BusinessDay

Our automotive technologies offer enhanced, ever-improving mobility solutions- Pratap

Simba TVS, one of the leading two and three-wheeler companies in Nigeria, was recently awarded the “Best Auto Service Award” for its excellent after-sales service of motorcycles and tricycles. In this interview, Mahendra Pratap, Business Head Simba TVS, highlighted how the company was able to achieve this feat, its driving philosophy, and its plans for the future. Gbemi Faminu brings the excerpts.

Can you give an insight on Simba group and its activities so far?

The Simba Group has been operating in Nigeria since 1988 and is present in some dynamic and important industries like transport, power, agriculture, and ICT [Information and Communication Technologies].

Our journey began as Wandel International (Nig.) Ltd, a distributor of bicycles in Nigeria, soon we were recognized for excellent product development and this laid the foundation for our flagship, Simba TVS business of two and three-wheelers in Nigeria.

The Simba TVS business has dominating positions in both the motorcycle and tricycle industries in Nigeria, how have you managed to achieve this feat?

We try to offer our customers the winning combination of reliable products engineered and developed for the local conditions coupled with the excellent service we render.

Our vehicles are innovative in their deployment of the latest technologies, developed in-house at TVS Motor Company, our partners for over 10 years.

It is not enough for us to be the best, we are always striving to be even better and we have also deployed technological enhancement to help drive our aim.

For example, we recently launched the iTouch feature on our TVS King Deluxe+ tricycle, which allows the riders a more comfortable experience whilst saving money and delivering greater returns to the owners.

The adoption of new technology is not always easy. It may be beneficial but not always apparent so demonstrating the benefits is really important and I think we do this well.

Talking about service, you recently won the Best Auto Service award, can you tell us about your service offering that helped achieve this?

Service is of critical importance to us at Simba, the award is a testament to the incredible efforts of our service teams based across Nigeria.

As I mentioned earlier, it is very important to have products that are of good quality, reliable and innovative but this does not mean much unless you have a service philosophy and service infrastructure to support that product locally.

Our vehicles are mostly used as Okada and Keke which means they form capital investments for their owners, hence we have to ensure they are on the road, and in use which is key to guaranteeing a good return on this investment.

So, we focus not only on building the service infrastructure but on training mechanics who operate in every corner of the country, so that no matter where you are the vehicles can be attended to when required.

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Can you tell us more about the training you provide?

We can’t be everywhere but we can make sure that there is someone who is trained to service our vehicles wherever that is required. I believe customers recognize this and reward us by placing their confidence in us when they select a TVS motorcycle or tricycle.

If innovation is the foundation of our product offering, then training is the foundation of our service, our programs run throughout the year, and we have trained thousands of mechanics, and riders, across the country.

We work very closely with the support of the Federal and State Governments to ensure training not only of mechanics but also of riders.

For example, just in the last few months alone, we have worked with the National Automotive Design and Development Council on a five-day training initiative in Gombe State for auto-mechanics, electricians, and other auto-auxiliary services providers.

We have worked with the Borno State Ministry of Transport and Vehicle Inspection Office to deliver a program that comprises both the theoretical and practical aspects of Road Safety, with our most recent installment providing training for 600 tricycle riders.

We have also collaborated with the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority and the Vehicle Inspection Service to train riders on safe driving, road safety awareness, traffic laws, and the basic maintenance of tricycles.

If innovation is the foundation of our product offering, then training is the foundation of our service

Simba TVS is recognized for the promotion of women’s empowerment, what are some of your current initiatives on this important policy of your company?

We have three programs that are currently running, which support women’s empowerment in Nigeria.

First is our Queen Rider Program which is a first-of-its-kind training program dedicated to women in the tricycle industry. The program trains and accredits female riders and mechanics on safe driving and maintenance of tricycles, and enables them to participate in the industry.

Subsequently, an enabling ecosystem for beneficiaries to join the trade is provided by giving them access to finance or tying them up with fleet owners.

Secondly, at Simba TVS, we are particularly proud of the fact that we have a tricycle assembly line that has a dedicated female workforce.

The women who work on the line go through a specialist training program run by the company and also benefit from mentorship from within their peer group, the initiative has helped introduce women to what was otherwise a largely male-dominated vocation.

And lastly, Simba TVS we partner with notable celebrities and influential women, who are committed to enhancing women’s empowerment to engage with, train and empower women within a community.

How has Simba dealt with the global pandemic, and how do you see the future of the company in a post-pandemic environment?

The pandemic has had a devastating effect on lives and livelihoods over the last two years, as a company our first priority was the safety and well-being of our employees and their families.

From switching to remote working and then transitioning to socially distanced workspaces, enhancing communication, putting into place mechanisms for better learning and information sharing, I believe like most responsible companies, we were able to effectively manage the situation.

As a group that participates in vital sectors of the economy, we did our part to keep our services running, I think that’s the beauty of the Simba culture or the Simba Family as we call it. We recognize our place in the grand scheme of things and are willing to do our part.

The other thing, which became a matter of great priority for us, was the end-users of our products i.e the okada and Keke riders themselves, who were suddenly off-road and financially heavily impacted by the lockdowns.

With the interventions from the Simba Foundation, as well as a massive resource deployment of our own teams, we were able to deliver palliatives, in the form of food, masks, sanitizers, to thousands of riders across the country.

I was humbled not only by our own efforts but the efforts of the Federal and State Governments with whom we and so many other companies came together to collaborate on this unprecedented situation.

As for the future, one thing is clear, any economy that is growing needs to keep moving forward and we intend to keep everyone moving, our motorcycles and tricycles take people to work, to school, to pray, and to get on with their daily lives.

We too will continue to move things forward using innovation and bringing the latest in automotive technologies to offer our customers enhanced and ever-improving mobility solutions, backed by Simba TVS Service.

The pandemic has also changed behavioral patterns, which have led to an increase in personal mobility requirements, food and courier delivery service growth, and online retail growth, all of which will continue to drive the adoption of motorcycles and tricycles, here and across the world.

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