Epump: Digitizing the African downstream oil and gas sector   

A media interview with Executive Officer, Ayodeji Ogundiran where he sheds some light on the company’s corporate vision, the Epump solution, and how Epump is impacting the downstream petroleum industry.

Tell us about Fuelmetrics and what the company stands for?

Fuelmetrics is a company that was established to bridge the technological gaps for businesses in Africa. Our sole aim is to provide transparency and control for management and owners of business alike. By extension, we also help businesses track their revenue. Our prime product has been Epump which is focused on filling stations. Basically, we automate filling stations, giving station owners real time visibility and control of the stations wherever they are. A lot of businesses in Africa depend so much on people providing feedback and data. The problem with that is that you are at the mercy of the person providing this data for you. If the person’s integrity is compromised, then it means the entire business is built on compromised data. Your input and output would be flawed and your decision-making process would be affected as well. These are the kinds of problems Fuelmetrics aims to solve.

Fuelmetrics growth since inception is something of interest, what is responsible for this?

Our growth has been phenomenal, what started as just wishful thinking has grown into a business that has monitored the sale of close to a 1bn liters of fuel in 12 calendar months and this happened without a naira being spent on marketing. Our growth has been driven largely by referrals. Our happy customers are our biggest asset, they continue to refer us to other clients and the cycle continues. Basically, we started from zero customers to over five hundred customers in the space of three years purely on word of mouth and for a company to be able to achieve this level of success based on referrals, it means our solution is doing exactly what it says it will do and is also a testament to the fact that our service is top notch.

Your flagship product is Epump solution, what is this about, and why did you develop this product?

Epump is an end-to-end automation and payment infrastructure for the downstream oil and gas sector in Africa. To understand what Epump is, I will delve a little bit into the operations of the filling stations. Let’s say you own and operate 5 filling stations, it’s practically impossible for you to be present in all the filling stations at all times. You will have to hire managers, supervisors and attendants who are working with a lot of moving components and would have to collate data for you every day. The challenge here is that the minimum wage in Nigeria is quite low so when you hire people on minimum wage, the expectation is that they are trying to find other means to make money for themselves and because fuel is not a physical product that you can count, it is easy to manipulate figures and under report. What Epump has done is to take that responsibility of reporting away from hired staff and put control in the hands of the filling station owners or management.

I am from an entrepreneurial family, and I have experienced first-hand that inadequate monitoring can kill a business in a short time. Trust is just not enough to run a business in Africa or any other part of the world. You need dependable data and monitoring, and Epump provides this for fuel station owners. You can be in Kigali or any part of the world and know precisely what is going on in your filling stations in real time. Epump allows you to monitor your sales, your inventory, your payment, your customers and every other critical component of your business. You can also change prices remotely while it reflects automatically on the pumps.

Your operations span beyond the shores of Nigeria, so what is the place of Nigeria in your success story?

You must have heard the phrase “Africa is a country”? This is false according to geography but is largely true in terms of structure and operations. The problems we are solving in Nigeria with local solutions are also active in most of the 54 countries in Africa. This has created opportunities for us to serve customers in other countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and we will continue to expand to other countries. We are the first OEM for filling station automation in Africa, and this is putting Nigeria on the map as a technology pioneer in that space.

As an expert that understands the importance of automated management systems, what is your view about Fuel Station Management in Nigeria, and why do you think this product is suitable for the downstream oil and gas sector?

It was a real shocker to me when I found out that people have 5, 10, 50 stations and they have no adequate solution to monitor the sales and operations of those stations. Some others utilize CCTV and Microsoft Excel as their definition of technology, these are wonderful technologies but wrongly applied. Every station needs a forecourt automation system like Epump that allows it to monitor and control their operations from any location they may be. Epump allows you to know your inventory in real time, you get to know the volume of products discharged to you, the number of liters of PMS/ AGO /DPK as well as the volume of CNG/LNG sold, portions of sales from POS and Cash, and much more.

Beyond helping our customers prevent fraud and grow their business, Epump also gives the stations an alternative payment system that discourages cash operations and hence reduce cash handling risks for the fuel station. Epump can allow you to run self-service stations without breaking the bank.

Epump was built by Africans for Africans. We designed it from the ground up, taking data and advice from real station owners and their operations. Being local also means we can resolve 100% of any issues you may encounter as a result of technology.

