Allure interview: Eno Essien – The Millennial Vehicle Tracker
The car tracking system has become a useful tool to combat crime, especially car theft. Sitting pretty at the helm of affairs of one of Nigeria’s foremost vehicle tracking companies is 36-year-old, Eno Essien, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Rheytrak Limited- a Vehicle tracking and recovery company.
She established Rheytrak eleven years ago, at the age of twenty-five. With no prior work experience , Rheytrak under her leadership, has experienced steady, remarkable accomplishments, recording exceptional success in the recovery of stolen vehicles, from locations within and outside Nigerian.
With branches in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Akwa Ibom, and an impressive portfolio of clients, cutting across insurance companies, transport and logistics companies, multinationals, public quoted companies, government agencies, and a host of others, Eno Essien attributes her success first, to the grace of God, and second, to the effectiveness of her product.
A graduate of Microbiology from the University of Calabar, Eno who is the only female CEO in the vehicle tracking business in Nigeria today, recently won the Exquisite Lady of the Year (ELOY) Award for ‘Woman Who Inspires.’
She talks about the techniques of vehicle tracking, life as a young entrepreneur, and more.
Did you expect to win the ELOY Award?
Not at all, I only heard of ELOY recently. You know, I was on Instagram, I just noticed the advert that they were doing an award. So I was excited when they called me to confirm what I do.
There are over a hundred tracking vehicle companies in Nigeria, all founded by men, i am the only woman and the youngest, and I have been doing it for eleven years.
I would also like to add, that age doesn’t mean anything, because I know people love to give excuses, like ‘oh, I am too young for this,’ imagine and believe that you can do it, and it is possible because the mind is powerful.
What does the award mean to you?
I am pleased with it. It means people are watching, and it feels good to know we inspire people in our little way. There are a lot of women doing outstanding things, and for them to say ‘Eno you inspire’ means a lot to me.
Does it give you the push to do more?
Ofcourse, knowing that I ‘inspire people,’ I am encouraged to be myself and not under any societal pressure. And I want, when people think they won’t be able to do certain things, to remember that ‘Eno did it’ and they can too.
So what informed your choice in a career, as a teenager. And at what point did the car tracking business begin?
I wanted to be a medical doctor, due to lack of guidance and counselling. You know when we were growing up, it’s either you want to be a lawyer, an engineer, or a doctor. I didn’t think I could be an entrepreneur, and I didn’t know I could do business. So I wanted to be a doctor, I put in for jamb, I didn’t pass the JAMB cut-off mark and microbiology was like the alternative, so I studied microbiology. In my third year, there was a long strike; I decided to do business. I used to buy and sell from a neighbour, who used to bring things from the UK. That was when I realised that I had the business instinct.
I then went to visit a friend, who just came back from the UK with another friend. Unfortunately, armed robbers came to the house and stole my other friend’s car.
So, while I was doing this small business, I had met a man who told me that I will make an outstanding marketer and that there was this GSM car alarm technology that was relatively new in Nigeria, I should come and market it for him. I didn’t take him seriously because I thought to myself that ‘who was going to steal my car.’ So when robbers stole my friend’s car, I called him to explain the technology to me and he did. I got curious. Curiosity led me to this business, and then I decided to make inquiries. I did my research, and I wrote to different companies in different countries. One man in India replied me; he explained the technology to me and told me that it was relatively new in Nigeria, and he was planning to come to Nigeria to set up the business for someone. So when he came to Nigeria, I went to see him. I bought one, put in my car, started to practice how it works, and basically, that was how I started. It started working in my car, and then I began to market it.
Meanwhile, selling it was not an immediate success. It took such a long time; trying to make people understand it; eventually, it worked. My first job came from a pharmaceutical company, and I was like ‘wow.’ I made my first million, and I was like ‘just like that.’ Another post came in, from there another company and that is how it started.
How does the car tracking technology work in Nigeria?
You install a device in your car, from your mobile phone you can download an app, and you can view your vehicle wherever it is, wherever you are. So you do not have to be in Nigeria to be able to see your car. Wherever you are in the world, you can view your vehicle on your mobile phone. If the car is stolen, you send a message, and it shuts down the car, that is how it works.
So when you shut down the car, what’s next?
I will explain with a scenario. On Tuesday we had a stolen vehicle. The robbers had stolen the man’s car, and they took off, he used it for car hire. He picked up two passengers, and they happened to be robbers, then, they threw him out and took his car. When they informed us the next day, we then checked the location and found the vehicle and demobilised it and kept monitoring it. As soon as they activated the car, we shut it down, then called in the police. We work with the Special Anti-Robbery Squad,(SARS) They went there and saw them trying to tow the vehicle. They caught the robbers red-handed; the car was at Lagos Ibadan expressway. We retrieved the car and it was handed back to the owner. They are always so happy because you know the trauma of losing a vehicle.
Isn’t it something they can disconnect once they steal the car?
It takes particular expertise to do that; you must be vast in it to be able to do that. Also remember that when this thing happens, the robbers are working with time. These robbers are scared too, the owner of the car is also scared. At that point, they are not thinking of disconnecting; they are considering how they can quickly take the car to a safe place before anything. So it doesn’t work that way.
What are some of the challenges you face in the business, is it something that is acceptable here?
Yes, it is very much accepted; just that, there needs to be more awareness, which is what I am trying to do. Maybe 55% of Nigerians have the tracker; there is still room. You know people keep feeling like, ‘nobody is going to steal my car.’ ‘I cover my vehicle with the blood of Jesus,’ you see that kind of thing. People have that wrong perception. So there needs to be more work, anybody can steal anyone’s car as long as you have a car, it is a potential.
