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Published on: July 26, 2021, 1:23 p.m.
Riding on its strong brands, CarTradeTech goes to market
  • Sanghi: auto business is in my genes

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

Flashback to the pre-Covid era. India was stated to be the fifth largest car market in the world in 2019 and expected to become the third largest by 2025. Vehicle penetration in India was about 22 per 1,000 people as against 750 in the US and 562 in Germany. Thus, it was perceived, there was substantial headroom for the Indian auto industry to grow. 

But the pandemic changed all that. The Covid-triggered lockdown meant shutting down all non-essential businesses. And, auto biz was certainly not an essential business, as owning a car was still a luxury in India. Yet, the Corona-positive wave seems to have had a positive effect on the automobile business, as the pandemic has changed the way we live and work.

Though personal mobility demand weakened during the first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic, it rebounded quickly after the unlock phases, as consumers preferred self-owned vehicles to ensure social distancing and reduce dependence on a weak public transport system. In addition, restrictions on travel and the downward trend in other discretionary spends caused a shift towards spending on vehicle ownership. The general trend for consumers is to browse vehicles online and then visit brick-and-mortar dealerships to make the final purchase.

In the third quarter of financial year 2021, the Indian automotive industry witnessed a V-shaped recovery, quite different from previous recoveries which were spread over a period of two to three years.

According to a Google report entitled Auto Gear Shift India 2020: Purchase Journey of a Four-Wheeler Buyer in India, 92 per cent of new and used car buyers and 86 per cent of used car sellers rely on online channels during their buying and selling journey. RedSeer Management Consulting says more than 90 per cent of customers in India use online channels for research before buying a new or used car.

This is where companies such as CarTrade Tech come into the picture. “The auto business is in my genes,” says Vinay Vinod Sanghi, CMD & CEO, CarTrade Tech. “As Internet penetration started growing in 2010, we thought of newer ideas to bring the buyer and seller together.” He belongs to the fourth generation of the extended family of Sanghis of Sah & Sanghi fame. CarTrade Tech acquired Automotive Exchange, which owns the CarWale and BikeWale brands, in 2015, as well as 55.43 per cent of the outstanding equity interest in Shriram Automall India in 2018, and quickly integrated these businesses.

“We have created a distinct entrepreneurial structure within our organisation, with each of our business lines being managed as an independent profit centre,” Sanghi explains. “We strive to motivate our management team by providing them employee stock options, pursuant to ESOP schemes, thereby enabling a strong alignment of their interests with our performance,” he adds.

On top of the list

CarTrade Tech is backed by several marquee institutional shareholders, such as Warburg Pincus, Temasek, JP Morgan and March Capital, through their affiliates Highdell Investment, MacRitchie Investments, CMDB II and Springfield Venture International. “CarTrade Tech has now emerged as a multi-channel auto platform,” says Vikram Alva, Chief Strategy Officer – Group, quoting the RedSeer Report.

“It has enabled new and used automobile customers, vehicle dealerships, vehicle OEMs and other businesses to buy and sell their vehicles in a simple and efficient manner via its brands, such as CarWale, CarTrade, Shriram Automall, BikeWale, CarTrade Exchange, Adroit Auto and Auto Biz.CarWale and BikeWale are ranked number one on relative online search popularity, when compared to their key competitors over the period from April 2020 to March 2021, while ShriramAutomall is one of the leading used vehicle auction platform, based on the number of vehicles listed for auction for the financial year 2020.”

The report also says among its key competitors, CarTrade is the only profitable automotive digital platform. Their average monthly unique visitors for the 3 months ended March 31st 2021 is 31.99 million and they auctioned 8,14,316 vehicles in FY21.

“I have been associated with CarWale for more than six years now,” adds Atul Singhal, CEO, Wasan Toyota, Mumbai. “CarWale has done a fantastic job in helping me take my business to where it is today. The sales they generate for my dealership are amazing”. “I cannot dream of any of the dealerships doing business without CarWale,” adds Singhal.

