Guwahati, June 24: Have you ever wished that your car service could be done with a click of the mouse, or perhaps just a call or through a simple app which would tell you the entire process in details? Well, two Assamese engineers have made this possible with ‘Automovill’, a unique startup which is trying to organize one of the most unorganized sectors by aggregating the best and giving the platform to the end user.
Automovill ensures your car reaches the right service provider by mapping the nearest or most competent garage to the car type you own. The service booking can be done through website, app or just through a call. They ensure their service representative reaches your home/office to pick the car, note your problem in their site/system, give you the e-receipt, send you the regular update through the system, inform even a minor change happening in your car, try to repair instead of replace, send the bill online and finally return your car at your doorstep. They’ve tied up with around 15 service centres in Guwahati and they are just a click or a phone call away!
TIME8 caught up with one of the founders, Mridu Mahendra Das and got to know more about Automovill. Here are a few excerpts from the conversation:
T8: How did Automovill begin?
Mridu: Automovill was an idea to give a hassle free, economic and transparent service experience to customers from the regular tedious and often expensive car service.
I was working as a regular Software engineer who had a car with chronic problem since the car has been bought. The authorised vendor after complains could just gave fixes which broke every alternate month. Being a first time car owner I couldn’t apprehend the problem’s severity and the warranty period got over. I decided to take a second opinion from a garage which is a regular one, not from the authorised brand. It was then that the actual problem emerged, a manufacturing defect not taken up or pointed out by the service centre! Something that could’ve possibly been replaced by the service centre for free!
The way the mechanic from the small garage explained to me about the problem and possible fixes, something clicked and I realised that there are plenty of talented people just around the corner and car owners are simply paying for the brand price every time they service. That was the ‘Eureka’ moment and quickly the idea started taking shape. I began visiting garages to know how they work, how the costs of services are calculated, what could be the most optimised service methods in terms of quality and price, how customers lack the knowledge about different problems in their cars etc. I teamed up with Chinmay, my childhood friend, who was in US that time to discuss more about the idea I was nurturing and also asked him to gather more and more information available online.
Meanwhile the basic data collection and prototype of the idea was ready with enough information to build an executable idea. I began taking my friend’s and colleague’s cars for service with a small team I built and started servicing them. This was very appreciated by them for the quality and the cost of service. It built the first set of 100 customers and it just grew to a company which is having footprints today in 4 cities!
T8: Did you and Chinmay shift from other jobs to entrepreneurship?
Mridu: Yes. I was a software engineer for 12 years of experience in various technical roles. I’m actually a BE in Computer Science from Jorhat Engineering College. Chinmay Baruah, my co founder, was a petroleum engineer for 12 years. He was in US for 9 years before we joined hands. He is an IIT graduate and holds MS degree from Texas Tech University.
T8: How supportive were people around you both when you thought of making the switch?
Mridu: The initial support came from my immediate friend circle in Bangalore. They endorsed the idea and supported by giving their cars to Automovill. Once they were satisfied with the services, their word-of-mouth publicity helped us get their friends’ cars as well! That’s how the initial traction came.
At the same time, Chinmay, while he was in US tried to shape up the company in terms of strategy and and initial fund requirement to run the operations. Both of us were supported by our families as well. I left my corporate job and handsome salary to sit in the garages(smiles) while Chinmay left US green card and six figure salary to be a part of uncertain journey!
T8: We can safely say Automovill is filling a huge gap in the market and is obviously just what most car owners needed! Tell us about the kind of response you are getting from the market.
Mridu: Very often all car owners have to encounter a tedious experience of long service queues in service centre, a bill which is often unexplained and most importantly an amount which is always more than the perceived service cost with the car. Apart from that the number of vehicles are increasing multi-fold every year but service centres which cater the service have not increased in the same speed, so the serviceability of the brands are taking a hit.
Often customers come back with repeat complaints and to fulfil the inflation, the service centres are forced to bill higher and replace parts even if it can be repaired. We are helping the unhappy customers to get the true value of their hard earned money for the service. At the same time, we’ve also found that a lot of skilled people are with unorganised service establishments. They can deliver same or better quality work than authorised service centres at a much lower cost.
The transparency which Automovill received from the garages helped the team to explain the customer about their cars and problems and win their trust. Customers started realising the worth of Automovill’s service and it led to increase in the customer base.
T8: Any words of advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Mridu: Entrepreneurs don’t do anything different, they do same thing in a simple and different way. We believe everybody who has a dream to be an entrepreneur has the might necessary to take the plunge. Few know-hows which would define their road to future are product or the service market fit, perseverance to continue inspite of initial fails/hindrances and most importantly ability to take the challenge and learn with it. You can’t sell ice to eskimos or you can’t build an empire by simply selling aeroplane online. So knowing what you are building and for whom is very important.
You should have your first 10 customers ready who would endorse your idea or who may need your product/service in near future. A futuristic product may not have a ready customer today but building a product for future should be well calculated. The next important thing is perseverance where you may find no takers due to lack of awareness or not realising the potential of your product/service, which often comes with time as you grow your customer base. Setbacks, which are often due to loss or rejections over and again, might be felt as well, but learning on the go and not losing the focus on end goal is key to the success.
If you have 10 customers who acknowledged you there are another 100 are just waiting for you to tell them about it…