Running A Startup In Ibadan, “The VOOM Story”.
VOOM, A Logistic Company.
Have you ever had issues picking up an item or package from the driver at the bus park, delivering goods to customers who live in different areas far apart or transporting things from one place to another across a long distance?
At one point or another, we’ve all experienced this and can tell that there’s so much stress involved. Well, the trouble is over as a startup company, VOOM has taken this up and are dedicated to seeing that your packages, items, e.t.c get to their destination safely and without stress.
We met them at their beautiful office and had a chit chat about their company and how it has been running a startup in Ibadan.
Tell us about you
My name is Joshua Adelakun, a graduate of Covenant University. I studied business administration. I started business since I was in school, from fashion to textile sales to ecommerce.
Tell us about Voom
Voom started as basically a mistake. We didn’t plan to start it, it was just a need that came up when we started an ecommerce here in Ibadan and we had issues getting products from one place to another, even all our vendors had that same issue. Then we decided to start Voom and see how it goes. Without advertising people started using our services. The first customers were the vendors on our ecommerce site and by word of mouth others got to know about us and subscribed to our services. We saw that this was a big thing so we made it official.
What is your major role in regards to voom?
Basically, I’m the cofounder so I have all manners of roles. I’ve had to do delivery myself, I designed and built the website, I also manage the social media, I look for money (laughs), there’s no role I haven’t played. There’s no particular role now, but very soon, with the expansion, roles would be specific to each person.
How would you describe your brand?
Basically, we’re a startup, for now we’re focusing on lasting through time, so with our pickup and delivery we will soon launch something called VOOM Errands. The cars are in preparation and when it starts we would charge per hour, you can rent a car to go to the market. We’re looking at making transportation of things from point A to point B in the city more effective, safe and without stress.
How has it been so far (folks say Ibadan people don’t pay)?
The first time, when we came out with pickup and delivery, people were charging flat rates. They were like “This place is closeby, I can’t pay ₦1000 for that”, but we maintained our priced. Funny enough, those same people when they saw that we wouldn’t reduce your price came back to try it out and eventually became loyal customers. We see that there’s a market for our price, some people are willing to pay for premium just for us to take their stuff and deliver it.
Looking at that situation, how has the response been so far?
For us, it’s shocking. We didn’t expect people to really understand, I mean this is not Lagos and we haven’t really gone out to advertise our brand, though we’re looking at that in January when everything is set. Without advert the response we got was good but we think it will get better.
What other challenges have you faced in running your startup company?
Nigeria (everybody laughs), the number of documents you have to get. Just two weeks ago one of our bikes was stopped, we had every single paper that is required of us but they said we don’t have backup, an FRSC’s document, basically it’s just a photocopy with a stamp but for Oyo state and so they said we have to pay a fine of ₦7000 and ₦2000 to get the backup. It’s a business, I mean we didn’t plan for that. We spent about 4-5 hrs sorting it out because we had to pay into a government account. We thank God he was stopped after the delivery had been made. That’s just an example.
How often has that occured?
It hasn’t occurred often because we make sure we have all our papers sorted out before taking any vehicle out.
Have you personally run any startup before or currently run one aside Voom?
Yes. Basically, I’m a web designer and that was how I started before we went into Logistic full time. I also did Graphic Design using Coreldraw.
With the bad roads, traffic jam and all the road hassles, what factors do you consider when planning routes for delivery?
When we first started we said, “Call us now and we’ll pickup and deliver”, but we stopped that because we discovered that we were just wasting fuel and money. For example, if we have a pickup in Bashorun, one in Akubo and another in Agbowo, these places are on the same route. It’s wasteful to do a pickup in Bashorun, deliver it and then go back to the others. So now we say “Book us a day before” so we know what route to take and how to decrease cost.
Are your services restricted within Ibadan?
Yes, for now.
Can you tell us about VOOM Executive that was launched this month?
It’s an exclusive and executive car rentals to transport people to places and events in the city, like weddings and the likes. The charge rate is per day, so you have the car and the driver to yourself for the whole day.
So if Wizkid wants to come to Ibadan for a show, this is a service he can book for transport within the city?
Yes, this is the service.
You said Voom was cofounded, let’s meet the other founder.
My name is David Adelakun.
What role do you play?
I’m the public relations officer. I’m into photography and videography so I handle the advertisement and anything concerning PR. I’ve been running media for a while among other businesses, so we put heads together to form other categories under Voom.
Have you had any experiences in dealing with a difficult customer?
I won’t say that I’m very good with customers but I think I know how to handle all kinds of customers, they just want to get the value of their money and be satisfied. There was the case of a customer who called to complain about the damage her cake sustained during the delivery and we had to pay for it. But we had previously warned her about choosing a bike for the delivery, we offered the car option which is safer but cost more but she refused. So next time we didn’t let her use the bike service. Transportation using a car costs ₦2000 while the bike costs ₦1000, so many people opt for the bike but we tried to advise them that it wouldn’t be safe to transport fragile items but they wouldn’t listen so we stopped using the bikes to transport fragile items entirely, we had paid twice for damage of customer items. We’ve learned from these situations and have adjusted.
