Rahul Kulshreshtha of Car Insight Solutions says his platform lets consumers assess 1,200 models from 45 brands available in the UAE
Entrepreneur's comparison site for new cars 'the most comprehensive'
Two decades of experience in the UAE's automotive industry helped Rahul Kulshreshtha spot something that was missing in this market - a comprehensive comparison site for new cars.
So he set about researching the vehicles available here and built the website himself - Car Insight Solutions, which he launched a year ago. Mr Kulshreshtha, from India, has lived in the UAE for 18 years, having moved here in 1999 to work with Al-Futtaim Honda.
He stayed with the company for nine years, before leaving to work for Honda itself for eight years. It was while he was working for the brand that he spotted the opportunity.
The website lists the specifications and features of more than 1,200 models by 45 brands, which he claims makes it the most comprehensive new car website in the region.
It also includes reviews, information about the brands, as well as insurance prices, car loans and used car valuations for buyers looking to sell their current vehicles.
While similar concepts exist in developed markets, Mr Kulshreshtha, 43, says comparisons sites in the Emirates are not as comprehensive as his. Here he reveals more about the company.
How do people save money using your site?
One is that they don’t have to go to 10 showrooms to find out the information. It is all available at a click. We have information they might not find in the showrooms. We have the fuel efficiencies for all the models, basically making it more convenient for buyers. People save not only money but also time.
How does Car Insight Solutions compare to websites such as Drive Arabia?
We have the most comprehensive car buying process [available in the region] on the site, starting with what the brand is all about. Say if you want to buy an Audi. What is Audi all about? You can also search by your criteria, say for example, 'I want a coupe; show me European coupe two litre cars'. You can search all the cars in the market and it will say these are the options for you. And then you can get into detailed comparisons. Drive Arabia doesn’t do all of this in detail. They have prices, yes, and they have some very basic comparisons yes, and they have some write-ups, whereas we have taken a very comprehensive approach.
How did you finance the business?
It’s something I bootstrapped. So it is a self-funded project. We did not approach investors because we wanted the right product, the right traction. We have started generating revenue, so now we have started approaching investors to invest in our project.
How do you make money?
We have three revenue models. One is the advertising. The second is lead generation – suppose if we have consumers coming in, giving their mobile number for test-drives, and we pass on the leads to car dealers. If we generate a qualified lead for them, we get compensated for that. The third one is by selling car insurance – we are launching car insurance by the end of the year that will feature all the key insurance players in the market. It will offer comparison and the facility to buy as well.
That already exists in the market.
Yes, that exists. This is not our key proposition, however we don’t want customers to have to go to 10 websites to research for a car, then for test-driving and insurance. So this is a one-stop shop, an A to Z for buying a new car.
What other plans do you have?
Eventually, our goal is to sell cars online. That’s our vision. And we want to aggregate all brands, not just sell one brand online. We anticipate that we will be selling new cars by next year. We thought this was the future when we started the project but two brands have already started selling cars online in the UAE, Kia and Chevrolet. So I believe we are going in the right direction.
What would be the benefit of buying new cars online? Surely it removes the showroom test-drive experience?
What we are saying is we are going to minimise the trips for any buyer to buy a car. For example, why should you have to go to the showroom to make a down payment or even test drive a car? Why can't a test-drive car come to your house or your office? We don’t want to take away the experience of going to the showroom, it is to touch and feel cars as we said, but we want to minimise the trips to the showroom and enhance the car buying experience.
Is it a good idea to buy new given the rapid depreciation in the value of cars?
If you ask me, there are a lot of grey areas when it comes to used cars. Why? First of all, there are a lot of grey imports happening in the UAE. You don’t know whether the car you are buying is a GCC spec, or a non-GCC spec. even if you know the car is coming from the United States you don’t know the history of the car. You don’t have the piece of mind. It might end up costing you more for a used car. If you finance a used car you pay a higher rate of interest. Someone who wants piece of mind will go for a new car and enjoy it for three years with a warranty. If you buy a good used car you are leaving it to luck.
What about when the market is down. Sales are slower right now, how does that affect you?
You are right. Car sales have gone down, there is no doubt. But this has made the car buyers research more before they end up buying a new car because the market is tough overall, not just for cars. So people want to make the right decision. And to make the right decision, they do a lot of research and study before they go to a car showroom.
How many visitors does your website receive?
We started in October 2016, so it’s exactly one year-old now. The number is increasing every month by 40 per cent to 50 per cent. On average we are receiving 400,000 visitors per month. About 75 per cent to 80 per cent are unique visitors. Because we have a lot of content on the website, Google has been placing us right at the top for many keywords. For example, if you try car reviews UAE you will find our website at the top. And this is not paid, it is organic.
What are your tips for buying a new car?
First, shortlist cars as per your criteria. Compare them very well. And you must test drive the cars, because it is not just about the specifications and features. It is all about test-driving the cars. And any brands that do not encourage test drives should be avoided. There is no reason why a car dealer should not provide a test drive of a car in today’s times. Also do your research; there are many new brands in the market that may not be very well known but if you actually research, study and compare you may find good value for money with them. Buying a 2017 model after the 2018 models have become available is a good way of saving money, if the model shape is not changing. If the shape is changing then the buyer should keep in mind that this may result in a slight depreciation next year because the shape would have changed when the model changes.