Have you ever thought of buying automobile accessories online? At least, to me, this sounded a very unique and new concept. Carkhana.com presents you a collection of essential as well as exotic products/accessories that you might need if you own a bike or a car. There are many sites that offer you information, reviews and news about automobiles. There have been sites like Mericar.com, which give you offers and deals about car service. There are sites about car deals also. But an e-commerce about automobile accessories stands out as a unique concept.
We talked to Harneet about this concept and present here an email interview.
Q1. Tell us how you got the idea to start carkhana.com?
Carkhana.com is both a child of the need to have a one-stop e-commerce portal for automotive customers and enthusiasts along with satiating my entrepreneurial pangs!
When myself and co-founder Runal Dahiwade as automobile enthusiasts faced a challenge to find latest, technologically advanced products by Indian and International Automotive aftermarket brands in the traditional Sales & Distribution setup, we realized there was indeed a market gap. We then validated such concerns with fellow enthusiasts during our year long quest across key auto hubs, and finally zoomed on to creating something exclusive for it and here you have Carkhana.com!
Q2. What market-size you are tapping?
We count our target audience as anybody who is an automobile (Car, Bike or Beyond) enthusiast or customer. The automotive after-market (post the sale of a car/bike/vehicle) is indeed a very fast growing yet complex industry sector. And, here is where the opportunity lies for us.
Relying best on the figures released by Industry associations like ACMA and independent analyst calculations, the traditional (brick and mortar) sales and distribution setup of the Indian automotive after-market is estimated to be around USD 5 Billion growing at an average Y-o-Y rate of 13-15%. The market is expected to be over USD 15 Billion by 2020 and we, as any other niche e-commerce player, expect to convert around 10-15% of the same to online commerce, thereby an opportunity of around USD 1.5 Bn, without even counting the OEM segment!
Q3. What types of customers you cater to presently?
We cater to all Indian automotive enthusiasts and customers, including top metro cities, Tier-1 and 2 towns. We have had profiles like professional bikers, rallyists, driving enthusiasts, college students and daily commuters drive our demand and we are expanding the profile base each day
Also, we have seen a surprise upswing in the demand originating from cities like Jalandhar, Aurangabad, Coimbatore, Jabalpur and others, reflecting truly that e-commerce sector in India will experience a massive boom as these cities enter the bandwagon!
Q4. How has been the response till now?
The e-commerce portal went live for our customers from 1st January 2012. And I would definitely say, that the response has been very encouraging. Whether its the number of orders, expanding ticket sizes for orders, demand from new cities and positive reviews by existing customers, we get inspired each day to offer more products and better service
As a recent start-up, we count our daily 15-20 inquiries and 5-8 shipments as healthy. This is expected to rise exponentially given our mega plans for affiliate marketing, off-line and online advertising campaigns and other endeavors planned for the first quarter
Our online presence reflects the growing comfort felt by our audience and the engagement we have managed to build till now. Our Facebook posts have had close to 6 lakh views and 10,000 comments (feedback). Our website (including blog) has had over 5,000 unique visits and 23,000 page views. These numbers too are expected to surge given our mentioned plans for the coming financial year
Q5. What promotional activities you use to market Carkhana.com?
As an online retailer, while bulk of our promotional activities reflect on online platforms but we do take an active interest in off-line marketing to build up the community of enthusiasts across India
Online, we manage an engaging facebook page (currently 1300+ fans) and twitter handle (www.twitter.com/carkhana) wherein we post latest automotive buzz, reviews, comparisons, trivia and contests. We also actively engage with affiliated marketing channels and are currently finalizing these plans with portals like Mydala.com, Junglee.com and others. Apart from these, SEO marketing, Facebook ads and similar efforts are also undertaken. We do co-partner with other leading brands for interesting activities like Auto Quizzes, Picture contests and trivia posts!
As for off-line activities, we are actively creating hang-out zones in partnership with leading cafe and entertainment zones across India where enthusiasts can come and engage in talks, watch live F1 & Moto GP races etc. We have already partnered India’s only motorcycle museum cafe, Legends, in Bangalore and plan to expand our footprint very soon. Other mega-offline marketing campaign is planned for this quarter and details will be made public soon.
Q6. Is there any competition in the market?
As for any e-commerce business, we do consider the traditional setup (after-market stores) as our indirect competitor. The recent expansion by branded auto-parts and accessories dealers like Reliance Autozone also reflects the opportunity in this space and we deem them as some competition.
There are few similar start-ups around Mumbai, Pune which have entered the online automotive e-commerce domain but currently their scale and product portfolio doesn’t justify the vision.
All in all, such endeavors will help everybody in the industry as awareness and expansion will grow. In the end, the businesses with strong fundamentals and a pro-active focus on customer service will take the leap and emerge as category leaders. This is something we aspire for each day and strive to achieve eventually!
Q7. What plans are there for the future?
Our plans include setting up a comprehensive portal which offers maximum depth in after-sales, performance products, accessories, branded merchandise as well as offering services like ticketing (Auto events, F1 etc), auto magazine subscriptions, financing, group buying etc.
On the short term radar, tying up with OEs, Auto Brands, more International moto gear companies is the priority. Constantly improving delivery services, user interface and customer support setup is something we put our heart and money on to.
Q8. A message you would like to convey to our readers about starting their own venture.
A simple idea which I follow as an individual and encourage others to do is to identify an area/ idea/business for which they are extremely passionate and can’t let go a day without thinking. Once you find this, just don’t let it go and give your best shot and life will take a great course!
The world does not only need BIG ideas to change everything, just plain simple solutions which can be impact-full and scale-able will do the job!