Josfyn Uba And Christine Onwuachumba
While visiting a friend in 2006, a gang of robbers struck and made away with her friend’s car. The car was never recovered. That incident changed the course of Eno Essien’s life forever as she vowed to make car theft arduous for perpetrators.
Eno Essien, a graduate of Microbiology immediately began her research into the technology of vehicle tracking, and the outcome of that research is Rheytrak Limited, a vehicle tracking and recovery company with branches across the country.
12 years on, Essien remains the only female CEO in the vehicle tracking industry in Nigeria—and the youngest. Her courage has earned her several recognitions and awards including the Exquisite Ladies of The Year, ELOY, Award for Woman Who Inspires and the Nigerian Women Achievers Award for Enterprising Humanitarian Personality of the Year. She was also nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year (Technology Category) at the 7th edition of the Future Awards. An alumnus of the Lagos Business School, Essien is the Public Relations Officer of the Association of Telematics Operators of Nigeria and a member of the Governing Council of the Lagos Business School Alumni Association. She spoke to daily Daily Sun recently.
Formatting and installing a tracking device on any vehicle is a very technical job. How did you equip yourself considering you had no tech background?
I guess I was just brave and maybe such comes with being young because at that time, I was only 25 years old. I didn’t even know whether there were people doing the business already. I just went online and did a research on it. I wrote to various companies abroad that were into it and eventually, one responded. So, I did a lot of studying and training on my own.
How did you set the ball rolling?
I didn’t work after school so I needed some financial support to start-off and I got from my parents. I however paid back everything two years into the business without them asking. I already had put in place basic things like call cards, proposals, etc., from the funds I gathered from a fragrance sales business I was running aside supporting my mum at her office. Also, I began talking to people about my vehicle tracking services.
For the first two years, I was operating from my mother’s office. My first contract came from a pharmaceutical company. After several failed attempts at reaching the company via telephone, as they kept saying they couldn’t hear me clearly, I was finally invited to come over and explain my services. I went to them and after much explanations, they told me I was late because they had already invited three companies to come for presentation the following Monday.
I urged them to give me a chance and after much persuasion, I was issued an invitation for the presentation. On that day, I went prepared unlike the others presenting. I went with my laptop and car which had the tracking device already installed. My brother was with me, so, he went into the car to demonstrate how the device works while being watched via a projector. About two weeks after, I got a letter saying that I was unanimously chosen to come do the job. That was how I started off. From then onwards, I just continued getting referrals.
It seemed like you were confident you would be awarded the job?
Yes, I was—and I think that has to do with my upbringing. I grew up with so much belief in myself; without anyone trying to make me feel less of a human because of my gender. For example, as a young girl, I fixed the tyres of my car myself. In fact, I didn’t have enough funds to carry out the car tracking contract but I was sure I would scale through.
As soon as I got it, I spoke with a bank and after investigation, my loan request was honoured. I guess I was brought up to always be confident in myself.
How has it been coping with competitors?
I’m proud to say I am successful at what I do. I have honed my skills and constantly strived to be better. I’m not resting on my oars. That’s basically what has kept me apart. We’ve recovered so many stolen vehicles within and outside Nigeria. I’ve had no limitation whatsoever so far; not even my not being an engineer or a computer scientist.
Very recently, a car was stolen in a popular Market in Abuja and we recovered it in Kaduna almost two hours after. So, recovering vehicles is something I have been doing consistently. I’m making a promise and delivering on my promise; there’s no other way to get better. You stand out that way.
What gives you joy about your job?
The hope I give to people. You know, when your car is stolen, you feel hopeless and helpless; and then a few hours after, you are called to pick up your vehicle at a police station. The joy cannot be described. That is what gives me satisfaction.
How essential is your service since cars aren’t stolen everyday
The prevalence of car theft is huge and will actually amaze you. Even yesterday, a 2008 model car was stolen. Somebody who owns a 2008 model car will probably ask: “Why do I need to put a tracker in my car? Nobody will steal it.” But any car can be stolen regardless of its model; you never can tell for what purpose the car is needed. So, as long as you have a car, you need a tracker. This is in fact not limited to cars but all vehicles. With the rise in e-commerce, motorcycles used for delivery services are also fitted with trackers. You need to have the peace of mind that the dispatch rider delivering your goods will not run away. You need to be able to know where he is from the moment he picks up the goods, to the point of delivery.
What is your biggest challenge?
One of my biggest challenges is GSM network which I rely on for geographical mapping and tracking. Another challenge is personnel—a lot of people find submission to authority difficult once they see that their boss is a young lady.
I know you depend on the police for recovering tracked vehicles; what has your partnership with them been like?
It’s been fantastic. We work with the special anti-robbery squad. When there is a stolen vehicle and we’ve identified the location of the vehicle, we work with the divisional police in that area. They go to pick up the car; we don’t go on the field with them unless they have challenges. So far, working with them has been very exciting.
Business is not always rosy. Have you ever been unable to recover any car?
Yes. The first case of theft we had proved difficult; we were unable to recover the car. So, we always advise people to report as soon as a vehicle is stolen. Anyway, we’ve also had successful cases in which we were not informed until days after.
What book are you reading right now?
I am currently reading ‘How Women Rise’ by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith. My biggest take from this book so far is that there’s absolutely no limit to what any woman could become.