INTERVIEW: Petro-App will expose sharp practices in oil sector, says Axiom Tech MD

Andre Bassey, managing director of Axiom Tech Ltd, brands himself as a young and vibrant techpreneur who has a passion for creating solutions to real-life business problems.

Having spent almost a decade in the downstream sector of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, he discovered that the marketing and transportation of petroleum products needed more “structure and order” and sought a solution to the issue.

This birthed Petro-App, a mobile application which according to him is a “one-stop shop that will provide oil marketers and other stakeholders with relevant information to serve as a communication bridge to inform their constructive decisions”.

In this interview with TheCable, Bassey speaks on how the app works, how it complements the downstream tracking initiatives by the federal government and some of the expected challenges that come with the introduction of a new product to the market.

What are the highlights of Petro-App and what solution is it bringing to the downstream sector?

Bassey: Petro-App is a mobile app designed to monitor activities in the entire downstream petroleum sector, to actively engage marketers.

Its features include information on product availability from all major petrol depots in Nigeria; prices on the go to help maximise profit; truck and tanker information for hire and delivery; price forecast; petro news; knowledge centre and a feedback mechanism.

It very exciting tool in the hands of the downstream marketer because it reduces his cost of looking for the product since everything you want is already at the back of your hands. All you need is a smartphone. So it is a very exciting thing for them.

However, we have tried to draw in other features that will help stakeholders in the industry with the challenges they’re going through like [dealing with] LASTMA and FRSC. We’re trying to see how we can get a scheduling system that allows us to work together in that industry.

So it does two things — it engages the marketer and it tries to solve an existing problem.

Bassey, Axiom Tech MD

TheCable: Apart from LASTMA and FRSC, which stakeholders have you sought their buy-in and what is the level of cooperation/acceptance like?

Bassey: Let me speak about the regulators first. The DPR (Department of Petroleum Resources) for instance is very happy to see this development because typically they would want to see to what extent and how useful this (Petro-App) is to the department which is what they have done and we’ve been able to have several meetings with the minister of state for petroleum resources and we have outlined certain features, especially in the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) to be able to track and infuse this same technology in other aspects they’ll want to recommend to us. So it’s unfolding.

For the stakeholders, every one of them wants to have a functional depot and have accessibility to their depot so the app allows a bit of healthy competition.

Every depot is listed for instance so you know clearly that if people typically go to a particular depot that would mean there is accessibility, that would mean efficiency and time saved. So the marketers can rate the depots and it helps the system to improve either directly or indirectly.   

Petro-App is 100% locally built from the ground up, the stakeholders will be perceived as a great supporter of homegrown within and without Nigeria.

TheCable: Is the app in any way similar to Project Aquila launched by the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) in 2011 and how will it track movement of petroleum products?

Bassey: The Aquila fund 2 has a lot to do with technology because no one technology company can actually solve this whole problem. The background of technology is to be able to get a lot of data to make decisions whether business or otherwise.

Now it’s not a conflict of interest, rather it helps, it complements that particular interest because each truck that leaves to a particular destination, having signed for that Aquila fund 2 should be able to first of all go to the destination and before the seal is even broken from the valve for discharge we should be able to have a system that entirely tracks the process.

So every single naira that has been accounted for or allocated to a particular truck will be able to be valued based on that activity such that if you break the seal for instance and you’re supposed to be going to Kebbi state and you break the seal in Ibadan, it is obvious that something is wrong. That’s the kind of complement we’re bringing into the system.

TheCable: Do you forsee any challenges hindering the full take off of this technology as it’s in the early stages?

Bassey: First of all acceptance. As you know, if you’re introducing a product into a system you will get a lot of resistance.

Some people are already threatened that the product is going to expose some of their sharp practices. So those are the sort of people you have to do with first.

Other than that, we also have the challenge of actually educating the user base to use the app properly.

That is why we made it as simple as possible so that everybody can use.

Propagating the application, yes, we’re looking to do that as well but we have to be very speedy in terms of propagation.

One section cannot be using the application and the other does not have access to it. That’s why we have a roadmap of the places we’re going to after Lagos which is Warri in Delta state, Port Harcourt in Rivers state,  Calabar in Cross River, Kaduna and Suleja in Niger state.

TheCable: What role will the various oil marketers associations play in support of the app?

Bassey: We have another stakeholders meeting planned where we’re going to give them (oil marketers associations) their own exclusive presentation which will hold soon.

They have the briefs, they understand what the challenges are. Clearly this is not to compete with them. This is to complement. I don’t see any platform that would see an opportunity to be able to improve on their activities and say no.

But most importantly, the fact that they don’t have to pay anything will make it easy for them to accept.

TheCable: Apart from Petro-App, what other innovation and/or partnership is Axiom Technologies exploring in the oil and gas industry?

Bassey: In terms of partnerships, we are looking at other sectors in the technology industry those who provide hardwares to have a more robust backup system especially.

We’re looking at the media to help spread the word as much as they can. As the need arises, we will keep soliciting for partnerships with entities that we’re looking to deal with.

There are certain things we do not want to say yet, but as it comes we’ll keep churning it out.