SA Profile spoke to Charlotte Hambly- Nuss, Founder and Managing Director of OTI PetroSmart who has been at the helm of the business since its establishment in 2000.
Tell us more about the company and your role as Managing Director?
OTI PetroSmart is a leading provider of integrated fuel management solutions based on Automated Vehicle Identification (AVI). Products include configurable hardware, software applications and support services. I am a qualified attorney by profession. Whilst being responsible for the daily operational and financial management of the business, I also lead the business development efforts from both a commercial and technical perspective. I conceptualised and successfully executed a strategic vision that resulted in OTI PetroSmart’s appointment as OTI’s Global VAR for the petroleum product line.
How would you describe OTI PetroSmart’s scope of work?
We automate, simplify and secure the refuelling and payment process through the use of our AVI solution – EasyFuelPlus – across a range of industries,
including the retail, commercial, industrial and mining sectors. Our solutions help reduce operational expenditure by eliminating manual processes, as well
as by providing quality data that not only enables the effective management of fuel consumption, but also helps to prevent fraud.
What is the company’s vision for the near future?
Over the next three years we intend to target six of the top 10 country markets by business vehicle in use, potential transactions and volume. We view the following as effective methods to growing the business quickly and effectively:
- Support strategic partnerships with tools to sell and support products and solutions effectively.
- Effectively communicate market position as a full-service provider and systems integrator.
- Use programmes such as “shared risk models” and “revenue sharing arrangements”.
- Service bundling.
- Potential of adding sales and support offices in major markets to support sales.
- Expansion into retail segment
What are your long-term goals for the business and how do you plan to achieve them?
AVI solutions are firmly emerging as either a complimentary form factor or, in certain cases, as the complete replacement for traditional fuel cards in both the
commercial and retail fuelling sectors. EasyFuelPlus provides OTI PetroSmart’s partners with numerous upfront and recurring revenue opportunities.We can assist our partners to understand the market potential for AVI issuance and help identify viable markets and sectors using accepted industry benchmarks and politico-economic filters. We also assist our partners with building innovative and rewarding business models to suit specific markets and opportunities.
How would you describe your top attributes as a successful leader?
I am a proactive, results-driven entrepreneurial style leader with a successful background in achieving business growth through in-depth product knowledge, focused partner and customer relationships and a vision for new technical and commercial opportunities. Whilst my key responsibilities are of a corporate and commercial nature, my understanding of the underlying technology platforms, interfaces and overall solution architecture have proven to be invaluable to me. It is impossible to effectively manage a technology and solution focused business unless you have a clear understanding of the product offering and how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
This understanding has helped me to navigate complex technical discussions to achieve the desired commercial results. My product knowledge has also enabled me to source products to extend our core value proposition and to develop new business models and service offerings for our customers. Success requires hard work; tenacity and discipline. As a result of the extensive experience I have gained in the industry I have been able to develop a multidisciplinary skill set, strong leadership, interpersonal and communication skills. My key strengths include product management, negotiation, contract drafting and strategic account management.
What are your values as a company leader and how do you ensure these values are upheld by employees?
Hard work, energy, enthusiasm, accountability, excellence, efficiency, team work and innovation. I aim to instil these attributes and values by “walking the talk” and leading by example.
Can you tell us about some risks you have taken and the results?
Introducing shared risk business models. Whilst you make less money at the outset of a deal, you generate far more revenue over time and these models have ensured that our objectives are aligned with those of our customers. Providing certain services, such as key account management and bureau services – at no cost initially to demonstrate the value proposition. This paid off as today we generate significant monthly revenues from the provision of these services.
Introducing new products as an extension of our core value proposition. I conceptualised the introduction of complete packaged home base and mobile browser solutions in conjunction with a bundled service offering to enable OTI PetroSmart to sell automation solutions; AVI and tank gauging systems directly to wholesalers and bulk consumers of fuel. This was a gamble initially but has paid dividends and served to entrench our position in the market.
Tell us more about the demand and supply of your product and services within your industry.
With more than 220 million corporate fleet vehicles in viable markets globally, the potential AVI market is very significant and offers the potential for long term growth in revenues. AVI solution providers are uniquely positioned to benefit from three strands of the fuel card value chain:
- Acceptance (site equipment)
- Issuance (tags and vehicle equipment)
- Software services Rising fuel costs and the need for increased business transparency will drive continued implementation and adoption.
What challenges is the company facing and what measures do you have in place to overcome these?
Whilst our strategic partners are well positioned in certain markets, they do not always have the desired focus when it comes to promoting our product suite. This requires us to either work more closely with the relevant sales teams and distribution channels or re-visit our approach to the market and engage directly with potential end customers.
How does OTI PetroSmart maintain its integrity and loyalty to its customers?
OTI PetroSmart is led by highly qualified and experienced executives, supported by a focused team with extensive experience in business development, account management, hardware engineering, software development, technical support and the deployment of retail and commercial fuelling technologies. With our combined knowledge and expertise, we are able to support our direct customers, global strategic partners and valued distributors while identifying opportunities and implementing solutions that deliver real value.
How would you describe the company’s strategic vision and mission over the next five years?
Oil companies view fuel card programmes (including AVI) as strategic relationship tools. Such programmes are often referred to as “marketing technology” as they enable the retailer to establish a direct commercial relationship with the customer to facilitate the sale of fuel via a differentiated, secure method of payment.
Basic fuel card offerings are being enhanced to provide commercial fleet customers with more security, more convenience, telematics, vehicle location and web-based services. AVI solutions are emerging as a complimentary form factor or in certain cases as a replacement for traditional fuel cards.
AVI can easily be implemented into existing fuel card programmes. AVI also facilitates a completely frictionless refuelling experience for heavy and light fleet customers and consumers. The success of PetroSmart is rooted in our ability to develop a network of distribution partners across the fuel value added ecosphere with the ability to drive adoption in major markets. Our longer-term goal is to permanently transform the refuelling experience across industry verticals.
- What short to medium-term future do you foresee in your industry?
The rising fuel price and other road taxes have put pressure on the petroleum industry. Even if fuel is a necessity and its demand relatively inflexible, the price
increases have slowed demand. Many industries are dependent on petroleum products and the expected growth in the South African economy would translate into similar levels of growth for the fuel industry. Combined petrol and diesel consumption figures for South Africa are above 20 billion a year and there are approximately 4 600 service stations in South Africa.
Fleet management is a very large business in South Africa, especially related to freighting and transport. Almost all goods transported in South Africa are transported by road due to weak rail infrastructure. Most of the transport is undertaken by large freighting and logistics companies with sizeable fleets of vehicles that stand to eliminate fraud when using AVI solutions.
B2C initiatives will also serve to drive the establishment of an AVI acceptance Infrastructure.
2.Any advice to other leaders?
You need to be passionate and driven to achieve your goals. Don’t become despondent when things don’t go your way – it is critical to ensure that your team remain positive and enthusiastic. Keep doing the work and delivering on your value proposition; focus on your customers and the rest will follow.