Mahindra First Choice Wheels: The Most Trusted Brand Automotive Portal – ‘car&bike’

Mahindra First Choice Wheels
Mahindra First Choice Wheels Ltd (MFCWL)

Buying a car or a bike is a big investment decision because today, no brand new car comes below rupees two-point-five to three lakh, and a brand new bike costs at least sixty thousand. Before the pandemic, people with higher purchasing parity would consider going for a new ride for themselves or their family members.

During the past two years, since the outbreak of the pandemic, whatever their purchasing power is, everybody has been very cautious and prudent when it comes to spending their money on even essential things like a vehicle, especially a new car. Because the moment you buy a new car and bring it outside the showroom, the factor of depreciation begins its play, and the perceived value of your car gets dwindling with each passing moment. Furthermore, daily escalating fuel prices mean a huge expense on your pockets and cutting off your budget for more essential things.

Compared to the past, in modern times, any car’s average lifespan is between twelve to twenty years or about two lakh miles. This is where used cars are emerging as very sensible and attractive options. Yet, most people would avoid going for used cars due to a very unorganized and clumsily managed sector, where unbranded and unregistered used cars’ selling agencies used to wary them off.

Riding on the mission to change this scenario and bringing decency, transparency, and much-needed trust in this sector, one of the most famous jewels in the Indian automobile sector, the brand Mahindra First Choice Wheels Ltd (MFCWL), has launched its most innovative automotive portal – car&bike – a phygital marketplace for all your comparative car and bike valuations, new and used car dealerships, advertisements, reviews and everything in between.

Mr Sanjay JhaCHRO Sr VP -Business Development, and Chief Ethics Counsellor and  informs, “car&bike is not merely another name in the world of automotive websites. We bring together the best from the world of both cars and bikes. New cars, used cars, new bikes–we endeavour to help you with all of that.” Additionally, car&bike also strives to keep its users updated with the latest from the global automotive industry.

India’s Largest Selection of Certified Used Cars

With car prices, car reviews, car dealers, new bikes, and everything in between, car&bike is happy to help by listing over 42 manufacturers and 336 models to help users to make an informed choice. “Users can browse new cars, upcoming cars, car prices, car dealers, and car reviews, compare cars, and use our car recommendation section and total cost ownership section. Our recommendations are based on a sophisticated algorithm combining user preference with expert ratings,” Sanjay ensures.

India’s leading auto portal for content and commerce with 28 Million+ monthly users, car&bike is also India’s largest used car retailing network. While car&bike originated from NDTV’s top show – The car&bike Show, it has become a household name in the used car industry. With seamless integration of brick-and-mortar Superstores and an online auto buying-selling portal, car&bike has created a strong phygital presence, becoming India’s No.1 used auto platform. car&bike also deals in procuring commercial and personal vehicles with the largest yard network, leading auction platform, and best-in-class pricing mechanism – IBB.

car&bike is driven to bring revolution in India’s automotive landscape boasting 5,000+ used car listings, 1,100+ retail touchpoints, 9+ Superstores, 650+ network of yards, and 380+ service centers. Through Mahindra First Choice, car&bike has a strong presence across the used car value chain with unique value propositions – “We offer full-scale, end-to-end, digitally powered enterprise solutions, are a trusted name with exclusive access to quality supply and operate one of India’s leading auto content and used car e-commerce portal,” says Sanjay. With a transaction-focused, technology-led, omnichannel business model, car&bike is geared to be India’s leading auto tech platform by 2025.

A Visionary Leader

Sanjay has done engineering and MBA. He is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt, Harrison and FIRO-B practitioner, and PCC-level ICF coach. He has been trained by McKinsey & Michigan Ross in the areas of HR and general management. He was awarded “Top Most HR Leader” by World HRD Congress. He has over 31 years of working experience in operations, business development, sales, business excellence, and HR roles in the Metallurgical, Chemicals, Telecom, and Automobile industries. He keeps writing articles for ETHR World, Times Ascent, People Matters, and Entrepreneur.

No sooner did Sanjay join MFCW, he implemented good HR policies and practices of M&M. However, as the business grew and transitioned from a brick-and-mortar company to an auto-tech company, the biggest challenge in front of him was to reposition MFCW as a technology company.

Moreover, when the business started growing aggressively across the value chain of the used car ecosystem, the talent requirements also changed from used car knowledgeable and process-centric talents to someone innovative, bold, aggressive, and comfortable working in an ambiguous and high-pressure environment.

With his HR team, Sanjay applied the Talent2Value approach for identifying critical roles and top talents; filling all the vital positions with top in-house talents or by hiring from outside; grooming them with the 3E (education, experience, and exposure) approach. “Seven leadership competencies are the key criteria for assessing, grooming, and rewarding talents,” he says. The innovative hiring and grooming interventions have completely transformed MFCW into a talent-dense organization. MFCW uses Mahindra Group’s top-notch programs for the topmost talents, namely MALT & MALT+.

For people at large technical trainings are imparted by an in-house team; for all other trainings, employees have access to MFCW’s Gnosis platform, Mahindra Leadership University (MLU) and EdCast LXP platform.

Sanjay implemented a comprehensive training and audit process to create a good customer experience at the dealers’ outlets. D-STAR program is implemented for dealers’ employees’ development.

