The automobile detailing industry in Nigeria is one occupied by all sorts but very few stand out with the quality of services they provide. Some time ago we profiled one of such who plays in the ‘cold water’ cleaning. Today we are pleased to profile another major player but this time in the ‘hot water’ segment.
PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO OUR READERS:
My name is Deniyi Ogunlana. My secondary school education was at Government College, Lagos. My university education was at the famous University of Ibadan. I studied Computer Science. I worked at the Senate chambers of the National Assembly and later got posted to Ghana to be the Personal Assistant to the Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana. Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro.
I Started my telecoms business in Ghana and later moved to Nigeria to start fully in the private sector. Steam Salon is a project and business under our parent company WAVES CONSULT. We are basically into project management and design. We are into construction, architectural design, Health management and Telecommunication. We have undergone many projects within Nigeria and Ghana.
Our major goal in general is to give over the edge services to our clients. Steam Salon was started 5 years ago and i can tell you it’s not been easy. We had to restrategise and reorganize at every obstacle we meet on the way. Our persistence and focus made us come this far and God willing, will lead us higher. Our major motto is ‘NEVER CLOSE UP ON THE FOCUS’. Obstacles and disappointment will ever come and throw you down. What works for me is my ability to communicate and relate with everybody. Human relationship skill is ideal in business and life. Managing people and project is as difficult as life itself. Never say die.
My partners are Arc. Wasiu Adeoje(PMP) and Dr Kola Edun.
Steam salon is a Green Technology car wash that uses basically 100% dry steam to clean car interiors and engines. Steam eliminates bacteria, Allergens ant sanitizes car interior. It eliminates odors. like petrol smell, tobacco, pets etc.It also melts down baked grease from car engines without damages to the electrical components of the car. Dry steam alone can clean AC vents and stains from seats without getting the carpet or seat wet. Your steamed seats and carpets are ready to go in less than 5 mins after wash.
HOW DID YOU START THIS LINE OF BUSINESS?
Hmmm. That’s a tough question. Well I have passion for cars looking good even though it’s not a new one but whatever you have keep it clean and safe. I am also allergic to dust and this has been a major challenge for me in Lagos. And everytime I travel I noticed I don’t have the same allergic attack from their vehicles. So I did my research and realize with steam cleaning, you can completely eliminate allergens and bacteria easy. I was also impressed with the fact that it was a green technology initiative. With steam cleaning now, you don’t have to worry about odors in the car, germs, bacteria and all.
DO YOU HAVE LOVE FOR CARS OR ITS JUST BUSINESS FOR YOU?
Well I will say both. I have passion for innovative ideas and also it’s a business worth investing in which it’s what I did.
WHY STEAM WASH AND NOT PRESSURE WASH?
Well we apply both actually. The muddy state of Nigerian roads does not allow Steam exterior wash. We apply the steam wash only for interiors and engines. We use pressure wash and snow foam for the external. Steam is used abroad for the exterior of vehicles but that won’t work here in Nigeria. Our cars are extremely muddy and dirty. The mud and dust will have to be washed off and only the pressure washer will do this effectively
WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE YOU WERE GIVEN WHEN YOU STARTED THE BUSINESS?
Lol. Are Nigerians ready for a change? A friend asked me why invest so much in a new technology that people don’t really care for. It’s not food so why will people want to pay extra for a service their security man can handle. But I knew what quality service was and I know with this, people don’t have to be afraid of washing their engines anymore cos of damages to electrical components caused by regular pressure wash or hot water wash. Also it’s a lot easier now to wash your car seats and it’s up and ready for use in less than 5 mins.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES RUNNING THIS BUSINESS?
Cost of operations. Diesel has gone up, electricity is practically not available and so we have to run on generators and this is aside the diesel the Steamers use. Another major factor is workers attitude. These machines are so expensive and your average worker does not care enough for them. They turn your brand new machines to ‘tokumbo’ (used) in less than a week. So you need constant training and re-training for them. Also some of them don’t follow the Quality Control rules you set in motion. They just get so much in a hurry that they do a bad job on your customers vehicle. This is unacceptable to us as a brand. Locations again is another issue. Finding the right locations and partner with the right service centres across the state is a challenge.
I NOTICED YOU HAVE A DEAF AND MUTE MAN WORKING FOR US. WHY DID YOU EMPLOY HIM?
Hmmmmm his name is Isa by the way. A married man with 4 kids. He use to sleep and help out at our Awolowo location before we got there. When we started, he was very interested in what we do so much that he stands and watches the guys work everyday. He practically helped out when we have cars waiting inline with little things. I heard he was married with kids and his family lives in the north. So I offered him a job and training and he gladly accepted. Right now, He’s the most experienced hand we have and he trains others on the use of the machines and how to achieve best result. Infact, he heads the Awolowo branch and has guys working under him. He has employed more than 3 staff directly and they work under him. His a great man.
