Mr Banwari Lal Sharma , CEO CarWale & BikeWale a very inspirational story coming from a very small town Ambah in Madhya Pradesh, India. He is an Engineer in Computer Science from Oriental Institute, Bhopal. This humble man started working in this organization as a trainee & now is the CEO leading a team of 500 people.
CarWale today is one of the leading Auto Portals in India and unlike other Tech companies is Profitable by solving genuine problems on the ground for the Auto Industry.
In recent interview with Mr Ravdeep Singh Chadha (Editor-In-Chief of Auto Insider) , Mr. Banwari Lal Sharma talked about his Mission, Vision, Big opportunities in Automobile Industry and some suggestions for entrepreneurs and Start-ups.
About the Company
Ravdeep: Please give us a brief introduction about CarWale, about the whole transaction cycle and about your journey with CarWale?
Banwari : In the year 2002 to 2003, we were working as a software development company, mainly focusing on software services work. I joined the company as a software trainee in the seventh semester of my college along with my colleagues. The company was setup in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. As we were a self-funded company, the software services for Indian clients was so difficult and challenging at the same time.
Hence in 2005, we decided to stop everything and focus on setting up a used car website in Mumbai. In a country like India, where people find a car and sit across and talk for two hours to decide a car. So, we began to focus on the new car segment as well to form as a one stop portal and the digital exposure is much needed for people to view the cars across the countries. The motive was to do used cars but eventually the website CarWale to survive and have good economic returns we concentrated on new cars. Now predominantly the focus was on new cars for few years.
My role had started as a software engineer then taking on multiple roles in the company. The only role I have not been exposed to was sales which got partially added when I became CEO.
Ravdeep: How many years has CarWale been into business? And what’s the total headcount?
Banwari: Well, CarWale is into business for 15 years. We are about 500 people, with one large office, headquartered at Vashi, Navi Mumbai and couple of small office at Delhi and Pune. We have a team of more than 150 people in field to talk to our clients, partners and offer value to stay in touch with the dealers.
Ravdeep: In Terms of Revenue, what’s the turnover of CarWale and has is it profitable yet or when do you guys plan to Break Even?
Banwari: Yes, we are profitable for Two years in a row.
Ravdeep: What is the Vision & Mission of CarWale and how far it is spread in the Country?
To bring delight in car and bike buying in India. We have developed many tools like, a consumer needs to know the exact price of a car from one location. Provide Car information and price comparison tools, know your EMI among others. For example, they can compare the prices between many cars and also to choose which car suits for you and which doesn’t. We have been pioneers to provide all these exclusive services and tools.
If one got struck in the journey of buying a car, CarWale has to step in and provide the solutions like which product to choose, which mode of transaction to prefer and the complete service has to be done satisfactorily by the company.
To bring delight in car/bike buying, we are committed to uplift the entire car/bike buying experience. To facilitate that, we are working on technologies like online test drive booking paperless finance, online booking, etc. As this ecosystem evolves, all stakeholders, including dealers, OEMs, consumers, and CarWale / BikeWale are going to gain. It is a win situation for all the people parties involved.
Ravdeep: The concept of a cloud kitchen or dark kitchen is gaining more profit where this works like the same way as a digital dealership, where you can sell your car wherever you want.
BikeWale is a sister younger sibling of CarWale, replacing cars as the core to bikes. Very similar business model and opportunities since the bike sales is much larger than cars in India but the ticket size is much smaller. So, BikeWale is a business to provide the opportunity to buy the best bikes in the right way.
CarTrade, while it’s a 360 platform like CarWale, focuses more on used cars. A used car buyer can see thousands of options from used car dealers and individuals in her city. They can see detailed information such as kilometers driven, year of manufacturing, check condition using certification reports, and photos of the car before taking a decision. It saves customers time and money traveling unnecessarily.
www.cartrade.com , Sister Concern of CarWale
About the Industry
Ravdeep: How do you see the Indian Auto Industry, Current Trends and how the experience has been from point of view of CarWale?
Banwari: Automobile industry, has been and will be an extremely important industry in the country’s growth. We have had some degrowth in the recent few quarters wherein we were transitioning from BS IV to BS VI. The buyers were indecisive and the OEMs had the issue of managing their BS VI supply. Before we could come out of it, Covid-19 happened to the mankind. Looking at the current scenario, I hope this shouldn’t last more than a couple of months and the demand should start building up. We may not be able to cover up for the losses incurred, in fact, may not get full recovery until festive season. However, howsoever bad the situation might be, it’s only temporary!
Ravdeep: What are the current Challenges in the Indian Auto Industry, does the slowdown in the PV business impact your business also?
Banwari: Generally, the Apr-Jun quarter is dull for the industry wherein the consumers do not focus majorly on buying new cars. July onwards the demand builds up and it peaks around Diwali. Call it a wish maybe, sincerely hoping this Diwali thing comes back to normal.
We are affected as well since most of our clients are not making money, however, we being a digital business our costs are relatively variable and hence we are not too deep in the water. We are working very hard to support our OEM and dealer partners to help put their sales back on track.
Ravdeep:As currently the whole market is hit by COVID-19 what different are you guys doing as a Business Continuity Plan? We believe future of Auto Sales is Digital as these Auto Companies plan to cut their costs? What’s your take on this?
