…Says Tunji Oyebanji, MD/CEO 11 Plc (formerly Mobil Oil Nigeria)
NATA News: You are welcome to NATA News Platform Sir! We want to take some issues concerning Mobil Oil and the new company that is 11 Plc; pronounced as Double One Plc. Sir, can you briefly tell us the story leading to the new name 11 Plc and the relationship between Mobil Oil and 11 Plc as a company?
Oyebanji: Thank you, it is a pleasure to be on your programme; the relationship is very simple, the heritage company was called Mobile Oil Nigeria Plc, that company was own Sixty percent by Exxon Mobil Cooperation in the U.S.A. Sometimes in 2017 the company made a decision to divert it’s shares and at that time another company, NIPCO Investment Limited bought the Sixty percent shares of Exxon Mobil in Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc; and with that purchase of Sixty percent of the shares the name of the company has to change and therefore change to 11 Plc; so that is the relationship now.
And as part of the transaction, one of the things that came out of it is that the company remains the main distributor of Mobil products in Nigeria and so to that extent 11 Plc is the main distributor of Exxon Mobil Lubricants in Nigeria.
NATA News: 11 Plc is now distributing products of Mobil Oil; for how long will this last and do you have an idea or a plan of changing the name of the products as times goes on Sir?
Oyebanji: No, there is no plan. The relationship is expected to go on as long as it is reliable for both parties. I do not see any chance in the near future for any changes so Nigeria consumers will continue to benefit from Mobil products in Nigeria.
NATA News: Nigerians should be ready to enjoy more of the Mobil products?
Oyebanji: Definitely they should!
NATA News: Mobil Oil; as a leading brand in the Lubricants market; we discover that your products are mostly distributed by your organizations (filling Stations); is it a special arrangement that you will be the main distributor of your company or do you have any other franchise?
Oyebanji: We distribute our products through Mobil Retail Outlets and we also distribute them through NIPCO Retail Outlets across Nigeria.
In addition we have some major Wholesale Distributors who also authorized to distribute our products; so these are the main channels we use. The thing about the Petrol Stations is that of course they are very visible and people see them and they won’t bother some other major distributors that we have; and that are scattered all around the county; and they make sure that our products reach all around the country.
NATA News: Mobil Oil products, Sir, what makes it special among other products?
Oyebanji: Our products are of course of international standard (and) of course you know the Mobil Oil (Lubricants) are known all over the world. The latest lubricant technology goes into the production. We use the best quality and to ensure that our customers are getting the best of what is available in the lubricant technology and that has been affirmed many times by the many Awards that we have won; not only in Nigeria, but all over the world.
NATA News: You have your outlets all over the county, so like how many stations do you have in your vicinity presently?
Oyebanji: 11 Plc operates over a network of over Two Hundred and Fifty Retail Outlets across the length and breadth of the county. Again, like the Lubricants; we trade under the Mobil brand and it’s on a similar arrangement to what we have with the Lubricants.
Yes, you can find it in many parts of the county and we are operating with over Two Hundred and Fifty outlets.
NATA News: What is the staff strength like?
Oyebanji: We presently have over Two Hundred staff engaged; of course not all of them in our Head Office some are operating in field locations. We have over Two Hundred staff working with us.
NATA News: To the issue of Engine Oil, there are issues and cases of adulteration; have you been confronted with this kind of challenge and how do you tackle it?
Oyebanji: Unfortunately, the issue of adulteration is something that affect the entire industry; not just ourselves, but more painful is the fact that not only is it something that is potentially that can dent the image of the various companies that operate in the industry, the most painful part is that the consumers who buy such adulterated products end up with damage to their equipments and engines; which is very painful.
It is a major problem confronting the industry and I think the main source of the problem is the issue of regulation.
First and foremost, a lot of short prime, low quality lubricants are allowed to enter the markets from different parts of the world. It almost looks like it is not controlled so you can go to various places and see a lot of very strange engine oils. Then also you will find by the road side a lot of people selling what they claim is engine oil, but in the real fact, it is nearly just base oil.