Nobody goes out today and plans for thieves to steal their vehicles. They can steal anybody’s car at any time. So why don’t you put a tracker on your car and get peace of mind, knowing that whenever they steal your car, you will always find it? There are cars we have recovered five days after, two weeks later. I remember a vehicle we recovered from Ibadan two weeks after, the robbers resprayed the car colour. The tracker told us this is where the car was, and police are saying ‘it is not a black car; it is a red car we are seeing.’ We were like ‘that is the car,’ ‘flag them down and get the chassis number.’ That was how we got that car.
What is it like being in a field dominated by men?
Strength has no gender. I do not see the challenges being a woman, in a male-dominated field; for me, my gender doesn’t mean anything. I am working, the same way as a male nurse, and a female nurse, or a male doctor or a female doctor. It is just unique and i love it.
So for someone that studied microbiology and eventually ended up as a car tracker. What was it like for your parents, were they opposed to it or did they readily accept it?
They accepted totally. My parents were not the type to impose any career on their children. My parents were very liberal. My dad studied Engineering and ended up being a Journalist. The moment the idea came, and I told them this is what I want to do, they were very supportive. I wanted my dad to invest, to give me the start-up capital and he refused, knowing that I had never handled N50,000 before, and I was now asking him for this ‘vast sum.’ So for me, that challenged me, to think that I can always start it small, and grow. I have been doing it for eleven years and remain grateful to him. So my parents were very supportive, my siblings- my brother, in particular- is fully involved with me in the business.
Has it been rewarding, financially and otherwise?
It has been rewarding. The fact that robbers stole your car; you were in a hopeless situation; then I call you back that the police ‘recovered’ your vehicle, and you go to the police station to pick it, the joy is unexplainable. You need to see the reaction of the owners of these repossessed cars to understand it. So, the pleasure of retrieving their car and handing it over to them- that is the greatest reward for me.
So how do you take time off for yourself, when you are not working. What do you do?
I walk a lot. I wear a fitbit. I pace a lot, for me it is relaxing, I can think, I am calm. I read books, motivational books and I recently bought Mrs Ibukun Awosika’s book: ‘The Woman Entrepreneur’ I am currently reading that.
I take the time to go on vacation abroad. I spend time with my family, my parents are no longer staying in Lagos, so I go to see them often.
So if you have to travel where your best holiday spot is?
I don’t have the best holiday spot. I don’t think I have repeated a particular place. I go to a different site; I go to new places. The only place I probably go repeatedly is the UK because my sister lives there.
Who or what has been your greatest strength or inspiration?
Well, I will start with God because He is the reason that I have come this far. In Rheytrak we have staff numbers, I am 002, I left 001 for God because I recognise that He is the reason; He gave me the idea. He has just helped me; my story has been grace. One favour to the other, one door opening to the other.
So God is my strength, He is the one that I always call on for everything I do. Physically, it will be my brother; he is my most prominent critic. If I do something, he is like ‘no, no, no you can’t do that.’ ‘Why do you send this kind of mail,’ even when I don’t agree with what he said, at any point in time, I always think about it again, and the truth is that he is still right.
As an entrepreneur what is the best business advice you have received so far?
Start small and grow your business. It worked perfectly for me because I started with nothing. I have never worked. I did not have any work experience, so I didn’t know what it was like to work in an organisation. So start small and grow.
Another thing would be, I went to Lagos Business School. A lot of the work i do today were things I learnt in business school. For instance, branching out, opening businesses in Abuja and Port Harcourt, were things I learned from Lagos Business School.
So if you ever had to advise someone who looks up to you what you would tell them?
Follow your dream; you need to be your greatest cheerleader. If you are waiting for them to cheer you on, or encourage you, you will remain for long.
When I started, everyone discouraged me except my family. Some people will call and ask ‘are you still doing that tracking thing.’ Interestingly, these are the people calling me now asking ‘how is business,’ can you help me do this?
So, personally what is fashion like for you?
I try to be very comfortable. I am basic; I wear things that please me. I hardly ever have make up on, except I am going for a function.
What do you like to wear?
I love to wear black, all black everything.
If you have to go for a red carpet event what would you wear?
The first thing is black. I don’t know, but I think I am comfortable with it. However, I am trying to do colours now.
Are you one for designers when it comes to shoes and bag?
No, I am not. I work very hard, and I am not lavish. I take informed decisions. I don’t do things because other people are doing it. I follow what makes me comfortable. What I like, I admire some of those things, once in a while I could get things to make myself happy. But I do not go out of my way, and it is not by force.
How do you keep fit?
I walk a lot and play squash.
Do you have a beauty routine?
No, I don’t, this skin you see is my blessing from God. I drink a lot of water, and I don’t use body cream. If I have to cream my feet, I wash my hands immediately. I don’t use any form of body cream.
What are you happy about at the moment?
I am so happy to be alive. I am glad I am doing what I do. I love my family, my parents, my siblings, my niece and nephews. I like to be around family
Are you married?
No, I am not
What do you look out for in a guy?
I am not looking for anything. The Bible says ‘I will be found.’ So I am waiting to be ‘found.’ I am not looking for anybody. I like a man who loves God, born again spirit filled, hard-working.
So finally what is your dream for Rheytrak ?
Our slogan is ‘the preferred vehicle tracking company” When anybody wants to track their vehicle, I want them to think Rheytrak. I want us to continue to be number one in the vehicle tracking industry. I want us to be everywhere.
BY Yemisi Suleiman