Chapter 1: Fighting in the Basement

With the advent of e-commerce, customers in India have become used to having a truly online experience when it comes to shopping. The whole life cycle of the purchase can be carried out from the comfort of one’s home starting with product discovery and encompassing the next steps of product reviews, price discovery, payments and then finally the last mile delivery at the doorstep.

While in the e-commerce sector the biggest asset they have in their customer offering is convenience and that is aided by the products being standardized and commoditized. It is no surprise that electronics and mobile phones comprise a bulk of the GMV of most e-commerce players despite the high ticket size these items command.

If this is viewed in the paradigm of the used car space, all the odds are stacked against making this a truly online experience, the challenges are manifold. The goods being sold are not standardized, each car is unique and physical inspection of the car before purchasing is mandatory. So even if the discovery is online, the review part of the puzzle is not solved or trusted upon and once that barrier from the online to the offline is breached, the delivery itself is taken by the purchaser himself. This creates a huge grey area, especially for dealers in the used car space for whom the used car business is their livelihood and considering this, any moment spent on a deal after they have closed it is just an overhead item in the ledger of time and money. It’s important but if it were solved, it would change the game for them, enabling them to engage in more deals in their sale/ purchase funnel and yet it’s a problem that has not been tackled head on, partly because the used car business is hugely unorganized.

So any company that sets about making purchasing cars an online experience is fighting an uphill battle against the very tenets of the industry. Here the whole paradigm is different from an e-commerce retail scenario where you are trying to solve for a part of the customer’s life where the biases are less formed whereas, on the other hand in this industry, selling/ purchasing cars is the core business of the customers and biases/ practices are deep rooted. It’s akin to engaging in a gun fight in the basement, the odds are stacked against the business.

Chapter 2: A Night in Mumbai

Amit Jain, Nikhil Gupta, and Ashish Bhayana from CARS24, sat in a meeting room and brainstormed on how they could eliminate the hassle of waiting at the time of car delivery for a channel partner. The problem had far-reaching implications and they all knew that it would require a bold step to be taken.

After a moment of silence, Nikhil spoke,

“We have to do it, in fact, let’s do it. It is required!”

It was a tad late but they picked the phone and dialed in Vikram. On the call, they talked about the idea and some more. Vikram, as always listened very intently without any pre-judgment. A wave of conflicting thoughts rushed through his mind as Ashish finished describing the details of “The Dark Parking” model for deliveries.

He paused for a moment to clear his mind and then in a thoughtful voice said, which Nikhil felt was accompanied with a thoughtful sigh, “Hmm… that’s a bold step!”

And next, he said “from when would you guys like to implement it? Execute it flawlessly through proper planning!” That was all the encouragement that the three needed, their value of investing in channel partners would now be borne in reality.

What is essentially this bold experiment?

“Dark Parking” means 100% home delivery to channel partners. This is executed seamlessly by delivering the car within one day of confirmation from other functions at the channel partner’s doorstep. As on 15th April’17 “The Dark Parking” experiment is approximately 30 days in and has transformed the delivery side of operations in Mumbai completely. Channel partners love this service the way they are able to spend their time in meaningful business activities. Cities other than Mumbai are now planning to replicate the process very soon.

Though “Dark Parking” in itself is a very valuable initiative, it is also a precursor to many other future initiatives to smoothen out delivery/cost side of operations even further through “Decentralized Parking” and “Parking Free Model”.

CARS24 Process Excellence Team

Chapter 3: The ‘Dark Knights’

What is the most resilient parasite, an idea and once it takes root, it can change the world and this early experiment had sparked in Amit a flame to solve the channel partner experience in post sales side of the transaction, end to end?

In Delhi, Bhaskar Sharma and Surender Pratap Singh were to be the first members of a team that would spearhead all these initiatives. This team was not a normal operations audit team to do incremental improvements. This was about gambling big and taking the bold steps that would lead to exponential improvements.

CARS24 employee

This was the process excellence team – a team that would later have Amit join the bandwagon on. They would be working behind the scenes to make sure that channel partners would get a seamless experience, the proverbial dark knights of the battle.

And now for the idea: Improving channel partner experience and the evolution of the team that would play a central role in implementing it.

The key concerns which came to their attention were:

  • Fall in channel partner experience owing to delay in delivery time.
  • Variation in car handover time leading to channel partner dissatisfaction

But the core issues were deeper and Amit, concerned and passionate to improve the channel partner experience, highlighted these issues to Ruchit who took it a step further by taking an initiative to understand the pain points of channel partners arising from operational and logistics challenges in CARS24. Voice of Channel Partners was captured through extensive calling and frequent visits to Channel Partners’ premises which were further crystallized into 5 major pain points/improvement areas pertaining to Operations and Logistics:

  • Car handover from parking resulting in wastage of valuable time which could have been otherwise used to find new end buyers
  • Delivery / Handover process delays and TAT variations thereby fall in Channel partner experience
  • Time taken in CARS24 office for other operational tasks
  • Increasing percentage of RC transfer in a sustainable & scalable way with improvement in dealer experience on post sales side of dealer transaction
  • Efficiency improvement on documentation side through technological interventions

On the revelation of logistics and operations pain points, the next step was to brainstorm on the solutions to eliminate the root causes culpable for the aforementioned pain points.

 

To improve the car handover or delivery process and post-sales CARS24 needed a radical change in its process.

Ruchit strongly felt the importance of standardized processes, with minimum variations, across the organization in enhancing channel partner and customer experience.

This, in turn, led to the thought of forming a central Process Excellence Team – The army of the dark knights.

Process Excellence to Ruchit was more than just a single project effort. The cardinal goal was to provide the overall guidance and framework to ensure that CARS24 evolves from a project to a program to a Center of Excellence (CoE) model to enable continuous improvement throughout the organization which is typically the evolution from initial Process Transformation and/or Technology Enablement projects.

Home delivery/ Dark Parking was just the first step in the process, the next few steps lined up are making the delivery to channel partner site possible from the retail center directly, to building a state of the art queuing system at the office locations of CARS24 and much more.

Chapter 4: The CARS24 Way

The home delivery to channel partners has undergone various improvements in the last 1 month; it’s following the classic lean start-up model – build, measure and improve.

This has resulted in over 95% of deliveries being made in the committed deadlines and the much vaunted six sigma figure is not far now.

The next steps planned are truly ground-breaking with channel partners now walking into CARS24 offices and having a smooth and seamless experience assisted by a state of the art queuing system. On post sales front through stronger RTO networks, new dealer onboarding process, better communication with channel partners and new post sales strategy channel partner and customer experience are taken to new heights.

With In House RC Transfer, seldom tried in used car industry due to its sheer complexity due to too many variables involved, in pilot phase across regions, post sales are aiming higher and higher by each passing day. This is building up to a model of excellence that is becoming a part of the core DNA of the CARS24 operations team. In its true essence, it is the birth of the CARS24 way.

A simple yet powerful illustration of this is the internal scorecard published monthly now where the operations team is not judged on internal efficiency metrics but working back from the channel partner needs and devising metrics that marry into basic efficiency benchmark metrics. The scorecard based ranking is a badge of honor that each city operations team is fighting for.

This is how the fight in the basement is being fought one gunshot at a time, it’s a shot in the dark sometimes but that’s a challenge you face when you set about re-defining a decades-old industry. So far the shots have hit the right spots and the process excellence team seems to be winning the fight but it’s a long way to go and the dark knights are not resting on their laurels and they have an ambitious roster of activities planned in the coming months and that’s another story for another chapter in this series.