Fostering Futuristic Tech Solutions

According to Sanjay, “Listening to clients with humility and acting on their needs, expectations, and preferences, resolving complaints promptly and effectively, providing them new age technology solutions for their used vehicle transactionS, e.g., price engine, evaluation app, auction platform,” are our professional values and qualities admired greatly by the clients.

He believes that for any technology team, AI and ML are a necessity now. “And it is no different for us. The core is collecting data, analyzing it, and building AI and ML models. At MFCW, we have set up a separate data organization with a Chief Data Officer (CDO) leading this team and focusing on building these capabilities in-house,” he reveals.

The product and data teams work together to ensure that the required data is captured and stored properly. The Data Science team then analyses the data and builds models which help add new product features or decision-making.

He cites, “For example, using our vehicle inspections and transactions data, we have built our quality scoring (vehicle condition rating) and pricing algorithms based on ML models.” With more inspections and transaction data being fed into the model regularly, the model learns on its own and provides more accurate results, which are then used by their business teams to make decisions related to the procurement and sale of vehicles.

They are now focusing on building a data lake or data warehouse, where data from different products/businesses that work in silos can be brought together and used for creating AL/ML models on top of or for analytics and business intelligence. “This will play an important role in helping us leverage data and AI/ML capabilities and putting us ahead of our competitors,” he adds.

The Optimistic Spot

Talking about the challenges successfully encountered by them in the current industry scenario, Sanjay states that while the used automobile industry in India is experiencing a purple patch and is poised for tremendous expansion, the sector is plagued by a few difficulties. Several issues, some internal and others external, have conspired to make the previous three months challenging for the sector.

“On the one hand, we are dealing with a big slowdown in repossessions by large NBFCs, which has impacted the wider used vehicle market, and on the other hand, all organized players are exploring alternative business models that would benefit customers as well as lead to profitability,” he feels.

The good news, according to Sanjay, is that the used vehicle industry is expanding rapidly, with 4.4 million used cars sold in FY22 and on course to double in volume by FY27. Currently valued at $23 billion in 2021-2022, the pre-owned market is projected to expand at a CAGR of 19.5 percent. Being a cost-effective alternative, used cars were amongst the topmost options customers settled for.

He informs, “The government recently issued a notice on further regulating the used automotive industry by putting safeguards in place to protect customers, which is a commendable development.” For example, the proposed guidelines call for the registration of used car sellers. Furthermore, making uniform car inspection necessary would give buyers greater trust in the vehicles they purchase. Simplifying registration processes and transferring an automobile to a new owner online would be a positive step toward formalizing the business.

In his advice to budding entrepreneurs aspiring to venture into this niche, Sanjay says that the Indian used car industry is mostly unorganized, infested with inefficiencies, and poor customer experience. Hence, there are humungous opportunities for those ready to take the pain of organizing the industry, providing transparency, choices, and a wonderful customer experience.

Every used car is unique from a pricing point of view and provides opportunities to create multiple products related to price discovery, evaluation, buying and selling, auctions, finance, insurance, accessories, document transfer etc. New entrepreneurs should have a compelling urge to solve the prevalent problems related to–inefficiencies at the various nodes of the ecosystem and poor customer experience.

Tomorrow’s Automotive Superstores

Adopting the right technologies will remove many inefficiencies and enhance customer experience. However, people’s high orientation for ownership, innovation, customer-driven excellence, and the business outcome will matter a lot. Entrepreneurs must build the above orientations by creating the right organizational culture.

Since the opportunity is huge, the investors generally have disproportionate expectations. They would like things to happen now. So, entrepreneurs must have- much antifragility, the ability to remain focused on unit economics, mindset to take risks, experiment with new ideas, and scale some of them. They should attempt to solve only a few particular major pain points of the industry and not spread themselves too thin out of temptations.

On envisioning brand Mahindra First Choice Wheels and car&bike’s operations and offerings in the future, Sanjay reveals that with the changing business scene as a result of the pandemic, consumers throughout the nation have a clear preference for used cars. Used cars, formerly considered a compromise, are gradually finding their way into buyers’ consideration sets when acquiring a car. “There is no reason our industry cannot continue to expand at a double-digit rate for many years to come,” he believes.

Mahindra First Choice Wheels Ltd (MFCWL) is India’s biggest multi-brand pre-owned car company that offers consumers certified used cars. MFCWL enabled the purchase and sale of around 190,000+ cars in FY22, a figure that has continuously increased and is expected to exceed 250,000 cars in FY23. It now operates eight superstores and 920 franchised locations, with aims to expand to 2,000 touchpoints by FY27. “Our target is to facilitate sales of 800,000 used vehicles by FY27. This accelerated growth will be driven by an expansion of our Pan-India franchisee network and big-format superstores,” he adds.

In line with their new strategy at Mahindra First Choice, they have concentrated their operations, prioritizing retail growth and exiting non-priority revenue streams. Several of their new initiatives (such as Superstore – large format retail stores for Certified Used Cars and AutoKart Refresh – format of retail stores for Certified Used taxis/LCVs) have shown encouraging results. “And our emphasis remains on enhancing the customer experience and providing attractive financing options for our valued purchasers,” he concludes.

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