We love to try things out before purchasing them. In the age of the internet, where there are hundreds of websites offering online purchase solutions, consumers still love to visit stores and try things out to see, touch, and feel for themselves.
If the try-out-things-before-purchasing thought process is applicable where clothes, shoes, and jewellery are concerned, then why not cars?
Prashant Sinha, 32, who was working as a zonal head (North India) with an automobile company, realised that auto portals in the country were not concerned about the experiential part of the customer car-buying cycle, focused as they were on providing information.
According to Prashant, around 85 percent serious car buyers take a test drive before buying the final car.
Despite such demand, however, not enough platforms offer test drive facilities and the market is completely unorganised. Buyers had to call numerous showrooms from different companies for test drives. The process was full of hassles and unnecessarily cumbersome.
Prashant zeroed in on the solution and in June 2016 launched 1stTestDrive, an auto portal which brings test drive facilities to potential buyers’ doorsteps.
“On our platform, any prospective buyers can book multiple brands’ test drive at their preferred time, date and location. The buyers don’t need to go from one showroom to another; the cars will come at their doorstep. This saves a lot of time, energy, and paperwork,” says Prashant, Founder, 1stTestDrive.
He adds that the platform is as informative as any other automobile portal across the globe where a customer can look for all kinds of information like car features and specifications and make comparisons. He has an experienced editorial team to take care of the blog, auto news, and updates.
1stTestDrive has also raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Abhinav Rishi. The platform has so far invested around Rs 40 lakh, which has gone into the product building, team and marketing. The current team size is 11.
Prashant says he has got a good number of serious car buyers who are looking at experiencing the test drive of their preferred car at their preferred time, date, and location.
“As of now, the platform claims to have signed MOUs with more than 130 car showrooms in Delhi-NCR and has executed more than 250 test drives. It has also helped various retailers sell over 102 cars from different brands,” he adds.
“Our mission is to be the top automobile portal in India, providing the best test drive experience to customers and profitability to our channel partners and OEMS,” he adds.
The platform follows a commission-based model.
By not charging dealers and OEMs on leads, 1stTestDrive claims to differ from other auto portals in the country. While test drive leads are given at no cost, dealers are charged once cars are retailed.
“So far we have got a really nice response from the dealer network and channel partners where every dealer is able to share between 0.75 to 1 percent of retail commission,” says Prashant.
It’s planning to tie-up with financial institutions for an auto-loan facility for its customers.
It’s also in talks with leading insurance companies to provide the best offers on new insurance with car purchases as well as on renewals of previous insurance.
Prashant says that he has started this test drive model in the Delhi-NCR region, which contributes the highest market share in the passenger car segment in India. “We plan to expand our services in the top 10 auto sales market like Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Chandigarh, Jaipur, and Kolkata,” he says of their future plans.
Passenger vehicle sales in June grew for the 12th straight month, up 2.68 percent from a year ago, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam).
Test drive booking platforms perceive the growth in the automobile sector as a growing opportunity.
FirstRide and Drive2decide are the other two platforms which offer test drive services.
Globally, there are many multi-billion dollar companies in the USA, China, and Australia that work as auto classified web portals. According to a KPMG report, BRIC markets will dominate the global car market in 2020.
CarDekho is one of the biggest players in this category. In 2013, the company raised $15 million from Sequoia Capital. In January 2015, it secured $50 million in a round led by Chinese funds Hillhouse Capital and Tybourne Capital, after which its valuation stood at about $300 million. This year, it secured a $15-million funding in a round led by Google Capital, Hillhouse Capital, and some existing investors. Ratan Tata and HDFC Bank have also invested in the Jaipur-based company.
CarWale raised Series A funding from Sierra Ventures and was then acquired by Axel Springer AG and India Today Group. Then there is MotorExchange, founded by Vinay Sanghi and Rajan Mehra, which owns cartrade.com. In October 2014, it raised $30 million from Warburg Pincus, Tiger Global, and Canaan Partners.
In June 2015, Truebil had raised $500,000 funding from Kae Capital and Anupam Mittal. In July 2015, Zoomo raised $5 million in a series A round from SAIF Partners for their used cars marketplace. Others in this sector include Cartrade, Sandeep Aggarwal-led automobile-focused classifieds Droom and horizontal classifieds majors, OLX and Quickr, which also have automobile sections.