In under one year, Nigeria has suffered from at least three fuel scarcities. Stories of people waking up at ungodly hours in the bid to secure petrol have become the order of the day. I recall sitting in fuel queues for hours because choosing not to meant damage to your car when I was much younger. For those who live in Nigeria at the moment, the rhetoric has not changed. In Soala Ekine’s piece on “Why Nigeria will continue to suffer fuel scarcities” he stated that our Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, said that fuel scarcity will be a thing of the past by April 7. Three weeks later, fuel scarcities were still an issue in Nigeria. Necessity, however, is the mother of invention they say and the constant fuel scarcities have led to the creation of what has been dubbed, Uber for petrol, an app called FueledUp.
FueledUp was due to launch in May and shall look to deliver petrol directly to customers. In essence, it shall ensure that you no longer have to spend 3 hours waiting in a queue to buy petrol and even when scarcities cease, ensure you can have your petrol delivered to you.
23 year old, Subomi Owo-Odusi is the brain behind FueledUp as well as its Chief Executive Officer. Subomi has clearly identified a loophole in existing systems and hopefully can provide reliable and trustworthy services as FueledUp launches. The invention of FueledUp could definitely revolutionize lives and as such, it was important to hear from Subomi on how exactly the app shall work and where his motivations stem from and what the long-term plan for FueledUp is.
What motivated you to start FueledUp?
FueledUp was motivated by failure and a drive to do something. I say failure because I had been into a few other businesses in the Oil and Gas downstream retail sector and things would move well for a bit then crash fully, I’d leave that and go into something else it’ll move well then crash and I became very fed up. Sometime in December, things went very bad and I just challenged God and said “I don’t know what to do again, but just do something and show me you are God”. And that was it. A few days after, I stumbled on a similar business model in the U.S and said why can’t I just do this here, it’s my field and it’s very necessary because people need convenience and I put pen to paper and began working.
The rationale behind FueledUp is convenience. During the fuel scarcities, it’s a great option. At times when I can simply drive into a petrol station and buy petrol without any hassle, it’s not as appealing. What then is the incentive for me to use FueledUp?
There’s really no incentive. We have created provision for the people that’ll say “I can still go to the fuel station myself” but the service works in a way where you don’t have to and knowing ourselves as human beings, if we see what we can tick off an item on our stress list, we’d go for it. FueledUp’s aim is to become part of everyone’s routine whereby you just request, whenever you need it. No worries no stress.
How exactly will you secure petrol in a country where petrol is as scarce as it is at the moment?
We’ve put modalities in place to stay secure and safe.
On the FueledUp app? Is it going to be possible to pay with Credit Cards or Paypal to ensure there is minimal exchange of cash?
Yes! That’s the major aim of the app. Seamless service. Working with Paystack for our payments so customers know that your details are safe. Also no card details are transmitted to FueledUp.
It’s still the same way diesel works or any petroleum product: you buy at wholesale price and sell at a price comfortable for your margin but nothing over the government approved product prices.
In Lagos, we know traffic to be the order of the day. There’s one of the delivery modes which promises to deliver in 30 minutes to an hour, what happens if your driver runs into traffic with a delivery? Are your drivers going to commute by motorcycles to prevent this?
I can’t reveal the specifics right now, but we will strategically position ourselves in these locations and understand the terrain to seek out faster routes to get to the customer. Also the app would keep the customer notified. Working with Google Maps we can also know traffic routes and advise customers as we are on the way.
Consumer satisfaction is key so what guarantees are you going to make to meet those demands? How will your drivers commute to prevent this?
As I stated before, traffic is inevitable and unpredictable. But with the knowledge of other routes and Google Maps Traffic info, it’ll help us deliver on demand and keep customers satisfied and happy, Which is our main aim at the end of the day.
On what smartphones shall the FueledUp app be released? My mum still uses a Blackberry, many apps aren’t on Blackberries but then she’d probably still want to order fuel? Would it therefore be possible for people to order fuel by placing calls?
When we launch we’d be releasing on the iOS and Andriod platform. Subsequently we’d release for Windows and maybe Blackberry (still looking into that). For phone orders there won’t be that option for now. We’re driving tech and are not trying to drive back to the old ways.
At the moment, you’re launching only in Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki Phase One. What shall you look for in a certain neighborhood before FueledUp begins delivering there?
In our terms of service too, we’ve stated that if the environment isn’t conducive enough and attendants are not comfortable going there, then we would not dispense fuel. As you know it’s a very volatile product so all safety precautions must be taken. That is a major factor we will look at before deliveries start in a neighborhood.
Also our drivers and pump attendants go through fire fighting training to prepare them for any mishaps.
What’s the long term vision for FueledUp? Where do you hope for the app to be in a year and in three years from now?
Already the app has gotten international coverage, so in a year I see us in a few states in Nigeria and in 3 years I see us already settled and running in some African countries.
What do you see as the future for the petroleum sector in the country?
The youth have to wake up and seize their future by force, it won’t be handed to us. We have to join hands together in all capacities to make sure we bring change to the sector, I see a tech driven petroleum sector where things are working and were growth is driven.
NOTE: Since this was written the fuel subsidy provided by the Nigerian Government has been removed and petrol prices are now in the region of #145 a liter which is expected to bring an end to scarcities.