By Sumana Sarkar, Copy Editor, Autocar Professional
Chetan Kanojiya and Bunty Moorjani were colleagues who had similar aspirations and ambitions and dreamt the same dream. They started their business in 2015 and expanded operations through sheer grit and perseverance.
Kanojiya began his career as a sales executive and was soon promoted to higher positions like senior executive to TL. Moorjani too has a truckload of industry work experience including understanding the business dynamics of not just the automobile sector but also FMCG.
Both partners were not just from the same sector but they also lived in the same locality. Over the years, the bond strengthened and in 2015 they took the big leap and Car Choice became a reality in the heart of Bhopal. Now in its sixth year, their business is a successful operation. They have not just increased the number of outlets and used car inventory, but have made a name for themselves in the used car business across Madhya Pradesh. In fact, they are amongst the initial players who introduced the concept of organised used car showrooms in Bhopal other than established names like MTV and MFC.
AU Bank is their exclusive financier collaborating in close to 90 percent of their business operations. AU Bank’s cooperation also helped provide a fillip to their journey. Here are excerpts of a detailed conversation with both the partners.
Can you take us through your business journey and the current success?
Our experience in the used car market dates back to 2007. At the time, we did not a have a business of our own. Rather, we were employees in dealerships and gradually worked our way up the success ladder. We pooled funds and started our used car partnership in 2015. A positive response from customers and timely deals helped take forward our journey smoothly. Our experience in the used car market helped get the right pulse of the market and we have expanded in a planned and phased manner over the past five years.
What type of digitisation are you seeing in the used car segment, especially in the post-Covid scenario?
Demand for used cars has increased post-Covid and, as a result, we need to ramp up our facilities to cater to the customer needs. We expect anywhere close to 150 percent growth in the used car market over the next six months across Madhya Pradesh. These assumptions are based on the initial enquiries we have received thus far, most of it through the digital platform. In fact, walk-in queries are much less compared to pre-Covid days.
Social distancing is a key driver of this change. We are seeing a big spurt in digital and web inquiries. Social media is also helping and disseminating information via WhatsApp groups is also helping our business. Digitilisation also helped cut down paper work; we can easily furnish full vehicle details and win customer trust. This also helps cut down procedural delays.
What are the type of models/segments that are seeing maximum traction in used car segment?
We are seeing maximum traction and big demand for small cars. That is the segment that is attracting maximum buyers. Close to 50 percent of the demand is for the A and B segments with about 30 percent concentrated in the SUV space. Demand for luxury vehicles is at 20 percent. We see maximum demand for cars that are 3-5 years old. There is good demand for this type of cars, we get good selling options and adequate supply in this area.
What is the current mix of sales, in terms of cash and finance? Is it any different than the pre-Covid period?
There is a striking change in customer buying preferences pre- and post-Covid. Before Covid, we used to see a whole lot customers who were opting for finance schemes and loans but right now majority of them are cash-only customers, predominantly belonging to the agriculture business. The numbers are particularly interesting if we do a rural versus urban comparison. In urban areas, almost 90 percent of our customers prefer financing their buys through a bank but in the rural regions, it is a 50-50 situation.
With car owners holding on longer to their vehicles, is the used car market facing major challenges, especially in certain segments?
Yes, indeed the drop in replacement demand has impacted the supply-chain dynamics significantly. The rates are much higher as a result and the stock is also dwindling as a result of this.
With youth forming a growing base of car buyers, is the used car market gaining more?
Actually, it is a mixed bag for us. The bulk of the customers who come to us are either from the agricultural sector or service executives keen about owning their personal vehicle in the post-Covid scenario. Customer need for personal mobility is surely helping spurt up demand in used car segment. We are seeing huge flow of first-time buyers – it is almost 50-55 percent post-Covid.
How would you gauge the social acceptance of used cars in India at the moment?
Earlier, customers were worried about the lack of transparency in the used car segment and the growth and acceptance is directly related to the increased trust in the segment. There has been a definitive change in the approach and the acceptance level.
How do you address the transparency aspect and establish customer trust?
Documentation is often the easiest way to validate our commitment. Certification and verification are often the key challenge and this is where we strive to win our customer’s trust. Moreover, we make it a practice to sell quality vehicles to build the overall trust eco-system. This also improves our reference network and enhances business prospects.
What has been the direct impact of the pandemic on used car demand?
The used car segment is seeing brisk sales. In terms of pure numbers, we are already bettering last year’s performance. Compared to an average sale of 60 vehicles a month last year, we are seeing 75 vehicles per month. That marks 25 percent growth.
How many point checks does a used car typically go through at your dealership?
We undertake regular sanitisation for cars after every test drive and share details about our safety drives with our existing customers. This has helped enhance the circle of trust that forms the foundation of our business.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not purport to reflect the views or opinions of AU Bank or its employees.