Imagine this: your car breaks down on a highway at an ungodly hour, you can’t get help from the car maker’s helpline because the location is too far off, and the only option you have is a roadside workshop that you wouldn’t want touching your vehicle.
Wouldn’t it be great if some trained mechanic you could trust – and hold accountable, if needed – could come to your rescue?
Consider another scenario: the rear-view mirror of your car breaks but you don’t want to go to your dealer’s workshop to get one solitary part replaced. Instead, you would want an easier, cheaper and quicker solution.
MotorExpert wants to do provide just such solutions and, in the process, change the way car repair, breakdown and other services are offered in India.
The startup is an online car services marketplace that aggregates workshops on its platform. Launched in 2013 as a web interface, it recently launched its Android app and wants to function as an app-only platform. On installing the app, customers can get help from service stations located at the nearest point of breakdown. The service station owners install a back-end version of the app to connect.
While most car brands do offer roadside assistance, it is subject to time and distance of the occurrence of the breakdown. Many other players also provide round-the-clock roadside help, but MotorExpert claims it will be quicker because the app links the workshop and the customer directly.
“A consumer should not be more than 10 minutes away from MotorExpert assistance and within one minute of chat assistance. That is what we hope to achieve,” says Runal Dahiwade, the firm’s 27-year-old founder and CEO.
MotorExpert will have franchise, non-franchise as well as street specialists on its network. The firm has started its services in Mumbai and has enrolled workshops on its network in Chennai and Bangalore ahead of a launch. It has about 50 workshops in the three cities. It targets to enroll 200 workshops in eight cities in coming months and take the tally to 1,500 workshops in the next 18 months.
Market potential, competition
Dahiwade says the idea is to technologically empower workshops so that they become part of the digital economy. MotorExpert will offer features that include a direct chatline with the workshops, booking a service and receiving a price estimate, and service updates. “Fixing a car can be as simple as fixing a broken rear-view mirror, a body job or paint change. Our goal is to connect the customers’ different requirements with the specialists,” says Dahiwade.
The potential for companies such as MotorExpert is huge. India is among the world’s largest auto markets with more than 2.5 million passenger vehicles sold every year. According to the India Automotive Report 2020, prepared by PwC Strategy and Booz & Co, India will become the third-largest automotive market by volume in the world by 2030.
MotorExpert will compete with the likes of Cross Roads India Assistance Pvt Ltd, helponwheels.in, TVS Automobile Solutions Ltd’s MyTVS, rescuefirst.com and carzcare.com. Helponwheels.in operates only in Delhi-NCR, carzcare.com in Hyderabad, Vijayawada and Bangalore, and rescuefirst.com only in Bangalore. MyTVS claims to have more than 4,000 authorised service providers in 26 states.
Cross Roads also claims to offer services across the country. In January this year, Cross Roads secured its first institutional fund raise through a Series A round from Sixth Sense Ventures, which put in about Rs 10 crore ($1.5 million) for a significant minority stake.
Naveen Kshatriya, founder of Kshatriya Ventures and the lead investor in MotorExpert, said that with improving road infrastructure, growing incomes and easy availability of car loans, India will increasingly behave like developed markets. “The value in the automotive value chain will progressively shift to the after-market, as in evolved car markets. This is where MotorExpert will be of significance,” he said.
Still, it is not an easy business to be in. “It is tough to crack,” said Vikram Upadhyaya, chief mentor and accelerator evangelist at GHV Accelerator. “However, one who can keep an asset-light model with technology as the key will emerge as the winner.”
Funding, revenue model
MotorExpert has an 11-member team led by Dahiwade. Started in July 2013 with funds from investors led by Kshatriya, some unidentified affluent individuals and angel networks, the company has till date raised Rs 3.8 crore ($580,000) in external funding.
There have been two rounds of post-inception fund raising; the last concluded in February 2015. MotorExpert is now in talks with investors to raise $1 million for expansion.
Currently, the MotorExpert app is free for both the user and workshop owners. The workshops can place orders for spare parts and accessories via the app. MotorExpert, with its network of spare parts and accessories dealers, will offer deals to the service stations and earn a commission on parts ordered through its network, said Dahiwade.
Dahiwade had in 2009 founded automotive spare parts venture Carkhana, which was acquired by Topwheelz Automotive Pvt Ltd in 2012. MotorExpert is also operated by Topwheelz.
In the future, MotorExpert intends to have a listing and hosting fees for the workshops to be part of its network.