Banwari: All of our teams have been working from home and we have been able to improve our productivity in some functions. At CarWale, not a single person has lost their job and there have been no salary deductions at any level. For us, the biggest components are the Product-Dev teams (Engineering / Product / Technology) building the portal, apps and building services and tools for the OEMs. For them it does not make any difference to work from home or office. They are delivering more than pre-Covid days.
Marketing teams, HR hiring etc. are all working normally as well. Operations team is a bit impacted as the demand is come down and so are our contracts. But I can proudly say that our company is one of the few companies to have even calling operations going on.
Only work majorly disrupted is sales/business development which is understandable. We had told our teams not to travel and we started working from home, much before the national lockdown started on 25th March.
Ravdeep: What is the Impact on the decision of Government in transition from BS-IV to BS-VI Engines to the industry as a whole?
Banwari: The transition required OEMs to adopt to new and more expensive technology, which was not easy.
And customers may not have been ready to buy a more expensive car for just the environmental reasons. On top of it, the consumer were not fairly aware as what happens if they buy BSIV cars. Some even assumed that the Govt may order them to scrap these cars in future. It led to indecisiveness on consumers’ part.
It is the order by the Supreme Court, so it had to be done, however, luckily OEMs and dealers got enough time to transit to BS VI and most transitioned successfully as well. Majority of the dealers’ stock is sold out, whatever is left should be done post lockdown. BSIV worries are behind us.
Ravdeep: What next big opportunity do you see in the Auto Industry? And the future when Electric Vehicles are on the roads?
Banwari: Electric vehicles will see the light of the day in form of commercial vehicles to begin with. All the vehicles that you see on road like taxis, bus, autos will be converted to electric. The higher running of these vehicles will ensure a much faster return on investment.
The second stage would be ntwo wheelers, they being much cheaper to own and operate. Then will come the cars which will have the electric version as the cost of technology will get cheaper and the mindset of people also becomes more mature. It could take about a decade for the private electric cars to become mainstream.
Ravdeep: Do you think as the minimalist are choosing Ola & Uber a lot, does that impact the Auto Companies Business in the future?
Banwari: There is no denial that the younger generation are not ready to buy a car, where in metro cities like Mumbai, Bangalore because of the traffic and other factors people think to own a car. But in other cities car is the symbol of pride and to show off their financial status unlike food and clothes which is so personal. Hence there are majority of people who prefer to buy a car some point of time with their money.
About the Interviewee
Ravdeep: Now Mr Banwari, we are more keen to know about your Educational & Professional journey and your association with CarWale?
Banwari: I was born and brought up in Madhya Pradesh, Ambah, about 300 kms from Delhi. I did my schooling here and then I did my Engineering in Computer Science from Oriental Institute, Bhopal.
I was planning for MS from the US and was actively preparing for GRE but there was some financial crisis in the family which pushed me to rethink. During the final year of Engg, I joined this company as a trainee for a project.
As I worked here, I found this company to be a great learning place. I remember, within a month of my training period, I was already meeting clients and building some solutions for them. Finally, I joined this company as a Software Engineer in 2004, as I finished college and continued to work thereafter in multiple roles.
Ravdeep:Tell us about your key highs and key lows in life?
Highs: There have been highs at work almost every day. I’m proud that I could contribute to the success of this organization and the organization in turn reciprocated by growing me. I’m also proud that this company has been able to retain great talent and a very high number of team members have been here for long and have been growing together. I came from an ordinary background, but proud to be surrounded by some really extraordinary people.
In personal life, I am blessed with two children and a loving wife!
Lows: Seventeen years on, It is not possible to have lows, however, I believe lows have been far lower than the highs.. I’m a positive person and I’ve learnt over a period of time that any low you might have, is your own function and has to be dealt with. Most of them are momentary and I could come out of them with little to moderate effort. Luckily, no low was big enough to call it quits. For example, we’ve had a bit of slowdowns in the month of April now, but I’m not disappointed nor is any team member. We are finding ways to improve and innovate to get prepared for the next lag of growth.
Ravdeep: Name three people who inspired you in your life?
- My father – He is a farmer / small-time trader from a very small town in rural MP and has studied only until 10th, however, that didn’t stop him from figuring out what was important for his children. He teaches me that if someone has will, there is nothing that can’t be achieved.
- Late APJ Abdul Kalam. Doesn’t need any introduction. I believe one should be humble always, and I see Dr Kalam as an epitome of humility.
- Ray Dalio – He is one of the best hedge fund managers in the world. He teaches me how much can be achieved in one life by creating and adhering to some simple yet impactful principles. He book “PRINCIPLES”, I highly recommend everyone to read.
Ravdeep: What is your suggestion for the new-age entrepreneurs who are just Starting Up?
Banwari: “KEEP FIGHTING”. It is difficult to be successful in starting up, however, but it’s even more difficult to be successful in India. Build a great team, have focus and patience, and work extremely hard, I think you will get there.
Your Vision/ Company’s Vision
Ravdeep: What’s the company’s vision for the near future for the coming 5 Years, may be with Electric Vehicles?
Banwari: Continue to simplify car and bike buying in this country. We have done decent work to help people decide on the cars and bikes, now we aim to give the best possible ways to buy them using great relationships and advanced technologies.
Ravdeep: What are the major challenges you foresee taking the company to this next level?
Banwari: Balancing effectively between short-term and the long-term. Too much of effort for the future and a compromised present or vice-versa, will stop us from going to the next level or the level after that. That is the biggest challenge we will face always.