Bolt’s dedication to expanding and improving mobility in Sub-Saharan Africa and strengthening the economy with earning opportunities is exemplified by its innovative initiatives, which recognise the need for collaboration and partnership within the gig-mobility sector. An example of such an initiative is the fleet operation which allows individuals with more than three cars to support drivers on the platform.
In this conversation with Mr Adebayo Ajayi, the largest fleet owner in Abuja on the Bolt platform, he shares details about his experience running a fleet business.
As Bolt’s largest fleet owner in Abuja, can you kindly introduce yourself and your business?
My name is Ajayi Adebayo, and I am the MD/CEO of Ceedwest Integrated Company Limited. As a provider of transportation services, we are a fleet partner to Bolt in Abuja. Currently, we have approximately 82 vehicles we help manage on behalf of car owners. We began this fleet business to give car owners more earning opportunities. It has been a good experience so far as we have been able to make significant history when it comes to fleet management in Abuja.
When did Ceedwest join Bolt as a fleet partner, and what has growth been like since you joined?
Since joining Bolt officially as a fleet partner in 2019, our progress has been tremendous. Before we partnered with Bolt, we managed only about 15 - 20 cars privately. When Bolt saw our growth and capability, they contacted us to partner. When people reach out to Bolt, stating they need a driver for their car, Bolt recommends us. All in all, the growth and the progress have been remarkable overall.
What inspired your decision to join Bolt and become a fleet partner?
I'm a civil engineer by profession, and at the time Bolt entered the Nigerian market, my industry was in a slump due to administration changes socio-political ecosystem and in the industry. Looking for what to do to supplement my income, I was very interested in Bolt, especially its possibilities and innovation, which I could leverage. So I joined Bolt as a driver, and on a ride one day, I had a rider who was complaining bitterly about a driver who had messed up her car. Due to my knowledge in maintenance, management, and general industry know-how, I realised that it was something I could do as a lucrative business.
That’s how my journey in fleet management began. I started by reaching out to car owners I knew and encouraged them to partner with Bolt and me. It began growing from two cars to four and beyond, reaching a point where I did not have to market the business anymore; newer partners reached out to me based on word-of-mouth. It continued until Bolt noticed our activities and invited us to become official partners.
Can you describe your current arrangement with car owners and drivers in your fleet?
Our arrangement is straightforward. If you have a car you want to use on Bolt, we will provide the driver and all the maintenance required during the partnership. At the end of the week, you receive remittances paid to your account directly. We handle all the logistics for a successful collaboration. For drivers, before we recruit, we have them read and fill out a form which includes our terms and conditions. They must also bring a guarantor who will stand as surety for them. Once they have been verified, a vehicle is allocated to the driver and remains assigned until they leave the fleet.
What about the financial arrangement for the partnership?
I always tell drivers our job is to provide them with a platform; their activities with and via Bolt are independent of ours. When they come onboard, we open an account tied to our fleet portal so that we can monitor their activities. Beyond that, their business is direct with Bolt. Our primary role is to ensure the payment of weekly remittances, which average N35,000. As I mentioned previously, we handle all the maintenance for the car, insurance, and other needed things regarding the vehicle. The driver's role is to take his allocated vehicle to work and earn, ensuring that he pays his fees at the end of the week.
Previously, payment used to be made through the fleet, but at the beginning of this year, Bolt announced new regulations which involved two packages -- a company-based and a personal-based. The former package had all payments made by Bolt sent to our corporate account; then we electronically transferred them to drivers after deducting their remittances. The latter package sees the money sent directly to the driver’s account, who then pays our vehicle remittance to us.
Through your journey as a fleet owner, what would you say are the biggest challenges and difficulties you have faced?
Most challenges occur when drivers try to outsmart us. When I first started, I had some issues with drivers who refused to pay their remittance fees and accrued debts, which eventually resulted in police cases, but we were able to push through those difficulties. Nevertheless, it has been good so far, most likely due to our arrangements and the benefits in our packages which reduce the driver's stress. As I mentioned previously, drivers do not have to take care of the vehicle’s maintenance; it's our job to have the vehicle back on the road as soon as possible. We have had some drivers leave us only to realise that no other company offers a better deal than we do.
How has Bolt supported your activities as a fleet owner on their platform?
Firstly, Bolt frequently organises sessions with their staff where they ask about our business, the platforms, and what they can do to better support our activities and improve the services. So far, so good; almost all of our feedback was worked on promptly. Bolt is an organisation whereby stakeholders' problems are listened to, prioritised, and solved quickly. Currently, they are doing a great job and always introduce beneficial deals to partners even before we demand them. The fact that they come up with solutions independently encourages us. It has made me realise that I cannot work with any other e-hailing company apart from Bolt. In fact, I cancelled my partnerships with other platforms because I realised Bolt actually listens to my concerns and finds solutions. Now, I tell all my partners and drivers that I work exclusively on Bolt because of what they have done. I have no regrets and am comfortable with what they are doing now.
What advice would you give to people who want to partner with Bolt as fleet owners?
You must remember two necessary details before venturing into fleet management if you want to succeed: Firstly, you must remember that Bolt is not directly involved in the logistics of fleet management. As such, you must come up with suitable packages for your business and the parties involved, especially drivers who are an integral part of the business. Secondly, when it comes to maintenance, you should have a dedicated repair workshop that will offer a discounted rate for your vehicles so that it does not overwhelm your profit margin. In 2019, I had other friends who also began the same partnership with Bolt, but because they lost focus of the essential details and were not actively involved, they were unsuccessful. To conclude, the most important advice I can offer is to be persistent. Once you are persistent and not solely focused on immediate gain but have a long-term vision, you will enjoy a successful experience. Challenges will come, so don’t get discouraged and keep pushing until you are at a level where you are better prepared.