.
We have also commenced rolling out our own stores called Reelax and we are signing on the biggest confectionary brands to stock up those shops. So, you will start to see them opening up. And we recently also launched our own brands of vehicle diagnostic and amendments services called Vehicon. As you know, we have been training mechanics since the inception of this company. Our goal is to train thousands of mechanics. What we are doing differently is that as we are training those mechanics, we are putting them to work by giving them stores at the stations to boost their incomes, to boost their feasibility, increase their competence and bring them closer to customers. So at the Vehicon, you will see Enyo-trained auto-mechanics doing diagnostics and also doing vehicle amendments. In the first instance, those are some of the things you will see at our stations.
In addition to that, we are partnering a very interesting service provider to bring additional services. So, we are working on our first STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematical) centre for kids at all our stations. At least one will start operation this year which hopefully we will announce officially at the right time who our partners would be. At least one will start operation this year at some of our stations. And this is an effort to do so many things as we can be to the communities that we are based in. So, that is just an example and at the right time, we will call the press and share our progress with you, but we want to make the stations not just fuel retail stations, but where possible, relevant locations to the communities that they are based in. That is what will ultimately set us apart in addition to our technology platform from competition.
Now, let’s look at the future. Where do we see Enyo in the next three to five years?
Three to five years, Enyo will be one of the prominent fuel retail businesses on the high streets of Nigeria. There is a lot of change happening in the downstream retail space, a lot of divestments, I’m sure you have seen over the last three to four years, there will be some consolidation. Some of the smaller players perhaps, will see reasons to consolidate to be more competitive. There may be one or two more new entrants. We are certainly a new entrant and thank God we are making progress.
In the next three to five I have no doubt that the prominent players will be very different from the prominent