How about the idea of buying your next dream automobile at the best price without any hassle? What if somebody offers you the specs, mileage, reviews and tools such as used bike valuation, service cost estimator and spare parts price calculator at a simple click?
The online destination for buying cars and bikes, Vicky.in does just that. Founded by Karthick and Vignesh Annamalai, this Indian startup also serves as an e-commerce store for car and bike accessories and an online partner for many manufacturers to sell their merchandises.
“Back in 2007, it was hard even to get a car/bike review online. One or two portals offered reviews in a paid subscription model. We saw an opportunity to capture this market and wanted a catchy brand name. To some extent we were influenced by Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia. Similarly, Vicky.in never charges its customers for content. Hence, Vicky.in was born to offer end-to-end solution for customers when they think of an automotive,” said Karthick Annamalai, Co-founder of the self-funded startup, Vicky.in.
From offering news and reviews, Vicky.in started offering specifications and then launched on-road price data covering over 400 cities.
“From day one, we wanted to offer automated solutions with respect to the process of buying a car/bike. An end customer normally wishes to know about the mileage, on-road price, best deals, user reviews, nearby dealer location about a car/bike before he zeroes-in. We have specific sections to deliver these and also enable customers to compare different vehicles and general complaints posted by fellow owners on the product,” said Annamalai.
It ensures that the customer is well-informed not just about the product, but also the dealer. Once a customer finalises the product, they submit a form and then the team starts working with them to help them get their dream car and its accessories at the best price.
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In 2008, Vicky.in launched a virtual showroom for car and bikes with 360-degree view and videos and a listing of service stations (organised and unorganised) with user ratings. It also launched Vickyconnect , a social network for auto-enthusiast and in 2013, Vicky.in came up with the Trucks section with on-road price coverage for over 200 cities. Recently, the used bike valuation and spare parts price finder tool was launched on the portal.
Setting up a virtual showroom to experience the model
People generally don’t prefer to buy cars and bikes online because they want to experience the model. “Yes, the look and feel is one of the key elements in the vehicle purchase process. But the evolution of technologies and innovation has solved the issues to a considerable extent. When we launched Vicky.in, we offered only static pictures and then we started offering video reviews. 360-degree view moves a step forward in bringing the dealer experience closer to customer through online. We plan to introduce interactive voice support and a virtual showroom which will bridge the gap further,” he added.
Facilitating online payments is challenging
Service and support remains the key elements in a vehicle purchase process. However, the online channel is slowly complementing the offline one, and is working hand in hand. Vicky.in works with some manufacturers to sell their vehicles online by enabling customers to pay their booking amount online and then make the rest of the payment at the dealer’s end. “This model has been successful so far and I personally believe till the customer confidence grows in the online model and the sophisticated support and the service systems available, the hybrid model is the way ahead,” Annamalai added.
The startup generates revenue from ad sales, customer generation (not just leads), e-commerce, content distribution and special projects. As typical of auto portals, of the five areas, customer generation for manufacturers and dealers bring the lion’s share of the revenue.
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It works with insurance companies like ICICI Lombard to get exclusive deals for the customers and it works with service centres to enable car service at a discounted rate. Vicky shopping has directly associated with 350+ manufacturers/importers. “Recently, we started working with auto major Mahindra to offer used car valuation tool. Going forward, we wish to tie up with more tech players,” he said.
Stiff competition in the segment
Many auto portals such as Auto Portal, CarDekho, CarWale etc offer similar services and stand as a competitor for Vicky.in. However, there are very few organised players in the used car and bike category. But India is slowly moving in the direction of western markets. The ratio of new car sales and used car sales is now almost 1:1 which will grow further in days to come. In the highly unorganised market of the used two wheeler market, customers often end up buying/selling the motorcycle without knowing the actual value of the vehicle. Unlike car industry where there are established players, two wheeler customers are more vulnerable to cheating by brokers and agents.
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“Lack of organised players in the used vehicle market and ease of access in selling online gives ample room for portals like Vicky.in to play a lead role in the market. To give you a rough estimate, we receive over 4,000 used car listings and 15000+ used bike listings on an average,” Annamalai said.
There are players such as OLX and Quikr where users can list their used cars and bikes for sale. However, Annamalai said, “Some of the classified portals partner with us to feature our listing on their portal. We offer an option to our customers to feature their listing with our partners to widen their reach.”
“Their extensive advertisements over television channels may pull some customers towards them. But the chance of selling a car/bike in a specific auto classified portal like Vicky.in is much higher than the general classified sites. Customers are well aware of this fact,” he added.
A bumpy ride
According to Annamalai, offering a complete online buying of car/bike remains a challenge due to limitations in the service and support system. “In the used vehicle market, we are thinking of setting up a vehicle evaluation system for cars and bikes to certify the used listings and ensure authenticity in the asking price. At Vicky shopping, our team is working on customisation and demo tools. Will it not be good? A virtual store front that allows customers to see every possible car type along with personalised add-ons and accessories,” he concluded.