Driving your way to wealth through school bus service

2010-07-29
THE PUNCH Newspaper- Sulaiman Adenekan

Social relocation is a common phenomenon, especially in urban centres. From time to time, people move from one area to another because of varying factors. The relocation can be as a result of a change of job. Sometimes, it can be caused by a change in accommodation.

Whether induced by a change in occupation or housing needs, one obvious fact is that such a change normally impacts on the schooling needs of their children or wards. Of course, owing to reasons of standard or taste, most of the people who leave a highly urbane area to resettle in less developed environment often have a fixation problem. In most cases, they want their wards or children to remain in schools with better standards, which may not be available or found in their new environment. In most cases, they prefer to retain their wards in their old schools or other areas considered to have better standards. For such parents to be able to concentrate on their work, and at the same time ensure their wards‘ comfort in terms of transportation to and from schools, they are often prepared to pay enough fees as a guarantee. Instances like these make veering into school bus service a viable investment option.

School bus service is a business, whereby a company or an individual undertakes the service of delivering children to and from school on a daily basis, thereby relieving parents of the worry over how to take their children to and from school.

The Chief Executive Officer, Heavenly Private Treasure Bus Service, Mrs. Folashade Adeleke, says she stumbled on the business as she was looking for a school for her children, when her family just relocated to their residence. According to her, since she could not find a good school in the vicinity, she had no choice but to keep the children back in their former school (in the former residential area). What she resorted to doing was to be driving her children to and from school everyday.

”One day, I felt that this was an opportunity I could tap into. I discovered that most people, who relocated to Mowe, my new area, like I did, still worked in Lagos and retained their children in their former schools (in Lagos). I decided to capitalise on the opportunity. I decided to turn it into a full blown business, by taking their children to school along with mine for a fee,” she says.

Speaking on the business, she says one can start with a brand new 16-seater bus, which costs about N4m. Of course, she observes that there are cheaper buses that can be purchased for between N1.7m and N2m or even cheaper to convey the children to school.

On the number of workers required, she says a driver and a bus coordinator, usually called ‘Aunty‘ are the two key employees needed. She, however, notes that as the buses in the fleet increases, more hands will be required.

For operational efficiency, she says the company must have what is called a manifest for record keeping on the bus(es) and the children‘s movements. According to her, such a manifest would contain the names of every child; the persons who pick them from the house and bring them back; the time a child is picked at home and dropped at school and vice versa; and the names of persons who receive the children at home.

She says the charges are made according to the distance. However, she notes that it might be necessary to give discounts to parents that have more than one child, as it is a business that thrives more on volume.

Adeleke says discounts are given based on the number of students. For instance, if N25,000 is charged per student, a parent with five children can be discounted to pay N20,000 per child. Instead of paying N125,000 for five students per term, such parents would be asked to pay N100,000. But is all depends on the distance to be covered.

Adeleke identifies bad road and finance as key challenges to the business. According to her, interest on bank loan is quite exorbitant. Alternatively, she urges the government to create a soft loan scheme for the development of the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, saying ”if one has an idea and has no money to execute it, the idea will die.”

Adeleke said, ”I know there are microfinance banks all over places, but by the time you get there and they tell you the kind of interest on the loan they will give you, you will wonder whether you are working for yourself or for the microfinance bank.

Above all, she says such a proprietor must be conscious of public relations because parents have different behaviours. Nevertheless, he notes that it is difficult to satisfy the public.

She explains, “If one is not friendly with the children and they get back home and tell their parents that they are not well treated in the bus, one will be losing customers gradually.”

On the strategies to be adopted to keep the children happy, she says, “Sometimes one can play cartoon videos for them to watch, crack jokes, sing with them, and share stories with them to make the journey lively for them, as they will see it as a memorable experience and they will even tell their parent that they prefer the private bus that convey them to their school because they are pampered.”

Speaking in the same vein, the Managing Director, Hezy Direct Consulting, Mrs. Anuoluwapo Ajagbe, says the industry is an upcoming one, adding that the business still faces the challenge of bad roads, which is the major discouraging factor to the sector.

She says the business is profitable if one is able to start big with a minimum of two buses and get high number students to convey in high volume.

She says, ”The business is profitable depending on the level you start with. It also depends on the volume of children because high volume means high profit and low volume means low profit. If the students are concentrated in an area, it will be easy than picking them from one place to another, which will mean charging them separately.”

According to her, the charge for a single student for to and fro per term ranges between N10,000n to N15,000 in a suburb area, while it ranges between N30,000 to N40,000 in high brow area.

 

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