What other activities do you engage in asides work?
I have a photo and video studio where I run video and photo shoots, commercials, basically anything media.
What are your future goals and aspirations for VOOM?
It’s big and that’s why the other time he said we keep looking for money, we keep investing. We want to go round Africa, that’s the “future goal”, so we won’t stop until we cover Nigeria, Ghana, e.t.c then our next stop is East Africa then we move on until we’ve covered the whole of Africa. That’s the strength of Logistics, so when we wake up some 25 years from now and our children are like “I want to start an ecommerce site”, and they don’t have to worry about Logistics because it’s the backbone of Ecommerce. He started Ecommerce and saw the problem with it. So we decide to fix it. Somebody has to take the hard punch and that’s what we’re doing. It’s good that we have brands likes DHL and Fedex but those are not indigenous brands, they have invested in dollars so they charge accordingly, it has to work for their books. So we decided to build something from home and then reach the world.
They say every business has it trial and error stage, what was yours?
We are still there. We still growing and learning because the vision is far.
Is there any new strategy or idea you’ve implemented so far in your field of business?
I’ll still say what we’re doing here is trial and error. We’re learning a lot, before it was same day delivery now we say book us a day before, we used bikes to transport cakes but not anymore. We’re adapting but the main goal is to help people move things from one place to another safely and without stress. So anything that helps us achieve that goal we would do it. We could have just said “you drop and we deliver” but we want to make it easy.
Just last week a lady from Port-Harcourt used our service. She sold something to someone in Ibadan, so she needed us to pick it up from the bus park. After the delivery, she sent series of messages thanking us. I could just pictured the problem we solved for her, I mean she has never been in Ibadan before and doesn’t know anything about Ibadan. She just checked on Instagram and found that there’s a logistics company that picks up and delivers at a particular rate, she made contact and dropped the required information. The delivery was made the same day the package got into Ibadan. She was really excited. So that’s what we are focused on a stress free process.
If you’ve gone through an issue of picking up an item from the driver at the bus park, you’d know how much stress you would have taken off your shoulders. After this job, we realized how we were going to properly charge. We’re innovating as we’re going through, this is different. What we do is pickup and delivery to a specific location, person and phone number.
What advice do you have for people about to start a startup or any company of such in Ibadan?
What drives us is that we just want to solve a problem. For our generation, I see that we want to copy solutions from outside, we just want to copy something that has already been solved, I believe we should also look inwards, look at our environment and choose specific problems to solve. Whether we like it or not, it’s when those problems are solved that our children won’t have to battle them anymore, because our parents didn’t solve these things that’s why we are in it now. One time we were discussing and there was power failure and I was like for the past 57 years no one has been able to solve the problem of light. Generation to generation, people must choose a battle they want to fight and that’s my advice to every young person starting something. Choose a problem to solve, something you complain about, something that you don’t like and be passionate about it. And for you to do that you must decide to live a simple life, if not, you would not be able to grow a business. Being African is expensive, the weddings, building a big house, having a big car, even funerals are expensive, you know all those things that don’t matter yet. So you should just decide from now that I’m not going to live this status quo life and be very simple and build something that solves a problem. With that mentality I think you’d do so much.
What’s your say on that?
I go with him but I’ll also talk on the money side. As young people we need to be bold in looking for money. You need to talk to people around you because business costs money. We’re looking at setting up in Lagos also and it’s expensive so I’m looking for that money. Also here we’re looking at our office space and all that, all this things are expensive for any business to scale. We’re looking at DHL and Fedex, we’re putting a lot of money in. As young people we should be very bold in looking for money, go to that aunty, go to that uncle, it takes money. It’s not just your computer and your house, you’ll start from there, I mean we started from just one bike in the house, we needed to look for more money get more bikes, cars, e.t.c
You guys have mentioned DHL and Fedex, do you think your business is modeled after theirs?
One way or the other we’re going to enter their space. We’re looking at setting up in Lagos next year then linking Ibadan and Lagos together. So you can send a package from your house in Lagos to somebody house in Ibadan without moving, just with a phone call. So basically we’re going to enter their space very soon. We’re looking at them too, they are our mentors. We are looking at their fleet and how we can get to that point. Here in Ibadan, now we get 4 classes of fleet and we already have 2, by the middle of december we should have 3 standard fleets, 3 standards types. That’s VOOM Express (pickup & delivery), VOOM Executive (car rentals) and VOOM Errands ( charged at hourly rates) but there’s another sector in terms of buses, trucks, e.t.c. We’ll enter their space eventually.
What do you think has been more helpful in terms for you in terms of referral, offline or online?
I think is online, though I’m not sure. It has been a mixture of both, someone sees us online, uses our services and talks to a friend, so by word of mouth it gets around. I’m not too sure because we haven’t done any major advertisement.
It was nice meeting you.
The pleasure is mine.
It was great having you here.