Buying a new car takes months of planning. Every buyer likes to evaluate all the pros and cons of the cars until they make up their mind. It was a visit to the Delhi Auto Expo in January 2008 which spurred two brothers Amit and Anurag Jain to start a venture that would make buying cars easier. The brothers collected all the brochures at the Expo and used the information to launch a website called CarDekho in March 2008.
From its journey as a website run by the two brothers from Jaipur, the company has offices in seven Indian cities, employing over 2,000 people.
The website’s user base has risen tremendously over the years. About 35 million people visit it every month; it is ranked 392 in India, according to web traffic analytics firm Alexa. CarDekho was a finalist in the business and commerce category of the Digital Empowerment Foundation’s awards in 2016.
What makes CarDekho click
The CarDekho’s unique selling point is its website where user can search cars by price, manufacturer name, model number or features. The option to compare up to four cars side-by-side gives a clear idea of the pros and cons of a car. It also allows user to see how a car looks like from inside and outside with the help of videos, snapshots, and a 360 degree mode where you can zoom in for a closer and better look at the car from different angles. The video section carries launch videos, reviews and walk-throughs of the cars by company or CarDekho experts.
Another highlight of CarDekho is the section on used cars. Here, one can look up second hand cars by city, price valuation or the CarDekho TrustMark. The TrustMark is a certification by CarDekho for cars that pass the 217-point inspection by its technical team. Some of the checkpoints covered include car’s steering, transmission, interiors, tyres, suspension and engine.
These cars are then covered by a TrustMark warranty. Users looking for loans or insurance on cars can benefit from the firm’s tie-ups with banks and insurance firms. For mobile users, CarDekho has several apps. Cars India is where one can get the entire experience of the website on the mobile interface, while apps such as CarDekho Auctions help car dealers buy used cars.
Journey made easy
Anurag Jain did a five-year integrated MTech in mathematics and computing from Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT Delhi) and went on to work with i2 Technologies and Sabre Holdings for five years. Amit has a BTech from IIT Delhi after which he joined Trilogy E-Business Software where he worked for eight years. The brothers started a software company called GirnarSoft in 2007 and a year later, CarDekho followed.
The challenge was to simplify the process of buying a car. “We focused on improving and constantly updating our information database and search for precise insights, which was a painstaking process," said Anurag Jain.
Convincing auto dealers, who were still largely driven by mechanics of offline channels, about the potential of digital technology was not easy. Constant engagement by CarDekho and falling footfalls at showrooms led many car dealers to finally sign up.
While initially everything was done in-house using open source tools such as Java, PHP, MySQL and JQuery, of late, the company has started outsourcing specific projects to big data technology firms. Scalability was an issue with the initial versions of open source tools, though. “With the use of open-source technology, we were able to keep costs under control. The initial versions were not as scalable as we would have liked. The scalability factor, but, has increased with each subsequent version," pointed out Anurag.
Despite being a start-up with a very unique business model, they became the leading car portal without any outside investment for many years. “Our strategy was to create a minimum viable product and then keep on iterating on it based on consumer feedback. We were bootstrapped yet profitable for all six years before raising any external VC (venture capital) money. All our profits were invested back into the business and we had a very agile methodology where every small change in the product was measured and its effect estimated," said Amit.
The company has so far raised $90 million from investors such Google Capital, Sequoia Capital, Hillhouse Capital, Tybourne Capital, Ratan Tata, Times Internet and HDFC Bank.
Future goals and expectations
A major chunk of CarDekho users rely on smartphones and tablets these days. Many of them are use 2G networks. The firm’s mobile apps have been developed keeping that in mind, said Amit.
The company strives to expand its portfolio and cover every aspect of the automobile sector that touches buyers and dealers. The objective is to become the one-stop solution for all car-related queries for users.
The Jain brothers are working on making CarDekho an international brand. They started a website called CarBay.my for users in Malaysia and Thailand in July 2015. It works on similar lines as CarDekho. They are also the leading car portal in Indonesia. “Our aim is for CarDekho to become a brand synonymous with pre and post vehicle purchase," adds Anurag.
Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the Manthan and mBillionth awards.