Today, we’re thrilled to announce our $2.15m seed round.
We’re going to double down on our mission to give Nigerians access to easy, affordable, and high-quality vehicle maintenance. If Nigerians can regularly service their cars and trucks, they will avoid costly repairs and save money in the long-run.
There’s a collective impact, too.
In Nigeria, we move by road. Motor vehicles are the predominant means of transportation, moving more than 80% of people and goods. Every day, 12m cars, minibuses, delivery vans, tanks, and tractor-trailers trawl the roads of our cities.
Given that the majority of Nigerian vehicles are second-hand, breakdowns are frequent. Vehicle failure exacerbates traffic congestion and leads to standstill traffic that paralyzes Nigerian cities, especially Lagos. Vehicle breakdowns are behind 70% of Lagos gridlock.
And, it’s only getting worse: vehicular breakdowns skyrocketed by 200% in 2018.
Vehicle breakdowns don’t just cause “go-slows” that make life unbearable for commuters and are a drag on productivity. They’re also a serious public health risk. In 2017, nearly 20% of more than 10,000 road accidents were due to poorly maintained vehicles.
I first learned of the ripple effects of Nigeria’s poorly serviced cars when I worked at Kobo360, a logistics company. We matched thousands of truckers across Nigeria to companies who needed to ship cargo. We were constantly monitoring our platform to ensure that trucks were moving on schedule. Yet, often, they were stopped.
When the safety team called truckers to find out why they were at a standstill, nine out of ten times, they’d said: motor don spoil.
The engine overheated, a gasket blew, or a tire exploded.
When I dug deeper, I discovered one common cause of the breakdowns: our truckers didn’t regularly service their trucks. If they did take their vehicles to a mechanic, they complained about the service quality.
For me, it was a light bulb moment. Vehicle maintenance was like an octopus — its tentacles were far reaching and touched all parts of our economy. If we could tackle Nigeria’s fragmented vehicle maintenance market, we can prolong the lifespan of our vehicles and have a much bigger impact on productivity and road safety.
In 2021, I teamed up with Ayoola Akinkunmi, a seasoned mechanic who can fix all Japanese makes from Toyota to Hyundai as well as Mercedes Benz, to found Mecho Autotech. Similar to China’s Tuhu, we aim to build a digital platform that connects businesses with large fleets and customers to both qualified in-house and third-party mechanics.
Today, motor vehicles are the most popular means of transportation in Nigeria. In Lagos alone, 5 million cars and 200,000 commercial vehicles ply the roads with 227 vehicles for every kilometer. That’s 20 times more than the national average.
Used cars, or tokunbo, dominate Nigeria’s car market. From cars to Danfo minibuses to 40-foot trucks, 90% of vehicles on Nigerian roads are second hand. With an average age of seven years and sometimes clocking up to 1m kilometers on the odometer, Nigerian vehicles tend to break down frequently.
A highly fragmented industry
Nigeria’s vehicle maintenance market is informal and highly fragmented.
Few Nigerians can afford expensive vehicle maintenance from major automobile manufacturers. The market size is as small as 5%. Even if you buy a new car in Nigeria, after-sales maintenance packages are uncommon.
Unable to take their cars to OEM-run garages, Nigerian car owners resort to roadside mechanics who are poorly equipped to deliver quality services. Most mechanics learn the trade through an apprenticeship system or are self-taught. They lack the tools, like a solid kit of spanners, for common repairs. They also lack the proper diagnostic tools to detect potential vehicle failures during regular inspections.
Given the system’s informality, run-ins with unscrupulous mechanics aren’t atypical, either. Nigerian car owners complain about being sold inferior spare parts. Worse yet, some mechanics pilfer original parts, especially for popular makes and models like Toyota Corolla, and swap in lower-grade substitutes.
Even though service quality is subpar, Nigerians spend large amounts of money on vehicle maintenance and repair, paying on average $650/year.
And the market isn’t slowing down, either. Nigeria’s vehicle maintenance is growing at an estimated 7% per year and is worth $7.8B.
Automating vehicle maintenance
Our approach is simple. When our customers download our app and enter their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), our algorithm crunches the vehicle’s technical specs: make, model, year of manufacture, and engine cylinder. It also calculates the cost of maintenance and proposes a schedule. We then match the car owner to an in-house mechanic, via one of our garages, or third-party mechanic.
We recommend regular car inspection and oil changes. For truckers or individuals bound on long trips, we also perform pre-journey inspections. Commercial trucks also need frequent wheel balancing and tire alignment. Given the condition of our roads, trucks need to change tires every three months.
We want our customers, both corporate fleet owners and individuals, to avoid expensive repairs. Regular oil changes prevent severe engine damage. An oil change and inspection costs 20,000 naira, while fixing a ‘knocked engine’ may go from 300,000 naira for a Toyota Corolla to as high as two million naira for a Mercedes-Benz.
Vetting qualified mechanics
We vet mechanics on their skills and tools before bringing them on as partners.
We first gather basic data on their work experience: garage location, phone contacts, years of experience and number of apprentices. We also ask if they’re members of the National Automobile Technicians Association (NATA), the leading industry body.
Specialization is also a key concern. Do they work with trucks or cars? We also dig into their expertise with mechanical parts: electrical vs mechanical, panels, gears or engines.
We assess all their core competencies on a 1–10 scale and check their references with NATA.
Lastly, we rank them with a scorecard:
Today, we have 7,000 3rd party mechanics who have undergone a thorough vetting process.
In addition to our 3rd party mechanics, we are building four garages in Lagos, three of which are ready to go into operation in Ikeja, Surulere, and Lekki later this year.
Large workshops are central to operations. Businesses with large fleets — reaching up to 1,000 vehicles — can’t afford to keep idle cars awaiting maintenance or repairs in a car park. They prefer to bring vehicles in for service to create available space.
We’re also supplying quality spare parts to our mechanics, solving a longstanding problem in the industry.
Fostering a vehicle maintenance culture
Used cars aren’t going anywhere. Nigerians will continue to import second-hand vehicles due to their affordable price point. Given lax regulation and a thriving cross-border trade, vehicles aged up to 15 years will find their way onto Nigerians roads.
As such, vehicle maintenance has never been more important to solve.
We want to foster a vehicle maintenance culture in Nigeria, helping customers with repairs and spare part procurement along the way. We want to prolong the longevity of Nigerians’ vehicles and keep our roads and people safe.