How does the Epump work?

The first thing we do to onboard a station on Epump is to install our proprietary forecourt controllers called “Epump Go” on all the pumps in the station. The controllers capture all sales information from the pump and transmits the information to a cloud-based server. In essence, we are able to capture the number of liters sold for every transaction, the number of customers that visited the station in a day, trend analysis and much more. Management and owners of these stations can then access the information in simplified formats, either on their mobile phones or computers anywhere in the world provided they have internet access.

We also install Automatic Tank Gauges to help stations access their inventory level in real time, how much petroleum product they have in their tank, if water is present in the tank, the volume, time of the last discharge, what was the volume, amongst others. The data is aggregated in a simple to understand dashboard and analytics for the users. After collating all this data at the server end, we do some processing, analysis, comparisons, and we are able to establish patterns. We are able to know the station’s peak period, when a station should optimally be open and much more.

What gap is the Epump solution filling in the downstream oil and gas sector in particular?

Epump serves as the best tool for owners of fuel stations to optimize their little margins. It ensures they capture all their revenues, and prevent smart play on them by their employees. What we have seen in the past when we deploy Epump solutions to stations is that there is a kind of confidence that comes from stations owners, and this is because they know that they don’t have to be physically present to track and monitor their business or even commission engineers to go round stations to change prices of products when it can be done remotely, this gives them peace of mind. It has helped these owners of fuel stations to optimize their business and grow their customer base.

Epump is also facilitating cashless transactions in filling stations and by doing so, we are reducing the cost and risk of cash handling.

How has the solution transformed the downstream oil and gas sector since its launch?

Epump cannot lay claim to having transformed the downstream oil and gas sector yet, our penetration is still at about 5% of the industry. What we have however done is to transform the way our customers do business in more than one way.

Firstly, our customers are able to block losses in their business through the visibility Epump provides. Epump is taking away their worries caused by blind spots in their operations. Our customers are typically able to pay more attention to their other businesses, spend time with their families, or even take a vacation weeks after installing Epump, a luxury that has been out of their reach for years.

We are also helping stations transform from a cash-based economy to a cashless economy. We are deploying technologies that facilitate payment. For example, you can onboard corporate clients who don’t need to pay for their fueling transactions using cash, they can pay either using a fuel card or using a voucher and all of these are automated. It gives the customers an assurance of having products fully dispensed while it gives the station owner peace of mind, knowing there is perfect reconciliation of every business transaction. To reiterate, Epump is looking to change the industry positively, we are not there yet but we’ve had a tremendous impact on our customers.

What does the Epump technology offer fuel station owners?

Epump offers them visibility for their operations, it offers business growth, it helps them gain the trust of their customers but more importantly, it also offers them peace of mind.

Does the Epump solution come with product financing?

We are not a loan granting venture; we are however partnering with financial institutions to facilitate product financing for our customers. Data captured by Epump helps financial institutions to make informed decisions on the possible performance of product loans extended to the stations. They typically find that the risk is much lower than industry average when it is backed by data, and because of this they offer very competitive rates and terms to our customers. Any customer who has been on our platform for over 6 months can benefit from this arrangement

Is this solution a first of its kind in the industry?

Like I mentioned earlier, we are not the first to develop station automation in the world. However, we introduced some dynamics to it. We are the first to leverage IOT technology to ensure that installations are not as rigorous as they used to be. In the past, it would take days to run cables from every pump to a back office. We changed that by installing IOT devices that connect directly into the cloud. Now a lot of other foreign competitors are trying to follow the model but it’s still not as swift as what we’ve done with Epump. More importantly, as of today, we are the only Original Equipment Manufacturer for the downstream industry in Africa.

What are the future expansion plans for Epump?

We will continue to innovate to help our customers scale their businesses through technology and partnerships that work for them. We are also expanding to a pan African business serving customers from all countries in Africa.

Also, because what we do is to a very large extent fraud prevention, people also learn new ways to gain system every day. We are always at the edge to make sure we are abreast of every new development and to make sure we provide solutions even before the problems arise. Beyond that, it’s our goal to convert at least 70% of transactions at the downstream oil and gas to cashless transactions in order to reduce cash handling and risks for our customers. In line with this, we are coming up with strategies and partnerships that will ensure stations are getting the best out of their businesses.

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