Eno Essien is a businesswoman and the chief executive officer of Rheytrack. She spoke to ANNE OBOHO on how she got involved in car tracking business, the benefits and challenges of the device, among other issues
How long have you been in the car tracking business?
I have been in it for five years; we are actually celebrating five years in the business. We have been on since 2007.
We are aware a few other people are providing vehicle tracking services but no name readily comes to my mind. I do not know the ownership of the others but it looks like I am the only woman
So how has it been?
Well, the road has been rough; there have been challenges like every other thing but the Lord has been my strength. There have been challenges but I like challenges.
So what are the challenges?
Being a young woman is one big challenge.
How old are you?
I am old enough. Some company representatives are sceptical when I approach them with the device because of my gender and age.
We also work with GSM companies, the paralytic network has also been a challenge, and having to meet up our services in good time with the traffic is another challenge. I even have challenges with staff, being so young and having to control much older people.
How did you get into the business?
It was a personal experience; I was with a friend when some armed robbers struck. They robbed us and also went away with a brand new car she bought only four days earlier. At the time, I wondered how someone could spend so much on a car only to lose it to robbers just like that. Out of curiosity, I made contact with someone who told me that there are actually devices that can aid you in recovering stolen cars and that only two people were operating the business in Nigeria at the time.
When he came to Nigeria, I bought the device from him; put into my car and realised it was actually very effective. That was how the idea of marketing the device was born.
How much success have you made with the device?
In terms of recovery, I would say 98 per cent and I attribute that first of all to the grace of God; and secondly to the effectiveness of our products. We try to be very prompt, we say to you, ‘if your vehicle is stolen, act fast by calling or shutting down your vehicle.’ The clients have access to it, but you know sometimes out of fear, the last thing they are thinking about is how to shut down their cars so the moment they contact us we do it.
How do they shut down?
By sending a text message; I can use my phone and shut down your car, all I need is my car SIM number, every tracker has a SIM number, we had a man who was locked in the boot of his car, the moment he forced himself out, he picked a nearby phone, called his wife and the wife got to us. We also had a man whose vehicle was stolen in Ikorodu; they had already taken him right into the bush, took everything but he used someone’s phone and shut down his car.
But that should only be possible if you remember the sim number?
Yes. If you remember your sim number or you are calling us, our customer care lines are very easy. We have a situation where a man contacted us five days after because the car was snatched from his son and we recovered it, the car was snatched at Ajao estate, we recovered it in Ibadan and they had already changed the colour of the car.
Sometimes we don’t always immediately shut down; sometimes we may want to monitor what is going on with the car, where they are heading for. We also involve the police and I must say that they have been very efficient. The moment we call the anti-robbery squad, they respond very fast.
Also there are navigators that take us to the exact spot where the car is because you may find that the car is on the Lagos/Ibadan expressway where there are no landmarks. How do you tell someone that it is on Lagos/Ibadan expressway, not in the East; it is with the navigator; we just put in the position and it drives us straight to where the vehicle is.
How exactly do the trackers work
We have different types of trackers but the voice option is what a lot of people are excited about. In this option, you can send a message to the car and the car will call you and you can then listen in to what is going on and everything the people inside the car are saying.
Will they know that the car is talking to the owner?
They would not know. We do that when we have cases of theft. The last time we had a case of theft, we could hear the thieves talking, up to the point where one of them said, ‘I am taking okada, let’s carry okada and go’. At that point we had shut down the car.
Why has this technology not reduced the incidence of car theft in Nigeria?
Tracking technology cannot be blamed for the rise in car theft. Cars are stolen everyday but the good thing about the technology is that there are chances of recovering a stolen car if it has a tracker.
Can the device curb cross-border car theft?
Yes of course and as I mentioned earlier, with the aid of the GSM/GPRS services, we are able to view cars within Nigeria and the border and anywhere there is GSM network.
There is this belief that criminals have started mastering the art of removing trackers from cars. How do you intend to tackle this?
No one has mastered the art of removing the trackers. We advise that whenever a car is stolen, you report to the police and to us immediately or you immobilise your car yourself because when these criminals have time, they can do anything.
So if the car is actually outside Nigeria, how do you track it?
But you know that some people drive stolen cars across the border
Yes. What we do is that we recover cars by the border line. Like the Idiroko border. We had a case that involved a car that was not recovered and that was also at the border line. By the time we got there, we saw a towing rope, obviously, when we shut the car down, they decided to tow it across the border.
Does that mean your tracker does not go across?
Well, it does go across, it depends on the area because we work with MTN and it is where their coverage is that it works.
How do you handle business in Lagos as a woman?
It is very tough, besides the madness, the fact that you have people that you do business for, they don’t even pay on time. And if you don’t keep up they will throw you out.
You mean you do things for people and they don’t pay?
What we do is that there are some companies we have a relationship with; it is just a service that keeps going on, you may just go, install the device and leave.
How do they pay?
You do the initial payment and you renew on annual subscription every year.
How much does it cost?
Renewal is N15, 000; initial payment is N50,000 for the basic tracker.