Technology presents an opportunity to truly drive this transformational agenda across millions of lives- an interview with Etop Ikpe, CEO of Autocheck
You have an impressive track record across a number of tech businesses. What made you decide to merge this background with the automotive sector?
Despite being a $45bn industry, Africa’s automotive market only has a 5% financing penetration rate (compared to 80% in China, 75% in Indonesia and 70% in India respectively), meaning millions of Africans cannot access car loans from traditional lenders and must spend years building their savings to own a car outright. Equally, due to the fragmentation in the market largely driven by pre-owned vehicles, lenders have struggled to scale their auto lending portfolio and this can be attributed to the multiple challenges associated with vehicle valuation, condition analysis, and an efficient secondary disposal channel.
However, technology offers a huge opportunity to transform this. For example, through the platform we’ve built at Autochek and our established links with auto dealerships, we’re able to analyze and provide information on the condition and valuation of vehicles, providing lenders with the much-needed trust and transparency to make informed credit decisions for customers applying for auto loans. We’ve also developed algorithms that reduce the loan application process from 40 – 45 days to 24 hours.
Entrepreneurs such as yourself are often always focused on their next goal but what are the milestones Autochek has achieved over the last year that you are most proud of? Since the launch, we have expanded beyond Nigeria into West Africa and East Africa, and have onboarded over 70 financial partners across these multiple markets. These include leading regional players such as Access Bank [Nigeria] and Ecobank [Ghana]. Additionally, we have over 1000 auto dealers actively using our dealer management solution to manage their operations and over 100 repair workshops using the integrated Garage management solution to service customers. Our platform has grown from 10 loan applications processed at launch to over 20,000 applications till date. Despite the traction we have gained so far, we are very aware that we are just at the beginning of our journey and we recognize that the earlier stages in a business can be the most difficult so as we scale, we must remain focused on the customer and meeting their needs all along the automotive value chain.
As you’re aware, being a founder is not always as glamorous as it seems. What sacrifices have you had to make to be successful? I believe success is relative and my personal opinion is that true success is finding satisfaction in whatever you do and ensuring that there’s a transformational impact that positively impacts your immediate environment which creates a multiplier effect that reaches millions more. I am just at the beginning of this journey and I am grateful for the team at Autochek who are working with me to make this possible.
I have been fortunate to be involved in things that I truly enjoy and I don’t perceive my journey has denied me of anything that I would have liked. However, the demanding environments I have been involved in have placed a limitation on one of the things that are most important to me which is spending time with my family. But I have been blessed with a support group that understands my journey and I am looking forward to spending more time with them.
There are a lot of up-and-coming African entrepreneurs looking to emulate your success. What advice would you give them?
Africa is perceived as a continent with a myriad of challenges but these challenges truly represent opportunities for future growth. The biggest challenge in Africa is ensuring that we create more jobs and move millions of the large youth population out of poverty. Every African entrepreneur must focus on how they impact job creation and moving more people out of poverty. Technology presents an opportunity to truly drive this transformational agenda across millions of lives. My personal opinion is that if you focus on this as your core goal, you will achieve success.
Where do you see yourself and Autochek in the next 10 years?
At Autochek, our main focus over the next ten years is to improve institutional credit access to automotive transactions from the current average of 2% to 50% across Africa. In doing this, we would need to ensure that we have partnerships across the majority of the financial institutions, dealers, workshops across Africa and we should have grown to serve a customer base of over a hundred million customers across Africa. Looking forward, we have an exciting journey ahead of us and in the process of achieving this, I believe that we will develop as a company and I am personally looking forward to the growth and learnings that come with this journey.