#BounceExclusive: Meet Didi Obioh, Nigeria’s Audacious Female Car Dealer
Call her a woman in an odd job and you’d be right.
Didi Obioh dumped her English Language degree from the University of Lagos just to do a job one would consider odd for an average Nigerian woman – selling cars.
Along the ever busy Lekki-Epe Expressway, by Igboefon Roundabout, Didi sits in her car dealer shop in a midst of men, throwing banters about auto deals and latest brands – the only woman in the group and arguably the only you may find in several car dealer shops across Nigeria.
Her reputation precedes her. For most Nigerians, familiar with online auto sells, Didi Obioh is gradually becoming a brand in auto dealership.
How did she get into this line of business which historically has been dominated by men? What inspired her decision to venture into it in the first place? What does it feel like being a car dealer as a woman? Has she succeeded?
These and more are the questions that bothered our minds when we decided to pay a visit to hear her story.
Her father, she told Bounce News, had been the major and first
influence in her interest in autos. Being a lover of cars, her father had
acquired several exotic brands. She had grown up seeing these cars and
gradually fell in love with cars generally.
“I have seen Citroën B2, Citroën C2 in our house. We have had a diesel engine 4Runner. We have had cars converted from right hand to left hand drive. The interest had always been there but I just didn’t think of making it a serious business until 2014,” she said.
Then in 2014, about four years after she had started selling cars as a side gig, she took the plunge, resigned her day job and became a full-time car dealer.
"I started by selling other people's cars. From selling other people's cars and getting cars for clients, I graduated to buying and selling locally.
“In the beginning, because I was extremely naïve, a lot of people ran away with my money. There were so many cases but I remember one when a guy came to buy a car from me.
“I showed him the car and he said he was going to buy it and pay me my commission. But it turned out that he bought the car and never paid my commission.
“When I confronted him, he insisted he did not buy the car and that he collected his money back. Even three years later, he was still denying that he bought the car but the car owner insisted it was him who bought the car,” Didi recounted.
But how do people react when they first understand she is a car dealer?
“It has been both advantage and disadvantage,” she started.
“An advantage because people believe as a woman, I won’t run away with their money. Women are sincerer when it comes to business. And it’s true, often we value our names and where we are coming from more than the business you are going to give us.
“But the disadvantage is that people will not take you seriously. For instance, there have been times when I had more knowledge about certain cars even more than my male counterparts but the customer wouldn’t take me seriously simply because I was a woman,” she said.
To break into the business successfully, she had to undertake extensive research into several auto brands while working closely with people who have been in the business before her and picking critical knowledge skills on auto parts. These, she said, have helped her to succeed more than anything else.
If you are looking to break into any field where you do not have a foothold yet, Didi recommends that “you probably need to spend a whole lot of time researching. You also need to be around people that know about it.”
And for her fellow women out there, Didi says they must be persistent
in the pursuit of what they want even as they strive to be different. This is
because, the society would not change for the women folk until the women push
for the change they want.
“As supportive as my mother was, she didn’t like the idea of car dealership by me. She thought with my certificates in Mass Communication and English I could do a better job being in journalism.
“So, it was really challenging when I started. It was not just my mother, everybody was like, we won’t spend our money sending you to school and now you want to just be a car dealer.
“But what really worked for me, was that I was persistent. And I think my parents eventually allowed me because they saw how persistent I was. And that is what I would tell every woman out there.
“If you are not persistent, no one will ever take you seriously. If you expect the society to change because you were born, that would never happen. The society only changes when you push them to change. So, my advice, be persistent and different about what you are doing,” she said.