Ex- Airtel, Exxon Mobil and Apollo Tyres employees start Punctureman to bring structure to tyre services sectorSindhu Kashyap
With the turn of the century, organised retail in India has been picking up, getting more structured with each passing decade. However, the service industry is yet to play catch.
Of these, the tyre care segment is largely unstructured and unorganised. "The thought behind the venture was to move the largely unstructured tyre care services to structured format by being transparent and automated," says Vikas Kaul, Co-founder of Punctureman.
The birth of an idea
Vikas says that it was by sheer luck the trio -- Vikas Kaul, Saurov Choudhary and Bhaskar Alapati-- got to Kolkata for work. Vikas was National Distribution Head with Airtel before jumping onto the venture with a total experience of 18 years. Saurov came on board with 20 years of experience primarily from the oil Industry and worked with oil majors like British Petroleum and Exxon Mobil. Bhaskar had 24 years of work experience out of which 23 years were with Apollo Tyres.
One evening at Tollygunj Club in Kolkata, the trio was having a casual conversation about how young entrepreneurs were using technology to make life simpler by creating a market place.
The discussion got serious when they wondered whether life could be made simpler in a traditional brick and mortar model too. Given their varied backgrounds, they were able to use their experiences in finding a solution. "Since one of us had 23 years ‘experience in the tyre industry the problem of tyre care was strikingly evident and we agreed to lookout for a solution. Being from different industries complemented us," adds Vikas.
Idea to execution
While the trio were clear of what needed to be done, they were unsure how to go about the same. Vikas says that they saw their Eureka moment when they happened to see ‘The Golden Circle ‘by Simon Sinek. This changed their outlook to find a solution since they started to look from inside out - why- what- how. "From that day, everything for us changed," adds Vikas.
He adds that one of the biggest struggles they went through was to take a decision of quitting their successful corporate careers. The question that haunted them was that they had worked for so long, should they continue with that or follow their dreams? Vikas adds that when they saw young professionals taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, they told themselves that the youngsters did not have liabilities like they did. Nevertheless, the trio took the leap of faith.
They called their venture Punctureman and started services in October 2013.They are operating from 175 kiosks in 22 cities across the country. The cities they are present in are: Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad, Merrut, Barreily, Dehradun, Mathura, Agra, Nagpur, Tirupati, Varanasi, Goa, Ghaziabad, Moradabad and Haldia.
"Our biggest challenge has been to train the fitter at the kiosk, groom him to be able to give a good customer experience to our customers. We are touching more than one lakh customers across these cities every month and this number is growing," adds Vikas
Market and differentiators
"Our exclusive tie up with Fortune 500 Navratna company, Indian Oil, is our biggest USP, it helps since it is a complementary industry to ours," says Vikas.
Apart from this, all the Punctureman kiosks have automated tyre changing machine, thus eliminating the use of hammers. Vikas adds that 40 per cent of the Punctureman kiosks are 24X7 and are well lit andin a public place thus safe even for women drivers.
"Roadside puncture guys repair the puncture only from the surface of the tyre tube. At our kiosks, we do inside out repair as well which is permanent in nature and ensures the same spot doesn’t get punctured again," adds Vikas.
The kiosks use high RPM pneumatic tools enabling Punctureman to do buffing of the steel cords resulting in best possible puncture solution.
The tyre puncture industry is pegged to be around INR 8K crore in India. Many players today are looking to enter the space of car and tyre service. Another player in the space is Changemytyre, which too focuses on bringing in structure and transparency in the tyre service business.
According to reports, today only one thirds of the cars go back to the dealerships for services. Many car owners today are looking for a one-stop shop for service of their vehicles. Even the tyre replacement market has seen revenue of 11.8 per cent early this year. Brands like Maruti have opened their own 24X7 service centres that bring on the road servicing to maruti cars across the country.
"We are a bootstrapped organisation and we have a self-sustainable revenue model. We are currently making 25 percent of the services revenues as our margin," says Vikas.
The team plans to end the year with about 500 kiosks enabling us to touch a turnover of 50 crores. "We plan to introduce OTC complementing products from the kiosks in the near future to enhance our earnings per kiosk," concludes Vikas.