Friday, 12 June 2009

iTrans… dreaming deeper into Fashola’s Eko Oni baje o

Nigerians don’t want to drive in the hold-up. If they have a comfortable alternative, they will go for it, irrespective of the amount. Nigerians are interested in comfort, safety and availability. Nigerians are people who have class, which is what we stand to provide. Our brand essence is ‘drive to make a difference’ and our brand promise is ‘good time service in good time.

L-R Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportion-Comrade Kayode Opeifa, MD/CEO iTrans Logistics Ltd-Adeboye Ajakaiye (Operators of iTaxi), Executive Director (Finance & Corporate Services) iTrans Logistics Ltd-Segun Omoworare and Executive Chairman Amuwo Odofin LGA-Comrade Ayodele Adewale on the day of iTaxi Launch


EKO O NI BAJE, is deepening in the consciousness of the residents of Lagos as the bug of Governor Babatunde Fashola’s mega city policy translated from dream to reality. The recent launch of five corporate taxi operators is set to redefine transportation in the state.
Adeboye Ajakaiye, chief executive officer of iTrans Logistics, is not only content to be one of the five privileged operators, but presently wears a broad smile of fulfillment that shows that what began as an idle talk among close friends has grown into a novel idea that was sold to Lagos State government during the Bola Tinubu administration, and has finally culminated in the emergence of beautiful, brand new vehicles of various colours and shapes dotting the streets of Lagos as taxis.
A keen businessman of varied experience, Ajakaiye’s newfound love is bringing convenience to the people. “We call it taxi at your doorstep, giving good town services in good time to our clients, either while they are in our vehicles or calling us at our call centre. It is a call centre driven operation, meaning that from wherever you are sitting, you can call for a taxi, and it is as good as having your taxi, once it is booked.”
“When the governor was launching us, he said, ‘Lagos is working, those of you driving taxis in the cold of winter around the world should come home, because employment is being generated here and we are making things to work.’ So, iTrans Logistics is just a proof of that. There is no need for Nigerians to sleep in train stations when there are jobs to do.”
Ajakaiye likes to describe himself as a compulsive optimist, who believes in the impossible. He holds a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from the University of Ibadan and a Bachelor in same course from the University of Ilorin. Apart from sitting on the hot seat of iTrans Logistics as the CEO, he is also in charge of Research and Development of the organisation; combining both with being on the board of Netis Technologies Limited and Farmious Farms Limited. An innovator and strategist of repute, his expertise has earned him not only recognition but also internationally published works.

WITH the official launch two weeks ago, iTrans has released tens of taxis to give Lagosians the luxury of a comfortable ride, giving the regular cabs a run for their money. Ajakaiye further projects that in the nearest future; regular cabs will be phased out in Lagos State. “It is just a matter of time,” he notes.
“Don’t you think it is nice to have brand new vehicles as taxis in Lagos? If you think it is nice, that is the plan of the government, but they are not just going to phase them out at once, they are giving Lagosians the option of choice. Just as what we had in the telecommunication industry where we now have the option of choice; you will be allowed to determine choice and service. When you have a rickety taxi and a brand new one almost going at the same level, which would you board? The one that will give you comfort, safety, good service in good time, and not the one that would make the rain to drop on you. You won’t board the one you have to go on the street in the sun or in the rain to look for, instead you will board the one that will come to your doorsteps, and what you just need to do, even from the comfort of your living room is to just call and we will be there.”

DESPITE the attractiveness of its service, many fear that corporate taxi may be beyond their reach because it is designed for the elite, but Ajakaiye disagrees that the price of enjoying a comfortable ride despite the complexity of Lagos traffic is not for the creme of the crop. “Every operator, according to the regulation of the ministry, is meant to operate a metered cab, where you board the vehicle and the meter reading is calculated from point A to point B based on time and distance. There is a metering device in every vehicle and the charges are done in such a way that the maximum you can get per hour is N1, 500. If you like, you may use Royce Rolls for taxi, or a Range Rover or Toyota Jeep, you cannot charge more than N1, 500 per hour, that is the regulation. It is even done in such a way that when you go through the first hour, your per minute reading will reduce.”
True to his nature as a strategist, Ajakaiye having studied the traffic situation in Lagos, has discovered that with good alternatives people would not drive their vehicles. “Nigerians don’t want to drive in the hold-up. If they have a comfortable alternative, they will go for it, irrespective of the amount. Nigerians are interested in comfort, safety and availability. Nigerians are people who have class, which is what we stand to provide. Our brand essence is ‘drive to make a difference’ and our brand promise is ‘good time service in good time.”
And he says with glee what good iTrans Logistics is offering Lagosians, a completely new culture with its exclusive service called ‘Taxi Share.’ It is a group ride with two or three people living in the same area jointly subscribing to one taxi to take them to work. “Just imagine if sizeable chunk of people drop their cars at home during week days; that is taking a whole lot of cars off the road, and it makes sense, because at the rate of about N1,000 an hour for a ride, three or four group of friends living around a vicinity and working on the island or any other part of Lagos could conveniently and comfortably drop their vehicles at home and enjoy each other’s company to and fro work without stress.”

THE organisation has zoned the whole of Lagos with the plan of having taxi terminals in different parts of the state, so that in 15 minutes at most, after placing a call for a taxi, one is already waiting at your doorstep. “We are not just using our tracking device to safeguard our vehicles, we are using it in our operation. From our call centre on our big screen, we will be able to locate the closest taxi to the client. Some of our guys that rolled out initially mixed up the concept, the call centre is not for you to roam about, but for the vehicle.
“If the life span of a vehicle is four years, roaming about on a daily basis will not make the vehicle to last long. You don’t need to roam, all you need to do is make sure your call centre is in top shape and when calls come in, you render prompt service.
“Our initial plan was not to be an operator, we were with the local taxi people for two and half years, throwing the idea at them, that you don’t need to roam on the street because you are looking for customers. Because they are roaming, that is why their service is expensive. They burn fuel, stress and strain themselves looking for customers, meanwhile, there may be a customer in a particular building that the driver had passed who needs a taxi, but there is no means of knowing that a client is in there.”
“So, we got the idea of trying to do a taxi exchange initially, but severally, the local taxi drivers continued shifting the goal post and bringing obstacles. At a point, we just went back to tell them we could do this on our own; and we went to Dr. Muiz Banire, Commissioner for Transport at the time, with the idea for Lagos State to partner with us on Public Private Partnership (PPP) level and that was how we got the business license to operate.”
Ajakaiye is now fulfilled, living in a world of his dream; he says since the launch “our phones have been ringing off the hook for enquiries, commendation and service and there is no way we are not going to employ more people and expand our infrastructure. Truly, Eko o ni baje and I am being optimistic that it will not spoil.”

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