•High Chief (Dr) Amb ADEBIYI SAHEED ADESINA
Agba Akin, Chief (Dr) Saheed is a popular name in the Nigerian car selling industry. He is one of the young and agile Nigerians who have taken advantage of digital media to take their businesses to the next level. He is also into real estate business, haulage and many other big businesses that are at the forefront of economic development in Nigeria.
In this interview with City People’s Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE and Online Editor, SEUN Joseph, the young and successful businessman spoke about his plans to celebrate the 11th anniversary of Unique Motors and what stands his brand out from many. Read for more!
How is your anniversary preparation going?
The forthcoming event was supposed to have happened last year because it’s supposed to have been the 10th year anniversary of Unique Motors but due to some issues, we shifted it to this year. So, it will be the 11th year of the company. We registered on the 15th of September, 2011, even though we have started operation since 18 to almost 20 years now.
How have you been sustaining the business?
Well, I draw inspiration from people that have been before me in the business. People like Elizade who coincidently comes from my home town, and a couple of dealers who have been in the business and are being liberal with experience and network.
How did it all start?
Automobile business for me was borne out of passion. I started following one of my egbons, when I was living in Ibadan, as a young boy who just finished from secondary school. I started following him to Cotonou and Togo. That was what drew me into the business. I was very young and I didn’t know much about the business so I would follow him, we’ll enter public transport, and enter through two to three borders. I have been travelling to Cotonou since 1998, but along the line, my elder brother travelled to America and he started sending cars to Nigeria, before I also travelled to London and from there, we started sending cars to Nigeria to sell before I eventually came back to Nigeria to focus on the business fully. The two directors that started the company was myself and my brother, but unfortunately, my brother died and I had to keep the business running.
Why the name Unique Motors?
I have always loved to deal with cars that are not common. so I chose the name, but unfortunately when we wanted to register with CAC, they said the name had been used, so we had to coin another name around the concept. We settled for Unique Americas Nigeria Limited, and we called the trading name Unique Motors.
So, I draw inspiration from those who are ahead of me in the business. Sometimes, I even call them for advice when I’m dealing with transactions that seem complex. Because this car business is very complex, and if you get it wrong, you will just notice there is no car in the shop. If you sell a car now and you feel you have something huge with you, before you know it, you will start spending, and before you know it, the cars are gone. When you have huge inflow, just remove what is yours and give the owner what is due to him.
What are the challenges in the business?
One of the major challenges is the exchange rate and custom duty. Because you source for foreign currency to purchase your vehicles, and the banks are limited to afford you FX, you would have no choice than to go to the black market. But if one is too greedy in the car business, he may find it difficult to succeed in the business. The main dealers are the middle men and the dealers. Once the dealers don’t trust you, there will be problems. We started in 2011, we opened office in Abule-Egba, I started selling from the house in Maryland, that time. We have Jiji, OLX and Cheki. We put those cars online and when somebody shows interest, we give them the house address. Sometimes, I would have like 7 cars, 8 cars. So I heard about a land space in Abule- Egba, I bought it in 2013. I renovated the place and we started business. In 2015, the former governor of Lagos State, Ambode wanted to construct Abule-Egba bridge. We were part of those that were affected by the demolition. We now had to remove the front of the office to allow for the dual carriage-way. The state compensated us with about 5 million naira or thereabout.
That propelled me to go and open Amuwo-Odofin branch that year. Along the line, I was looking for space, and I had already paid for the Festac space, someone hinted me about another space in Lekki and I went to check it out. I liked the space, spoke with the landlord and that was how we secured this place that same year.
So since 2015, we have been on the Island and Mainland, covering three strategic areas in Lagos. We are trying to open an office in Ibadan and Abuja. We also have the intention of opening in the East because that is where our major clients come from. Our vision is to be visible across Africa and to have a car manufacturing plant in Nigeria with 75 percent locally sourced materials. So that when we produce cars, there will be enough places to keep them across Africa. So, 11 years of Unique Motors, we hope and pray to God that by the time we are celebrating 20 years, we shall be part of those who are locally producing cars.
Can you share your growing up experience with us?
I grew up in the ancient city of Ibadan. I was born and brought up in Ibadan. My family live around Liberty Road. My dad is from Ondo State, Ilaramoko, and my mother is from Ode Aye in Ilaje. I attended Oke-Ado, St, Williams, and my secondary school was Baptist Secondary School, then I proceeded to Federal Polytechnic, Ede, where I studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and later to OAU to study same course. I started business in 1998, while I was in secondary school because my childhood and upbringing wasn’t that easy. My mum was a petty trader so I hawked plantain and corn. I am grateful, if I remember those days, my WAEC fee was paid by my secondary school teachers.
I had done GCE before then and I did so well, so they were confident that I will do well in WAEC. Even the GCE form was bought for me by my friend’s brother. That is the story, because behind every successful man, there’s a story. My dad was a contractor that manufactured furniture but along the line, the business crashed and we tasted the bitterness of poverty. We thank God for the journey so far.
We understand you are also into real estate?
I build and sell. I also sell land. I started my property business the same year I started my car business, it’s called Big Bounty International. It was a nickname my friend gave me. I sell landed properties and I build terraces and structures across Lagos. I have sold some units in Omole Phase 2, Omole Phase 1, Magodo, and some other areas.
Apart from Unique Motors, I have a series of businesses, I’m into Haulage as well. I have trucks that work for me. All these are under the Unique Group of Companies. As a businessman, you have to run more than one business. To be a billionaire in dollars, you must have a conglomerate and it takes time.
So, I always advise the youth to be patient and trust the process. I also advise that you trust the elders in the business. I worked for people before I started my own.
Now, we have moved to social media. I make car business fun. I am one of the very first who started signing brand ambassadors in the car dealing business. When we started, a lot of people thought we were wasting money. Now, we are a known brand and everybody wants to associate with us. We use social media, adverts, campaigns, and interviews. Now, I don’t need to introduce myself anymore, our campaigns have done all of that. So I will advise the youth to trust the process.