All these things are not going well; and the cost must run into Billions (of Naira) if you take into account losses companies that operate with it in the industry are made to suffer; the losses that people who are losing their equipment every day, but unfortunately, lubricants do not cause an engine failure immediately; as a result; people sell these things and when people sell these things, people buy them. They don’t immediately realize they have low quality and you have an engine that should have a normal engine life of maybe 10 years, but suddenly after 3 years it packs off due to consistent use of adulterated and low quality lubricants. So, it’s a major problem confronting the industry.
However, we are working closely with other players in the industry and the various regulating bodies to ensure that this is a something that is tampered with; primarily to protect the consumers, so that at the end of the day they are only going to get (only) quality products.
NATA News: As a major player in the Engine Oil Market, do you feel challenged, or do you have any challenges; mostly from the environment across board?
Oyebanji: Yes! Definitely!!
I think you should already hit on one of them when you talked about proliferation of adulterated products that is one of the main issues.
Another issue we have to contend with is the fact that we have to have a very long, deep inventory of Raw Materials, simply because the lead time between when you Order Products, Raw Materials; and when you receive them in Nigeria is very long.
There is huge congestion at the Ports. It takes quiet a long time to be able to clear your Raw Materials from the Ports. It’s something that we have to deal with.
We would actually have preferred a situation where more of the Raw Materials that we use in the production of lubricants are actually available in Nigeria, but, unfortunately that is not the case. Oil is one of the main items that goes into lubricants; it’s unfortunately not available.
The Cardinal Refinery used to make that available to us many years ago, but that is no longer possible. So, that is one of the things we have to deal with.
I think the other thing; we would have liked to have is the Regulatory Agencies to be empowered to do more; to ensure that only quality lubricants are being produced; (and) available in the Country.
So, these are some of the challenges that we have to deal with, but as you know, they say: “When the going get though, the though gets going,” we have no choice, but to brace up and to confront these problems better.
Sometimes, we also have challenges with the Assessment of some of the Raw Materials that we will use; consequently having to explain to the Customs that an item is a Raw Material. So, we deal with all these problems on regular basis.
But, so far, so good we are keeping our heads across board and we are confronting these problems better.
NATA News: What about Transportation and Distribution?
Oyebanji: As you know, like I said a lot of our lubricants are distributed by Distributors. So, to a large extent they handle most of those Transportation issues.
But the congestion at Apapa (Lagos State, Nigeria), has in the last 2 to 3 years has been a major problem.
Sometimes, getting trucks that will bring in Raw Materials, by way of Packaging Cartons, and so on and forth.
Also, the Evacuation of Finished Products from our Warehouses by our Distributors is also the major challenge that we have to contend with. But again; that is the Environment in which we find ourselves. So, we have to work hard to make sure and try (to) find solutions to these problems.
NATA News: We feel that Government, one way or the other is involved. How will you like to make an appeal to the Government?
Oyebanji: Well, that will be on many, many forms!
First, I will say in the area of Tariffs:
It will please us very much if Government reduces the Tariffs on the Raw Materials that we use for manufacture of lubricants to a very better minimum. On some of the items; the Tariffs are significantly high. Reduction in those Tariffs will make it cheaper for consumers to buy some of our products.
Another area in which the Government can really help us is to ensure that the various Organizations like Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), like NAFDAC, those that have a very norm on what we are manufacturing and the processes we use; are very supportive to people who are Genuine Manufacturers, making sure that they manage the Industry in such a way that, people who are not really Industrious, who are just fly-by-night Businessmen, do not have that much advantage; which ends up discouraging people who have invested a lot of Money, Equipment and so on and forth.
These will be the areas I will say Government can be of help.
Of course, we work closely with Government through their various agencies and when we have opportunities, we do pass on the messages; and as to what areas they can be of assistance to us, because we believe if we create the right environment, their investment will rise and job will be created.
