Olujimi: Focus and Integrity are Key to Survival in Downstream Sector



To ease the Apapa gridlock, Emadeb Energy Services Limited recently built an ultra-modern depot in the Ijegun area of Lagos State and has also embarked on the construction of mega filling stations. The Managing Director of the company’s retail unit, Mrs. Olugbesoye Olujimi shared the success story with Ejiofor Alike. Excerpts:

Emadeb Energy Services has been around for about a decade now. How has the journey been so far?
Like you know, Emadeb Energy Services has been around for almost a decade but we are a company that evolves according to the needs at hand; we are not static but dynamic. We study the market find out what is necessary and we try to meet the needs. So, that is what gave birth to the retail arm of the business. Emadeb Energy Services has a depot at Ijegun area of Lagos, where we have storage facilities for petrol, kerosene and diesel.

When we saw the need to bring the products closer to the people, we started branching out into the retail outletswhich is the easiest way to meet our customers one-on-one. And since then, like the Chief Executive Officer of Emadeb Energy Services Limited said, in the next 24 months, we intend to acquire and brand at least 10 more mega stations. We are on the right path. In Abuja, not up to a year ago, we launched our flagship mega station and it is doing well because Emadeb is a company founded on integrity.

So, that has been keeping us. When you look at the margins, they are very low but we tell our workers to stay focused and maintain the company’s integrity and then money will eventually come. Money should not be the priority. The priority should be looking after your customers and meeting their needs. If you do that, volumes will increase and money will come at the end of the day. Then, you will be known for what you stand for. Emadeb is known for integrity, which is what has given us the strength to still keep rolling out retail stations as planned even in these difficult times

What informed the decision of Emadeb to embark on construction of mega stations at a time investors are withholding investments as a result of the harsh operating environment?

The Chief Executive Officer of Emadeb and his management team believe that whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. So, before we set out to do any project, we go to the drawing board and count the cost. We will ask ourselves; ‘what is the need at hand that we are trying to meet and how well can we meet the need?’

So, this is something that has emanated from the fact that we saw a massive gap in the retail outlet space and we said; ‘okay, we need to do something differently’, which is to have mega stations that can service many motorists and at the same time cater for the needs of the people; which is what has taken us to the lubes business.

We want it to be a one-stop location. All our outlets across the country are one-stop locations. So, if you are on your way home and you are tired, you can buy other things such as bread, eggs and other groceries from our mini marts. We are looking to cater for the people’s needs. In that way, we will get to imprint ourselves on their minds.

You have talked about petrol, diesel and kerosene but what is the future for Emadeb in the downstream sector?

The future is to go into more retail outlets, branding more retail stations and then partner with existing stations like other independent marketers because with our depot, we have consistent supply of products. It is like when you have a mother, you won’t lack food. Likewise, supply in our retail outlets is constant and this is one of the factors that keep retail outlets going. Being sure of when your next supply will come, keeps you going. We have a depot and that is why we are considering partnering with individuals that have stations; even if they are equipped with just one pump.
We do not look down on people. Consequently, we are willing to brand those stations and supply them with products. They will bear our brand and uphold our values. That is how we can spread as quickly as we want.

There are other players in the downstream sector who have invested in retail outlets. So, how are you going to cope with the competition?

It is competition only when you are looking at doing things the same way.
As I have said earlier, we are out to do things differently in the sense that we are not just here to sell fuel. Other people already sell fuel but what we want to do here is to keep our integrity intact. So, when a customer drives in, he or she is greeted by a very polite attendant and is attended to. There is transparency and nobody rubs off the meter before you check. You check the meter and whatever you pay for is what you get. You get value for your money and that will encourage you to come back. So, we are doing things differently; we are not just here to sell fuel; we are here to carve a niche.

You must have encountered some challenges in the course of achieving all these accomplishments. Could you please share some of these challenges with us?

Everything in life has challenges – even getting up in the morning has its own challenges. But once you are determined and focused and do not allow any distraction on your way to deter you from your goal, you will be able to attain what you set out to achieve.
We had challenges. For instance, when we came to commence this project, we had people who were disturbing us from working but because we were focused and committed to the demands at hand, God raised support for us even from the community and we got people who volunteered to watch the project for us and others could not come to stop the work. That is why I said that money will come after but relationship is key; focus is very important. We had challenges in terms of the environment and government policies, not just for this location but for other locations. In the process of product distribution, the roads are also a challenge but we are committed. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Other players in the downstream sector are complaining of serious liquidity challenges and inability to raise finance for investments because of the low margins in the business. How are you able to overcome this challenge and continue to increase your presence in the downstream sector?

Yes, the margins are low especially when you have to transport products from Lagos to the North. But like I said, we are truthful and our integrity makes the turnover a bit higher. In Emadeb, integrity is our watch word. The catch phrase in Emadeb is ‘powered by integrity’. So, we are powered by integrity.

The banks know that when Emadeb says ‘please give me a line to trade, Emadeb will trade purely with the line and then we pay back.’ We stay true to the commitment. We don’t divert whatever funds we are given; our bankers – FCMB and Union Bank, can testify to that. Integrity is our watchword and that is what has kept us in the business.