On this week’s edition of Entrepreneur of The Week, we have Chinedu Azodoh, CGO and one half of the ownership duo for MAX NG, Nigeria’s first-ever motorcycle transit startup.
Around the time when private tech-monitored transportation became widely accepted in Nigeria, Metro Africa Xpress, commonly known as MAX NG tapped into a similar transit market but this time decided cost-saving motorcycles and an unbeatable accident rate were the way forward.
Albeit starting up as a delivery service in 2015, MAX extended its product platform to include motorcycle taxis popularly known as Okada in Nigeria.
They were not the only motorcycle transit company that popped up at the time but the company quickly stood out from the rest due to their not-so mellow yellow brand colour, the extreme comfort their bikes presented to customers, the consistently positive attitude of the drivers and their shocking rate of zero accidents.
Sadly, following a ban from the Lagos state government this startup suffered a hit and many wondered how such a company would bounce back.
My conversation with Chinedu Azodoh exposed the truth behind the circumstances n taught me so much in line with picking yourself up after being dealt, heavy blow.
Scroll through to get the much-needed life tips and hard truths that many who’ve made it may not be willing to share
What inspired you to start MAX.ng and what does the company do exactly?
MAX NG was founded by two people who met at MIT, myself, and my business partner, Tayo.
It was created based on a desire to build businesses that have a social impact.
This attitude was imbibed in me courtesy my high school, Loyola Jesuit College which had a motto of Service of God and others- that stuck with me
Tayo and I got together to build infrastructure, finance, and tech. Initially, we chose to target Okadas and compete with that structure by investing in cost-effective bikes and giving safe jobs to drivers. But we thought, what is the advantage we have and how do we mobilize?
We went on to create a superb app where people could spend digital money, the app also tracks accident data and the accident rate for our drivers was 0.003%
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I started out with humble beginnings in Enugu and there was only one burger joint near my home, on the UNES campus.
Every day, I’d queue there for a burger and truly observe their business model.
As for my Entrepreneurial background, my dad was a retired military man (not out of choice) hence he began setting up his own business in the field of medicine.
My mum is thoroughly entrepreneurial, she mentors entrepreneurs, she knows a lot about many business sectors and if I’m being honest, she helped make my dad’s business possible.
Through her assistance, my dad went from being forcefully retired to owning the most successful hospital in Abuja.
All this inspired me to start MAX.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
The blessings of being able to provide for people.
In the Christmas of 2017, I got a call from a woman thanking me profusely and praying for me. At the time I wasn’t sure who she was but I stayed on the call, accepting all the prayers.
She later explained that she was Michaels wife and that she was so happy that her husband was financially stable and buoyant to the point where they had left the Ikotun shack they used to live in, to a well set up apartment in Ogun state AND had even purchased land to make their dreams of being house owners come true.
At this point in the conversation, I racked my brain to figure out which Mike she was talking about…then I remembered.
Michael aka Mike had been a police officer for 8 years with no satisfaction in life because wanted he wanted to achieve was not aligning with the police business.
Mike quit his job and joined MAX NG. Six months later, his life transformed even though Mike was truly combative at the start. Mike stayed focused in the business, bought off his bike completely, and now rents it out to those who wish to enter the transportation sector but can not afford their own bikes.
I do what I do because I want more Mikes In the world who join the company and are able to turn their lives around and lead to tuition fees for their kids thereby boosting opportunities for the next generation.
It’s a trickle-down effect but I don’t take anything for granted.
Now, I listen more and learn the driver’s stories as much as I can.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to others looking to start-up in Nigeria?
1. Nigeria is a very difficult place to operate a business and people need to be prepared. I feel like people don’t get this which is why they start a business and end up faffing about.
2. Commitment is key:
If you want to be an entrepreneur then be an entrepreneur but ensure that you’re fully committed. Go all-in/don’t start with the side hustle model.
Of course, there are some people who don’t have the choice or freedom to drop every other responsibility in order to focus on their enterprise but if you can afford to…do it.
3. There must be a driving value beyond money; yes, I would say it. Don’t just go in for the money. there has to be a driving value beyond money. You must ask yourself why are you doing this business, what are you working hard to achieve; then let this drive you.
4. ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS NOT FOR EVERYONE…It’s high risk and high reward, lots o late nights, early mornings, talking to people you don’t like.
What is the most challenging situation you encountered as an entrepreneur and how did you work through it?
The Lagos State Ban! (Although, I don’t even know if it’s correct)
The Lagos state ban created an essential threat tour business.
Picture this…$ 6.3 million worth of vehicles packed in a warehouse unable to transport passengers thanks to the ban.
We tried to resolve it and work with the government but we could not so we literally just moved on. Whilst other companies similarly affected were fighting the ban tooth and nail, at the end of February (the month that saw the ban being introduced), we stepped up and started thinking of how to source opportunities.
We focused intensely on increasing the delivery pace by introducing what we call MAX storefront; where we bring the stores to your doorstep via our logistics team.
We boosted the technology for our e-wallets to enable a seamless service where people could store, save, and spend money online without cash exchanging hands or using a bank card.
We boosted our technology o help the government track accident rates in different constituencies…
We know we could not linger on the huge disappointment so we made other moves.
Why should anyone use your service as opposed to other competitors In the market?
No one is more focused on giving the best quality in the market like we are. Our safety score proves that over and over again.
We boast the safest drivers in the market and the client’s comfort is always guaranteed.
We are tech guys first and foremost so you can trust that we’ve done the necessary research and we’ve been able to use technology the right way.
What are your future plans and aspirations for MAX NG, anything interesting that we should look forward to?
There would be an announcement in the next two weeks…Good stuff so just wait on it.
By: Joan K. Vincent-Otiono