CarTrade Tech offers a variety of solutions across the automotive transaction value chain, from discovery and research tools, pricing and auto financing information to connecting consumers with dealers and OEMs for both used and new vehicle purchases. Arvind Kumar, owner, Fast Track Wheels, Mumbai, is quite happy with his 10-year-long relationship with CarWale and the services such as certification and warranties on used cars. “This helps build the consumer confidence in these cars,” he says.

According to RedSeer, in 2019-20, Indian car and two-wheeler OEMs spent only about 14 per cent of their total advertising budgets on digital advertising, which is significantly lower than the 42 per cent global average for OEMs in calendar year 2020. The automotive sector has been amongst the three largest contributing sectors to the digital advertising market in India, in terms of amount spent. Digital marketing spends by OEMs are expected to increase in line with the growth of the digital advertising market in India, which has been growing at a CAGR of about 20 per cent from 2017-18 to 2019-20. 

“The number of used car dealers in India subscribing to paid services on online automotive portals is expected to increase from about 4,000 dealers in 2019-20 to 8,000-11,000 dealers in 2024-25. We believe that we shouldbenefit from the shift to digital by OEMs and dealers.” Sanghi hopes.

Anshumali Dixit, AVP, Asset Management, Tata Capital Financial Services, describes CarTrade as “a most trusted channel partner”. “The quality of service provided during each and every online auction event is conducted in smooth and seamless manner,” Dixit adds.

The used commercial vehicle market in India too is expected to grow from 1 million units in 2019-20 to 1.5-1.7 million units in 2024-25. CarTrade Tech hopes its subsidiary Shriram Automall will benefit from the growth of both the used car market and the used commercial vehicle market, as also from the shift to more organised players, resulting in more transactions. 

Multi-vehicle approach

“Leveraging our brands,” says Sanghi, “we provide services across different vehicle categories, including new and used cars, new and used two-wheelers and used commercial vehicles and farm equipment.” The multi-vehicle approach increases CarTrade’s efficiencies and profitability. Moreover, the company works closely with banks, insurance companies, and other business partners.

Dhaval Seth of Autolink Hero, a two-wheeler principal dealer, is all praise for BikeWale. “They are the best, compared to any other two-wheeler portals. The support they give dealers like us is amazing,” Seth says. He recommends every OEM and two-wheeler dealer to get associated with BikeWale and dramatically grow their businesses.

CarTrade Tech’s total income has increased at a CAGR of 45.94 per cent between 2017-18 and 2019-20. The company’s total income for 2019-20 was Rs318.4 crore. The adjusted EBIDTA margin was 26.46 per cent for the nine months ended 31 December 2020 and 22.71 per cent for 2019-20.

“CarTrade became profitable in 2018-19, with a restated profit of Rs25.9 crore,” says Aneesha Menon, Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer of CarTrade Tech. 

CarTrade Tech is now going public and has just filed its Draft Red Herring Prospectus with the market regulator SEBI. The issue is a complete offer for sale of 12,354,811 equity shares by investors and other selling shareholders. Investors CMDB, Highdell Investment, MacRitchie Investments and Springfield Venture International, and promoters Bina & Vinod Sanghi, Daniel Edward, Shree Krishna Trust, Steve Greenfield, Victor Anthony Perry and Vinti Rajesh Gajree will partially exit. Axis Capital, Citigroup Global Markets India, Kotak Mahindra Capital Co and Nomura Financial Advisory and Securities (India) are the managers to the issue from which the company will not receive any funds.

CarTrade Tech plans to get into vehicle servicing, automobile accessories and automobile insurance by engaging with product and service providers, Sanghi says. The company has already offered software and technology service to automotive clients domestically and now plans to grow that business internationally and invest in new trends such as connected vehicles, electric vehicles, ridesharing and vehicle subscription services.

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