The CEO/Co-founder of CARS45, Mr. Etop Ikpe, spoke withÂ Emma Okonji on how the adoption and application of technology solutions will enhance the ease of doing online shopping on the CARS45 platform, as well as boost technical skills, among other issues. Excerpts:
What is CARS45 all about?
CARS45 is Nigeria’s number one online cars selling platform.Â Founded in July 2016, CARS45 has grown tremendously, offering online services for sellers and buyers of cars.Â It was founded to ease the stress associated with the auto industry. People find it extremely difficult to sell their used vehicles to willing buyers and most times, it is difficult to get willing buyers and willing sellers. But our platform has provided the opportunity for willing sellers to meet willing buyers and in few minutes, the buying and selling processes are completed.
Before the advent of CARS45, people buy and sell cars through three main channels; friends, driver and mechanic, and these channels do not bring any form of transparency and there is no guarantee on the value for money and most times, it is usually unsafe.
Since 2016 that you stared the online business, can you say you have achieved the focus of creating ease of doing online business when it comes to sales of cars?
Looking back from where we are coming from, I will confidently say that our dream has been achieved to a great extent even though we are not where we want to be. With our online platform, we have been able to create speed in the sales of cars, we have created security through our platform and we have also created transparency that has brought peace of mind to both the buyer and the seller.
Before the emergence of CARS45, people were ignorant of actual pricing of their used cars, and buyers were also oblivious of the value of the car they are buying. But we were able to create an online portal where sellers are able to upload the value of the car, based on our test report, and the buyer is able to see and know the value of cars he or she wants to buy. What we did was to create pricing algorithm that marks over 3000 brands of cars and their values from 1986 to 2016. Very soon we will release our 2017 model of price algorithm.
We advise people who want to buy cars to first visit our website to check the value of the choice of car, and we provide various range of prices, based on our evaluation of the cars. This of course has helped buyers and sellers to have idea of the pricing of their cars. The website, www.cars45.com is free to visit and people can freely browse to know the value and pricing of their choice of cars.
We encourage families to visit our site and also come to our offline shops for inspection after booking online. We have over 20 offline shops spread across Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, where families could go for car inspection and we are constantly growing our locations.
How do evaluate a car that is put out for sale?
At CARS45, we carry out Â over 200 point checks on a car, looking at the condition of the car engine, its transmission system, the interior, the body and several other things that we look out for, before evaluating the car. At the end of our evaluation, we digitise the report about the condition of the car and we upload the details on our website for pre-verified buyers on our network, to get first-hand information about the car. So we offer opportunity for the buyer to have better information about the condition of the car and we present the offer of the buyer to the seller. When both parties agree on the price them we help them to receive money and present the money the seller before the car is released to the buyer.
How has technology helped CARS45 to successfully connect buyers to sellers via the online platform?
Technology has helped us to cut down on the time it takes to sell a car online and it has helped to simplify the whole exercise and making the whole process very transparent. It has helped reduce time of purchase from one month or more to about 45 minutes, because we have a whole lot of verified buyers on our backend website ready to buy, having had access to the value of the car that we posted on our website.
How are you addressing the issue of financial insecurity of customers while shopping for cars online?
In terms of security and ease of business, we have made the online transaction easy to use with high layers of security, which enables customers to use their mobile phones to access our website. The site is fully optimised for mobile phone usage. We have high security measures put in place to protect all forms of online transaction, making consumer data and information to be well secured on our website.
CARS45 recently partnered Automedics. What value is the partnership bringing to your customers and your business?
The partnership was designed to add value to the business and to also boost customer experience. The partnership will further create awareness of the online shopping platform among the consumers and it will also help promote the business. It will increase the overall value chain of the business. Automedics is known for its high standard in improving the auto industries through training and mentorship, and we believe that the partnership will address a whole lot of issues and reposition the customers and the business itself. Automedics had, in the past years, trained many technicians to acquire technical skills for selfÂ reliance and job creation. So, any technician that passes through us will have the opportunity to acquire standard training from Automedics, based on the curriculum that we operate with.
The federal government has acknowledged the dearth in technical skills in the country. Do you see your partnership with Automedics, boosting technical skills development across the country?
To a great extent, our partnership with Automedics will help in addressing the dearth in technical skills development in the country. In the first place, the reason why there is dearth of technical skill personnel in the county is because there is weak demand for technical skills in the country. If people are conscious of the standard of technical skills that they wanted, they will go all out for it and ensure that people are well trained to fill the gap in skill manpower. At CARS45, we have specific needs to deliver excellence, hence we partnered Automedics to help address the issue facing the auto industry in Nigeria.
How will the partnership with Automedics help in creating jobs for the Nigerian people?
We are sure that the partnership will help create jobs because more people will be trained and empowered in such a way that they will not be dependent on government for their survival. The trained ones will in turn, train more people, who will also rise to employ more hands to boost their business and by so doing, a lot of jobs will be created across strata.
What is the relationship between the kind of business you offer and the ones offered by some classified online platforms that also sell used items online?
There is a relationship in the kind of business offering that we do compared to what others offer, but the mode and channel of reaching out to customers is what makes the difference. We are truly auto online business platform, but other classified websites that you mentioned, have their unique ways of reaching out to their customers, which are quite different from our kind of business.
The federal government is keen at boosting local content in online business. Is CARS45 in anyway complementing government’s efforts to drive local content?
Our technology is locally developed and we have 100 per cent Nigerian workforce, even though the name of the company looks foreign.
Your kind of business is largely driven by broadband internet access, which has slow penetration level in Nigeria. How has the challenge of broadband penetration affected your kind of online business?
We are aware of the challenges of broadband penetration in the county, hence we made out business in two folds; the online platform and the offline platform, thus giving customers varieties to choose from. People can go online Â and still get in touch with CARS45, while those that cannot pay for broadband services, could go offline for ease of overcoming bandwidth connectivity.
What do you think government should do concerning broadband penetration?
Nigeria needs more investment and more collaboration. Government at all levels should therefore create enabling environment to allow more players come on board. Government should make broadband internet access a necessity for all Nigerians, and make sure that 95 per cent of our youths are fully connected to the Internet. So government has to collaborate and consult widely to bring in more people and businesses on board.
How will you rate the adoption of e-Commerce in Nigeria?
E-commerce adoption in the country is still slow but we are getting there. It, however, portends huge opportunity for Nigerian businesses. Government must support the growth of e-commerce, since so many people are coming on board to do online business. Government should be able to make some pronouncements that will drive online business. For instance, government can make it compulsory that all government business must be online, thereby reducing the cost of paperÂ work that is even more expensive to practice.
So what kind of support do you think government should offer to drive the online business in Nigeria?
Government must focus more on the initiative of ease of doing business and ensure that it uses technology to drive its activities. Government has plans with ease of doing business, but government has to expedite action on such plans and ensure that businesses are done with ease in Nigeria at all levels by providing internet access, finance, infrastructure and other things that will facilitate ease of doing business across several sectors. Government needs to set clear milestones and ensure they are adequately met. Targets should be set, policies implemented and monitored, to address all of that.