'Practo for cars’ platform Vehito helps customers with original parts, care from 250 garagesHarshith Mallya
Vehito wants to help car owners take better care of their vehicles and get their vehicles fixed and maintained with original parts even from non-authorised garages and service centers. Here is how they are working with over 250 garages.
Founders: Sreenivas Palavuri and Naveen Ravindran
Year it was founded: 2015
Sector: Automobile care
Based out of: Bengaluru
Given the time spent in vehicles, our cars can probably be likened to our second home. A report in The Guardian made this comparison and also noted,
The family car is like a living room on the street where all of life is played out on the move.
But the average vehicle owner knows little about their vehicle and even lesser about their vehicle’s performance. SunwizTech aims to help vehicle owners get the best out of their vehicle and improve the lives of the support systems associated with it.
Headquartered in Bengaluru, SunwizTech’s story begins in a garage. But this is because their focus involves improving the experience for car owners and parties involved in garages. Here is their story from inception to working closely with over 250 garage owners.
Story so far
Sunwiz was founded in 2015 by Sreenivas Palavuri and Naveen Ravindran. Sreenivas has earlier worked at Adobe, Bidgely and Myntra and has an MBA to his name. Naveen, on the other hand, hails from a family that had been closely working with the automobile industry in the component supply space. He also had a Master’s in Mechanical Design, Simulation and Analysis in Automobiles.
Sreenivas and Naveen decided to venture into the automobile space after personally facing issues with their vehicles. Sreenivas recalled an instance when he faced occasional engine warning signs and inability to get his vehicle serviced. He explains,
With lack of time to visit the authorised service centre, I ignored the warning signs of a minor oil tank leak. I felt that I couldn’t trust the smaller garages as they may be using spares that were not genuine and would not have the tools to diagnose the problem accurately.
Further, being a new resident of Bengaluru, the unorganised manner in which a vehicular repair is dealt with at these smaller garages made Sreenivas feel uncomfortable. In most cases, this resulted in him paying for expensive engine rework, as he couldn’t take his vehicle to an authorised service centre at the right time. Naveen, too, had a similar recount but on a different pain point. He explains,
Being a thoroughbred highway bird, I made trips to my hometown every second month. But getting a basic check-up was generally hard as the service centre was always booked up in advance. I did not know of the smaller garages that had the tools required to handle it and I definitely was not comfortable with the spare parts they used.
Being a trained commercial pilot, he also knows the value of vehicle components to the safety of the vehicle. He often ended up going without the check-up out of the fear of not compromising his vehicle.
Naveen and Sreenivas discussed their experiences of the inefficiencies in the auto industry and how simple solution could exist by organising some of the most basic challenge areas. Naveen, who had worked with a number of garages while working with Orient, Suguna, and Accenture, saw what that solution could be.
The duo founded SunWiz and launched ‘Vehito’, an app-based solution allowing vehicle owners to get the better out of the vehicles by digitising the ownership and the manner in which the vehicle maintenance ecosystem operates.
Vehito provides a solution for garages to go smart with app and on-board diagnostics (OBD) tools, with a number of add-ons such as SMS integration, CRM functionalities, e-payment, training material, vehicle manuals and troubleshooting assistance with a jobcard-based spare delivery system.
Earlier last year, Vehito raised its seed round of approximately $200,000 from Srinivasan V, Co-founder, Zaikenn, an angel investor who earlier co-founded SJS Enterprises, a supplier to the auto industry, before selling to Everstone in 2012. The startup had earlier raised an angel round of funding in 2015 after showcasing their solution and winning TiR’s startup SmashUp event. By September of 2016, Naveen shares that Vehito was at a run rate of $100,000 with no marketing spend to acquire customers and with less than 30 garages activated.
Fast forward to 2018 and the startup has associations with 250 garages and works with over 10 brands- Renault, Nissan, Skoda, Mercedese, BMW, Volkswogan, Hyundai, Ford, Tata, Maruti, Honda Siel and Mahindra. Naveen also notes that Vehito was the highest grossing online retailer of Shell products in India in less than three months of going live with the brand.
Both founders were aware of the difficulties involved in getting original spare parts at third-party garages, while authorised garages were three times more expensive than them. They started off by trying to address this problem as a simple win-win proposition of a centralised commerce application where various garages could come and look for original spares.
The goal was to create a platform where garages and service providers could standardise their processes and become efficient members of the vehicle ownership lifecycle, while a vehicle owner could understand their vehicle much better. Naveen notes that while several existing companies were trying to solve the vehicle purchase process and the insurance flows, not many were addressing the space which completely occupied the opportunity in vehicle ownership from month two onwards. While service aggregators emerged and faced various challenges, the real problem was the quality of the fulfilment itself.
Applying the lean startup methodology, they decided to concentrate on the first win-win proposition that could establish their largest assumption – does the unorganised sector of service providers want to get organised? They decided to start with the nearest fruit considering their experiences, original spares.
After a few months of hard work on product development, the platform was launched to the web and in Android stores in March 2016 based on feedback from over 50 garages. Vehito was able to supply these garages with all original spares and lubricants, which were sourced directly from the state-wide distributors and sometimes directly from the company itself.
In less than six months since launch, over 200 garages were registered across Bengaluru but supply was limited to just 30 garages that were within three kilometres from the warehouse. Naveen multitasked playing procurement, product solutions and also donning the role of delivery boy for the spares. The startup now consists of an 11-member team, with five focusing on technology.
The founders note that an added value proposition was that Vehito was able to deliver fast moving consumables within 90 minutes. For other parts, they were ensuring delivery within four hours on an average.
Vehito currently has two main sources of revenue-
- Margins from spare parts.
- Job card and Diagnostic S/W (currently in beta).
The goal was to establish adoption and openness and also set them up to get garages to start using technology for business. Vehito had been running campaigns like, ‘Be genuine, buy genuine’ to educate garages on how fake spares cost lives, to further stress on the need for genuine parts. But, their next big serendipitous moment was the demonetisation. Naveen recalls that overnight, garages started becoming comfortable with doing basic commercial transactions online. He adds,
They already had smartphones. Now they began to understand our app and start placing orders.
Future plans - Vehito 2.0
A report by Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India noted that the usage of counterfeit auto components has gone down drastically in the last seven years while their place has been taken over by unorganised players. Vehito aims to be part of this and organise the unorganised sector.
Vehito has concluded the 2.0 build of their platform, which includes features such as maintenance request and scheduling, vehicle information and job card functionality. The product will be rolled out in the next month with its 100-garage network and over 250 garages over the next two months. Vehito is currently active in Bengaluru and aims to launch in Chennai and Hyderabad in the first quarter of 2018.
Vehito recently signed an MoU with ICICI Lombard, the private sector general insurance company. As part of this deal, ICICI Lombard customers will soon be able to take their vehicles that have been in accidents to even independent garages part of Vehito’s network and claim their insurance there.