NATA News: What is your assessment or percentage of your Leadership of the Sector?
Oyebanji: Well, specific figures a bit I would say ‘dies’ in Nigeria. We don’t ultimately have extremely, reliable data as far as Market Share; that kind of thing.
So, whenever you hear numbers banding around; am not always sure of their authenticity; especially in a situation where like I said earlier, a lot of funny of funny low quality lubricants are available in the Market, but doesn’t seem to be (of) any Control. So, what I would say is this; we believe very clearly that we are one of the leading brands in Nigeria.
We have been around for an extremely long time. There is very, very strong Consumer Awareness of our products, so we are satisfied, but there is always room for improvement.
NATA News: What are you doing to sustain this Leadership position Sir?
Oyebanji: We are doing a lot of things. First and foremost, we are making sure we upgrade our facilities, (as) they are already among the most advance in the county. We are investing more in upgrading and updating the equipment. We are updating our laboratory for testing to make sure that they are able to test even to the latest industry standard. We are training our people (in) making sure that they are aware of the latest lubrication technology; and we are bringing that to them in form of advice to our consumers.
So, a lot is been done.
One of our major platforms, for instance, is training Motor Mechanics. We have been doing that for more than 10 years now and we have trained Thousands of Motor Mechanics across the country in the basic principles of lubrication. So, all these are things that we are doing to make sure we maintain our leadership position in the market.
NATA News: Like you knew what was in our minds for the next question. We heard that you had a lot of promotional activities last year, what do you have for your consumers this year?
Oyebanji: As you know after the take-over of the company; we significantly round off our investment in sales promotion activities. Those activities last year were really in thanking our consumers for their loyalty over the years.
This year will be more different. We are still going to roll out various promotional activities which will keep our products at the first front of the consumers mind and we will enforce the strength of our brand in the consumers’ eyes; and hopefully we (will) attract new people to purchase our lubricants. So, with that, we feel that we will continue to be a very strong player in the industry.
NATA News: Will you like to let our readers know more about you?
Oyebanji: My name is Tunji Oyebanji. I am the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of 11 Plc. I have worked in the company for many years; definitely over three decades in various parts of the world; and have been privileged to work in other parts of Africa; in the United States, Europe and in various positions under the Exxon Mobil family. I come with the worlds of experience both in the field business and lubricants business. So, I believe that we will continue to work hard to take the company; to even go far in the future.
NATA News: Sir, we know the responsibility that is on your shoulder as the Managing Director and CEO of a large organization like this, how do you relax?
Oyebanji: I just tried to take it easy. Nigeria is a very tough place to unwind. Mostly, I spend time when am not working with friends and with (my) family. I do travel when I have the opportunity to; and I do a lot of reading. So, these are some of the things. (And) when I also have time I watch movies. So, (I engage in) all that helps me take off my mind off from the portions of work.
NATA News: There is this question again that if you are not in the Oil Industry what else will you have loved to do?
Oyebanji: I will probably have been a politician.
NATA News: In conclusion, what will be your advice to the consumers of your products and the nation at large?
Oyebanji: My advice to our consumers will be that they should continue to make it Mobil, because we will always assure them of giving the best products and best quality. Our products integrity is one of our key-watch-words and definitely; that, we can assure them that will continue to be our major focus; so, they should always make it Mobil.
NATA News: And sir, a word of encouragement for NATA News?
Oyebanji: What I will say is that they should keep on continue what they are doing and continue organizing the people; and auto technicians; training them and making them improving their quality, improving their knowledge all the time; so, they are able to serve their customers better, so as you people like to say ….NATA! …PROGRESS!!
Magazine version of ‘NATA News on TV & Radio’ Interview conducted by the Crew of NATA News: Samuel Oloyede Oriowo (Editor-in-Chief), Julius Olasunkanmi Adegunna, Idowu Odumuyiwa (Video Cameraman/Editor) & Emmanuel Olusegun Akanbi (Photography)