How the hunt for second-hand scooters led this ‘couplepreneur’ to start their own venture
The Indian two-wheeler market, while fragmented, has been one of the most profit-making segments in the automobile industry since independence. The surge in growth can be attributed to the country’s massive middle-class and lower middle-class section’s preference for a more affordable vehicle even in this segment – used two-wheelers. Despite the large consumer base in the category, used two-wheelers hardly come with any guarantee.
It was in 2013 when Vikash Kumar Banerjee and Chitra Banerjee came back to India from Singapore, where Vikash worked. Unsure of their duration in the country, the duo decided to buy a used two-wheeler. But the scooter, which they bought from a local market, turned out to be a pain point as they realised that the dealing of used two-wheelers in the country was hardly transparent and dealers were not doing stringent product tests, often selling low-quality vehicles.
This experience led the couple to start BikersHighway, a multi-brand certified used two-wheeler online platform. It all started over a cup of coffee when the couple was discussing the unorganised used two-wheeler market in India and the challenges associated with it. “My wife asked me why can’t we come up with a platform, where people can log in and select the vehicle they want to buy. All the vehicles on this platform will be certified, refurbished vehicles. We can send the vehicle to our customers’ homes and they can take it for a ride and if they like it, they can buy it. That’s how the journey started,” Vikash recalls.
A promising start
While today the market is rife with various competitors, BikersHighway was the first to notice the opportunity in the space and create a name for itself. Vikash says, “We were the first to have an inventory-led model. We started selling certified used two-wheelers with a 300-day warranty, complete with free services during the warranty period. These are services we started before the others. Today, our vehicles are so trusted that they’re available even on other portals.”
The success of the platform was evident right from the start. Vikash confides that when he left his job, he aspired for a business that would give him the amount his job had given him almost immediately. With BikersHighway, he accomplished that within two months. That’s not all. The team was profitable without raising any funds, proving that they did not need external support to grow.
Their success is also a result of their research-backed analysis of the market. Having identified the buyer’s problems, the brand offered solutions that fit in best not only with the current market but also with the buyer’s lifestyle. One of the outcomes of their research was that the primary customers in the used two-wheeler market were college students and IT professionals, who switched cities easily. Based on their research, the team decided their model. “We procure our vehicles from showrooms, which are coming in exchange, or we get it from individuals who reach out to us to sell their vehicle. Our team goes to the seller’s location, checks out the vehicle and then we offer them a quote based on the condition. That’s how we procure our products,” Vikash says. “From there, the vehicle goes to our service centre for complete refurbishment. Only once we are totally satisfied with the final product do we sell the vehicle with our warranty. And this warranty is one which customers usually get with a new vehicle,” he adds.
Scaling the business with a .in domain
Going from outlet to outlet and examining vehicles can be quite a hassle. To this end, customers can easily choose a vehicle of their choice from the BikersHighway website. The vehicle would then be sent to the buyer’s house for a physical inspection and sold. The company also has outlets, where customers can walk in and pick their two-wheeler. “We call ourselves a phygital commerce company,” Vikash says.
Having a .in domain was always a part of the plan, says Vikash. Since its inception in 2013, the team has stuck to a .in domain because the co-founder believes nothing conveys ‘Make in India’ better. The .in domain has seen them grow at a pace of 20 percent year on year.
Just like BikersHighway, the National Internet Exchange for India (NIXI) is helping many startups across the country to get a .in or .Bharat domain. It is affordable and available in more than 22 languages for businesses coming from all regions of the country.
While the last year came with its own set of challenges for most entrepreneurs, the biggest challenge for BikersHighway for years has been the tedious transfer formalities. “When you're buying a Pune city vehicle, you cannot sell that vehicle to another state. The process is very lengthy. When we had started, RTO wasn’t online. So, these are some of the challenges we still face,” Vikash reveals.
But the team is determined to keep soaring, no matter what. “We are not raising funds, we will grow as we are growing now,” he says, adding that the team has no plans to widen the category net and venture into the car space. Instead, the company is launching two new startups. “One is in the electric scooter category and the other in the QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) space,” he signs off.
The ‘Shaping India Inc's Online Growth’ series chronicles the journeys of startups and SMEs in India and how creating an online presence on the .in or .Bharat domain powered their success stories.