When one sits back and looks at the several luxurious and flashy cars that form the fleet of YOKS-Rent a Car, a subsidiary of YOKS Investments Limited, one would presume that the Founder/Chief Executive Officer, Mr Seth Kwao Yeboah Ocran, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and could be reaping from a huge family legacy that was left for him by his parents.
The company, formed over a decade ago, is currently providing professional services to a number of organisations, especially those in the tourism sector, the oil and gas and the mining industry.
However, anybody who has the opportunity to be granted audience by this indefatigable young man would realise that he did not grow his car rental business by any magic wand but traversed the hard way.
Mr Ocran was orphaned at age 14, just at the time that he gained admission to the St Augustine’s College in Cape Coast to pursue his secondary education.
Consequently, his education was truncated after he had lost both parents in quick succession within two years.
He lost his mother while in the first year and this affected his father, who provided for him and his 21 other siblings adversely. His father also passed on when he was in Form Two.
With the demise of both parents, life became rough, since the support from his older siblings and the extended family members was not enough to see him through secondary education.
Under the circumstance, the young man had to call it quits and engage in some other business ventures that could earn him enough money to return to school.
The struggle for survival begins
His first option which came readily was to serve as a trotro mate for close to two years while he worked hard to learn driving as well.
After these two years of fruitless efforts, young Yeboah realised that he was missing the target he had set for himself and, therefore, had to look elsewhere, since the money he made as a mate could only keep body and soul together.
After gaining some amateur skills in driving, he was employed at the Department of Urban Roads as a labourer with the hope of graduating as a driver when he turned 18 and acquired a driving licence.
When he turned 18, he got a valid driving licence but nothing changed and he continued to work as a labourer.
He later quit the job because he had realised that there was no prospects in working with the department because his immediate supervisor, the foreman of works, lived in abject poverty.
After remaining jobless for sometime, Mr Ocran was introduced to Mr Eddie Duplan, a former Chairman of the Ghana Boxing Authority, who had just returned from the United States of America.
According to Mr Ocran, ‘My driving test with my new boss was from the Osu Police station area to his residence at Teshie Nungua. It was not easy that day. When we got to his residence, he told me he was not impressed with my driving skills, but promised to help me sharpen my skills.’
After working with Mr Duplan for two years, Mr Ocran left the job and had to engage in all sorts of businesses just to survive.
He sold textbooks across the country as far as Wa and the gains made from that transaction was sadly lost to an investment he made with PYRAM, bringing his toil to naught.
Getting a little frustrated, Mr Ocran relocated to Lama Cara in the Republic of Togo to live with a sister. His sister later introduced him to a whiteman who entrusted him with some money to buy gold from Ghana for him.
He explained that the deal was not the best because of the fraudulent agents who were only interested in duping him. He returned to Togo to inform the whiteman who surprisingly asked him to keep the money.
According to him, he used that money as the seed capital and started an Accra-Lome buy-and-sell business. Unfortunately for him the huge investments he had made from goods he had bought from Lome and supplied to traders at the Makola Market ended disastrously when he returned from one of the trips to collect his monies and learned that the Makola Market had got burnt and could therefore not demand payments from his clients.
After this episode, Mr Ocran later got a job as a driver with the VANEF Europcar in 1996.
The turning point in his life
His association with VANEF marked the turning point in his life. At VANEF, he had worked in most of the departments of the company during the four years’ stint with the company as a night supervisor, a sales representative, a driver, among others.
He said later the company had a client, a Canadian lady, Ms Louise Griener, a Carl Bro. International (DANIDA) consultant to the Ghana Highway Authority, then constructing the Takoradi to Agona Nkwanta road in 1999.
This Canadian lady requested that she needed the services of a driver who would at the same time work as an office boy. Mr Ocran’s background as an all-rounder made his bosses recommend him to undertake that assignment.
