Spend enough time on Nigerian roads, and you become unsurprised by this image: a clutch of young men coming to the aid of a dishevelled driver, pushing a broken-down vehicle to the side of the road. You shake your head as you keep driving, one thought in your mind: that better not be me next time.
Nigerian drivers are intimately familiar with car troubles. Most vehicles on Nigerian roads are Tokunbo—imported used cars—and inherited with numerous issues. 70% of Tokunbo cars are damaged in some way.
The combination of a large used car market, decrepit roads, and ill-trained drivers creates the perfect storm for road travel. As a result, Nigerians drive damaged cars on damaged roads and are not known for driving carefully.
Unsurprisingly, these cars malfunction frequently, sometimes putting their drivers or owners in physical or financial peril. For example, recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that of the 4,000 reported road accidents that occurred in the third quarter of 2020, 10% were due to faults with the car (burst tyres, mechanically deficient, brake failures, etc.). In comparison, the UK, a nation with stringent car maintenance and safety rules, attributes only 1.6% of accidents to car defects.
Apart from accidents, Nigerians spend non-trivial time and financial resources dealing with their car troubles.
The market has a problem on both the demand and supply sides.
On the demand side, there is no ingrained culture of car maintenance. However, in countries where buying new cars is the norm, it is typical to receive after-sales services that include regular car maintenance, which alone can ease drivers into a habit. Additionally, insurers have caveats in their contracts that can deny claims if a servicing schedule has not been followed, further incentivising drivers to ensure they comply.
In Nigeria, however, the primary incentive is to avoid a breakdown. But the difficulty and cost of finding and engaging an affordable and reliable car technician often lead drivers to defer maintenance until they need to. As a result, drivers shun prevention and go for the cure.
This draws focus to the supply deficiencies. There are two primary options when it comes to finding a car technician. First, technicians are employed by (or connected to) expensive car dealerships that often partner with OEMs. Their quality is guaranteed, but their costs are prohibitive. They are also only present in larger cities, making them inaccessible to many drivers.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have roadside mechanics that can be found on any corner. They are much more affordable, but their competence is more questionable. It is not unusual for a car to go in with one issue and come back with three new ones. Yet the bigger problem is asymmetric information. The competence of the population of roadside mechanics has a very large variance—drivers can rarely tell if a single technician is good or bad until it is too late.
Ultimately, many car owners cannot afford reliable technicians and gamble on unvetted, cheaper mechanics. As there is no foolproof way to discern whether the technician is good or bad, drivers are often left frustrated, disappointed, and a little poorer than the previous day.
Businesses cannot take the same risks, so they often have to rely on the costlier reliable technicians, meaning they can end up spending huge amounts on their fleet maintenance.
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The market needs a fix. One that allows drivers to easily vet affordable and accessible technicians, allowing them to trust that their cars are in safe hands. Mecho is building this trust infrastructure in the car maintenance and repair market by creating a platform where customers can access thousands of skilled, verified car technicians across the country.
Mecho Autotech is solving these problems.
The Future: Mecho Autotech
Mecho is a one-stop platform that gives automobile owners access to affordable, verified automobile technicians. It is a technology-enabled aggregator platform designed to provide end-to-end automobile services to businesses and individuals right from the very beginning of the car’s journey (vehicle inspection ahead of a sale) all through its lifecycle, encompassing areas such as motor insurance and spare parts sourcing.
Mecho tackles a classic feature of African markets: they are large but unstructured and primarily informal.
It has created a platform that addresses information asymmetry by guaranteeing that every technician on the platform meets the threshold for competence, reliability, and rigour. As a result, drivers no longer have to rely on the inefficient channel of word-of-mouth referrals to find competent technicians that can solve their specific issues at an affordable price.
Customers can access the Mecho platform through a web and mobile app. On the app, they can purchase subscriptions, book repairs and maintenance services, track the progress of their chosen services, and make their payments. The app also maintains a history of all services and provides in-depth repair reports.
When assigned a technician, customers have the option to take their car to the technicians or have their cars picked up. Mecho sends the required number of technicians to the business for enterprise customers with fleets when servicing is required. Furthermore, the app sends periodic reminders for service and maintenance. This removes all the burden from car owners and builds a habit of vehicle maintenance similar to after-sales services. There is now no need for car owners to delay maintenance, ensuring their cars are kept in better health, have extended longevity and most importantly—are safe.
Here is how Mecho achieves this. First, it acts as an aggregator, providing a platform to connect customers with services performed by 7,000 qualified mechanics, welders, painters, electrical and AC professional technicians on their platform across 25 states in Nigeria. Also, Mecho works with a network of spare parts vendors that deliver high-quality spare parts to their mechanics.
Mecho can do this because the team spent two years working with technician associations around Nigeria to build and onboard technicians on the platform.
Furthermore, standards are maintained through their in-house mechanics, top tier specialists hired from the high-end garages to enforce process standardisation with third-party mechanics.
This part of the service provides a standard of quality, care and cost across the entire car maintenance and repair value chain. One hallmark of their service is that you always know what to expect—a significant value when it comes to your vehicle. Dependability is a necessity. You know you are getting trustworthy, skilled servicemen. In addition, the price is standardised across services, so customers do not get conflicting prices for each service regardless of when or where they take place.
For the customer, this quality assurance and standardisation provides certainty and transparency, removing the risk inherent in car repairs in Nigeria. Customers no longer need to rely on their ability to discern. Mecho has already done this for them.
Standardising their services has an additional benefit for customers. It allows Mecho to offer repairs and maintenance at reduced costs. It allows mechanics, vendors and other technicians to increase the efficiency in how they work, speeding up each point of the service value chain. Additionally, connecting vendors directly with mechanics increase their pool of customers and, therefore, sales volumes, allowing Mecho to negotiate cheaper rates.
This all comes together to create an ecosystem for car services where customers can be satisfied that each point of their car’s journey is well taken care of. In addition, they provide trust, transparency and reliability, taking the hassle out of car owners trying to source these services and parts through their own informal networks.
Nigerians can be saved from the confusion, issues, and costs of dealing with dubious mechanics.
Olusegun Owoade is the co-founder and CEO of Mecho. He has more than ten years of experience working in actuarial and risk consulting across Africa, including at Kobo360, a technology-enabled logistics startup that aggregates end-to-end haulage. He will be able to apply his insight from a market-leading aggregator product to Mecho, as well as understand fleet management, supply chains and building a robust product and service ecosystem.
Ayoola Akinkunmi is the co-founder and COO. He has almost a decade of experience as an automobile engineer and owns his own auto-mechanic shop. He brings his expertise and skill in designing vehicle maintenance and repair solutions, designing a robust quality assurance system for technicians, as well as an in-depth understanding of Nigeria’s car repair market structure.
At Future Africa, we are excited to be a part of Mecho Autotech’s journey to build the future of automotive services. We welcome Mecho Autotech’s team to the Future Africa community.