Surviving a fuel scarcity in Nigeria is never easy. When it hits, business owners feel the impact gravely. Many lament the decline in sales as a result of increase in prices which is a direct consequence of fuel hikes; others recount losses experienced as a result of the situation. Informal businesses such as; hairdressing salons, barber shops, business centers who run mainly on power account for over 50% of the nation’s GDP. According to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, NBS, they seem to be the worst hit .
Muinat Kareem, a trader who sells cooking ingredients at Sabo market, Sagamu, Ogun state said business hasn’t been going well for her since the beginning of fuel scarcity. Going to her shop on a daily basis has become a problem. It costs too much to get to her office. “I only come to shop thrice in a week and those days are important days when I know my customers would need me. We have moved to our new house and the hike in fuel price is not encouraging traders at the moment. Before the fuel issue started, my T-fare cost N300 daily, now I spend N700 daily. It’s not as if I make sales instantly when I get to shop, I still need to convince customers to patronise me .
This story resonates with business owners all over Nigeria as the tales of low patronage and increase in transportation prices are commonplace in a fuel scarcity situation.
Here are some tips for surviving a fuel scarcity situation as a small business owner:
1. Work with a power rationing plan: If your business runs on power consistently, consider organising work to be done at certain times of the day when you can power machines for use after which the generator or power supply is turned off to conserve it. Where this is not possible and the generator has to be turned on every time a client walks in e.g. in a business center or beauty shop, turn off power when there is no need for it and use only when it is absolutely necessary.
2. Consider alternative sources of power generation: With an influx of battery and solar powered devices into the Nigerian market, consider investing in some of these alternatives e.g. solar powered lamps to provide light and battery powered fans for cooling. For heavier machinery, consider investing in inverters or solar power generating systems.
3. Outsource: Outsourcing aspects of your business operations could also be an efficient and resourceful strategy to adopt in a fuel scarcity situation. For instance, if you run a business that is heavily reliant on delivery, you may want to consider outsourcing the delivery of your products by engaging a reliable person or company to handle this aspect. Also, you could offer your clients the option of picking up products from your farm or factory at discounted prices.
4. Be open and brainstorm with your team: Everyone is understandable worried about the future when fuel scarcity hits. Be open with your employees and let them in on the situation of things. Share your plan and strategy to keep the business afloat and get their buy-in during team brainstorming sessions. You may not have all the answers but sharing your strategies will inspire confidence in your team. Also provide a clear explanation if there will be cuts in salaries and allowances.
5. Adopt the right pricing strategy and offer inexpensive complimentary services: With fuel scarcity comes increase in the price of supplies. With an increase in supply costs, most businesses would readily pass off the burden to the customer. In such a situation, it is important that you adopt the right pricing strategy so that your products are not overpriced or underpriced without covering cost of operations. While the price of your products may be slightly higher because of the fuel situation, consider offering inexpensive complimentary services to compensate for the increase in price e.g. as a fruit vendor, while you may reduce pieces of fruits sold for a certain amount because of cost, consider introducing washed and ready-to-eat fruits as a complimentary service.
6. Leverage the internet and technology to work virtually: The internet and technology now make it possible to get work done virtually. You can hold official meetings and team meetings via Skype/Zoom and hold in-person meetings only when it is absolutely necessary, saving time and fuel. You can also respond to mails and work on the move with your mobile devices.
7. Stay positive and retain your sense of humour: It is easy to slip into a state of melancholy when things are not going as planned but tough times don’t last. So, stay positive and retain your sense of humour as your mental wellbeing is essential to the survival of your business and the strength of your team.
ReferencesFactual Reporters, April 12, 2016. Small Businesses groan as power, fuel crisis defy solution, http://www.factualreporters.co… Accessed April 19, 2016  Dataphyte, March 29, 2022. Fuel Scarcity, Poor Power Supply Affect Business Owners in Ogun State, dataphyte.com/fuel…