According to Mr Ocran, while serving that Canadian lady, the vehicle he was using occasionally developed some mechanical faults which at times made the lady push the car to get it started.
She complained about the frequent breakdowns and informed him that she wanted to abrogate the contract with VANEF and go for HERTS, another car rental company, on condition that he (Mr Ocran) should resign from VANEF and join HERTS so that he would continue working with her.
He immediately had a brilliant idea and suggested to the lady whether she would love to work with him if he bought his own car and rented it to her.
This was not a bother to the lady, who immediately sought authorisation from the officials at the Carl Bro headquarters and she was given the green light.
Not quite long after this discussion the lady took her leave and travelled to her home country.
Mr Ocran, who at the time had only GH¢500, managed to buy a car on high purchase valued at GH¢1,300 with guarantee from a car dealer. He also borrowed some money from a friend he had worked with at Novotel to fix an air conditioner, as well as register the car.
Before the end of the lady’s one-month leave, the Nissan Primera car he had bought was ready.
The breakthrough in his life
This time, Mr. Ocran, who took his annual leave from VANEF, drove the Canadian lady in his own car and now worked for himself.
He said news broke at his work place about his deal with the Canadian lady and he, therefore, had to tender in his resignation to avert trouble.
Mr Ocran managed to pay off the car he bought on high purchase within three months out of the revenue he received at the end of every month from his client.
His enterprising nature was noticed by the Canadian lady, who recommended him to other DANIDA expatriates visiting Ghana.
Even though he had one car, each time there was an additional guest to deal with he managed to arrange for a car from friends for a fee and serviced his guests.
He was able to get some more cars which he paid in instalments, opened an office and registered his car rental business.
After the contract with Ms Griener ended, he secured another juicy contract with the organisers of the Sister City Conference and was the sole car rental company for the over 400 guests who participated in the event.
Mr Ocran executed this job with finesse and his confidence level started to grow. He invested the profit he had made from that project in putting up a modern office at Osu in 2005 and rented part of the building.
Later, he benefitted from an ECOBANK deal which provided him with some vehicles which he rented to some mining companies.
By 2006, Mr Ocran had the most lucrative contract with the West African Gas Pipeline. As a result of the volume of work he needed about 35 vehicles.
He managed to get some, while ECOBANK assisted him to acquire 20 brand new vehicles including 4X4s.
As the business started growing, Mr Ocran tried to put in place the needed corporate structures and therefore engaged professionals to assist him run his business.
Mr Ocran later switched from ECOBANK and had the support of STANBIC Bank which granted him a facility to help him acquire over 40 vehicles to enable him to bid for the Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel contract which he won in 2011.
Family and social life
Mr Ocran was born at Kpeve in the Volta Region to Mr Samuel Kojo Ocran, then a worker of the defunct State Farms and Madam Alice Adukwei Acquaye, a trader/kenkey seller, both of blessed memory.
He started school at the Dodofie Local Authority Primary School and continued at Osu Salem Four, then the Manhean Five and Six Middle schools before enrolling at the St Augustine’s College after passing the Common Entrance Examination while in Middle Form Two.
Mr Ocran has six children: five boys and a daughter.
He was born a Presbyterian and enjoys playing table tennis, swimming, reading and enjoys watching the Black Stars play.
Since the inception of YOKS Investments 12 years ago, the company has won three awards this year; the most recent is the Best Car Rental Company for the Year 2012, at the National Tourism Awards held at the State Banquet Hall, State House, in Accra.
The accompanying citation read: ‘From humble beginnings, YOKS Car Rentals has grown into a giant in the car rental business’’ and further stated that YOKS offered the best of services through a large, safe, reliable and varied fleet of vehicles,
manned by courteous and well-trained drivers.
The company had earlier won the Ghana Business and Financial Excellence awards and the Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana (CIMG) award for 2012.
Corporate Social Responsibility
The company will soon launch an education fund to assist, underprivileged young people to further their education and acquire a vocation.
Credits: The Mirror