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These siblings have been riding the global highway with their auto portal

Topics Cardekho.com

Amit Jain, CEO and Co-founder, CarDekho (Left) with sibling Anurag Jain
Some 10 years ago, two young IITians visited the AutoExpo in New Delhi. And the insights they got there promoted them to launch an auto-industry foussed portal from their single-room set up in Rajasthan’s Jaipur. All that they had at that point, apart from that small working space, were two laptops. 

Cut to 2019. CarDekho, the portal they had launched has not only established itself as a leading automobile marketplace with a valuation of around $600 million, it is steadily making inroads to global markets as well. The company’s latest funding of $70 million announced last week was led by China-based Ping An’s Global Voyager Fund and Sunley House Capital Management, which is a subsidiary of global private equity firm Advent International. The company’s existing investors also participated in the round. 

Despite the slowdown in automobile sales, CarDekho’s new auto business segment posted 30 per cent growth in the first half of FY20 while its insurance and warranty business grew more than five fold over H1 of FY19. Likewise, the company’s used-car and financial services businesses have grown by a staggering 120 per cent and 135 per cent, respectively.

In fact, the Jaipur-headquartered company now claims that 15-30 per cent of some of its partner manufacturers’ annual sales are driven by its platform. It also actively works with over 4,000 new auto dealers and 3,000 used-car dealers across India, influencing more than 42 per cent of their retail sales on its counter. In addition, CarDekho works in collaboration with more than 10 financial institutions and 18 insurers across the country to facilitate used-car financing and insurance.

So what is unique about this start-up? Amit Jain, CEO and Co-founder, CarDekho, attributes the success to the company’s unique automobile ecosystem. This helps in delivering compelling value propositions to the customers by engaging with them, leveraging the various transaction models on a single platform. One of the features, he says, is to provide the user with an “immersive” experience of the car model on the platform before he visits a dealer showroom. This is important as today around 90 per cent of the customers research online before they walk into a physical showroom. 

Another feature that CarDekho offers is a “Feel The Car” tool that provides a 360-degree interior/exterior view along with the sounds of the car, explanations of various features on video, in addition to the regular search and comparison option by make, model and price, with live offers and promotions thrown in. The platform also has used-car classifieds wherein users can upload details about the vehicles they want to sell. If they are buying, they can find used cars on offer from individuals and dealers, and can also access the platform's inspection services.

CarDekho.com also provides array of tech-enabled tools to OEMs and car dealers. These include apps for the sales executives at dealers to manage leads, cloud services for tracking sales performance, call tracker solution, digital marketing support, virtual online showroom and an outsourced lead management operational process, all of which play a huge role in converting a casual enquiry into sales. 

“Our vision is to construct a complete ecosystem for consumers, car manufacturers, dealers and related businesses so that they not just buy and sell cars with the greatest possible ease, but can also manage their entire ownership experience, be it accessories, tyres, batteries, insurance or roadside assistance,” say the founders.

In 2007, after nearly eight years of working with Texas-based Trilogy, Amit Jain, a graduate from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, abruptly quit his job and returned to Jaipur. He dabbled in his father’s gemstone business for a while after the latter’s demise, along with his younger sibling Anurag Jain, also an alumnus of IIT Delhi.

After six months of dabbling in the gemstone business, the brothers decided to try out something in another field where they could apply their domain expertise, and set up Girnar Software. Apart from CarDekho.com, Girnar Software owns and operates BikeDekho.com and PriceDekho.com. 

According to Amit, the duo started the journey sometime in 2007, establishing around ten portals in just two years. "I’m essentially a coder with good at SEO and social media skills. I leveraged these to get traffic to the sites. Some of the portals showed traction, others failed. CarDekho performed the best, thus we zeroed in on that. By 2010, we started getting noticed by investors," he said.

The company has attracted some of the best known investors in the market including Google Capital, Tybourne Capital Management, Hillhouse Capital, Sequoia, HDFC Bank, Ratan Tata and Times Internet, among others. With the latest round, CarDekho has so far raised over $250 million so far.

"With the latest fund raise, we will continue to strengthen our domestic and international businesses and will aggressively work towards becoming the largest personal mobility ecosystem in the country,” said Amit.

The company will use the money to strengthen its transaction businesses and expand its international footprint. It recently started operations in Southeast Asia by acquiring the Philippines business of Carmudi, a leading new-auto player. It has been in Indonesia since 2016 under the brand name OTO.com and has since become the number one New Auto portal in that country.

Shailesh Lakhani, an investment advisor from Sequoia, an early investor in CarDekho, recalls how he was feeling a little nervous after the first board meeting that was attended by just three people -- him a d the two founders. The glaring concern then was the inadequacy of a team that would make the business work. The founders took permission from the investor to spend the funds they had raised in that round, which was meant for three years, in a single year in order to push marketing activities. Lakhani says CarDekho was the first in its segment to conduct a mass-media campaign. Things went as planned. And years after that, Lakhani recalls how the board meeting shifted to a larger room when managers handling different businesses were given 10-minute slots to present updates on the business. In the current fiscal, CarDekho is looking at doubling its revenue to Rs 520 crore. 

The CarDekho group is one of India's leading auto tech companies with platforms such as CarDekho.com, Gaadi.com, ZigWheels.com, BikeDekho.com and PowerDrift.com. In 2013, the company also acquired Gaadi.com, another automotive company. Recently, it launched an insurance platform called InsuranceDekho.com that offers services in the motor and health insurance spaces. 

CarDekho Gaadi store, a retail auction model for pre-owned cars, recently launched seven stores in Mumbai. The opening of these stores is a part of CarDekho's plan to establish 200 Gaadi stores across India by 2020. 

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