GROWING UP DID YOU WANT TO RUN AN AUTO COMPANY?
Not at all. Just where I found myself. Pretty tough field but interesting. So as other businesses i’m involved in.
HOW DID YOU LEARN HOW TO DRIVE.
Well for sure I never did go to a driving school. I was determined to learn cos at that age and time (16-17), driving was the Koko (in-thing). My dad’s driver taught me and so did my uncle in the house. Of course my dad didn’t know because if he did, he wouldn’t have allowed it ‘cos I was fresh out of High School.
DID YOU EVER BORROW YOUR PARENTS CAR WITHOUT THEIR KNOWLEDGE?
LOL. That’s not borrowing, that’s sneaking the car out for grooves and YES I did that. But my sis had a car about the same time I started driving and she was not a very good driver. So I was pretty much helping out with the driving.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE DRIVING INCIDENT.
The day I had my first and God’s willing last accident. It was in Ghana, I was coming back from the club. Luckily, nothing major happened. God was good to me.
HOW MANY LOCATIONS DO YOU OPERATE?
We presently have 3 locations open to the general public (Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Ajao Estate & Surulere). We have 5 private ones in service stations of Nissan (VI and Gbagada, Totol (Oregun), Stallion Group (Abuja) and Elizade. We are coming up Gods willing with two more this month or next in Alausa and Anthony Village. Expanding our reach to other states too by God’s will.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE WITH CLIENTS?
Pricing and complete satisfaction. Don’t get me wrong here, we do serve our customers to the best of our abilities and we keep a quality control profile, but still some customers are hard to please. Eg. the state of some car engines in Nigeria is unimaginable. Some people have entered mud and all sorts for years and after 3 years they want to wash the engine for the first time and they expect the engines or trunk hood to turn new immediately. Same with the interiors. So we have to most times spend hours trying to satisfy these kind of clients.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTRIGUING OR SURPRISING THING YOU HAVE ENCOUNTERED IN THIS BUSINESS WHILE WASHING CARS?
People coming to wash and make enquiries about our machines and going behind us to try and buy the machines. They are always referred back to us because we are the sole distributor for the steamers in West Africa, same attitude we get from some service stations we do demo for.
WHAT KIND OF SERVICES DO YOU PROVIDE. We basically do all you get from a regular car spa and much more. We do Steam Interior detailing, Vent Steaming, Headlight restoration, Trim rejuvenation, Hi Gloss paint sealant, Deodorization, Normal body wash and 100% dry Steam engine wash. We also do Kitchen steaming (oven, cooker, fridge, dinning areas, cutting tables, utencils), hospital lab and theater steaming. Our Steamers also kills bedbugs and general bugs on beds and house cushion.
HOW DO I FEEL ABOUT COMPETITION?
Honestly, I love it. It’s what drives you. ‘Makes you want to improve on your services and give something unique. In the steam wash industry in Nigeria, we have very few of us into it. Most pple have resulted to the regular wash and some use the Hot Water pressure wash. Because we are trying to edge out our competitors, we are introducing a signature smell in all our vehicles. Our dashboard cleaners are chocolate flavors and we intend to create our own afterwash signature smell that will last in your cars for weeks.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE THE MOST ABOUT DRIVING IN NIGERIA AS OPPOSED TO OTHER COUNTRIES?
Unfortunately it’s the ability to sometimes getaway with rough driving. Sad but true. But in totality, Driving in Nigeria no easy my bro.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CAR?
Mercedes Benz C Class or a Kia Optima.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT CARS?
The sleek looks and interior design. I love big cars and not a fan of SUVs.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOUR BUSINESS IN THE NEAREST FUTURE?
Good question. Personally, I will love to have our services in all major car dealership centres across the region, major service centres and various locations across the country. And maintain an excellent standard across board. Expand into major cities in US, UK and South Africa. God knows best, He might have bigger plans for us.
DID WE FACE OPPOSITION WHILE STARTING THIS BUSINESS?
Plenty. From financial setbacks to government policies on importations and many more. We signed and agreed with a major oil company to locate our services in their gas stations across the country. This prompted us to invest pretty much into starting up. We had our uniforms, carports and banners branded in their name and logo. Only to get cold response when we got everything in. First major setback.
HOW DID YOU RAISE THE CAPITAL TO START?
Family and friends. Three of us came together and pulled resources together to achieve it. It wasn’t easy but with God, we pulled through.
ADVICE TO UPCOMING ASPIRING BUSINESS PEOPLE….
Consistency and innovation. You will ever fall and get disappointed but never give up. You have to be consistent and re-strategize cos your initial business plan needs to be adjusted, modified according to reality. It took us 3-4 years to stabilize. Learn from others and consult wide and far. What is certain is succeeding.