Book a Test Drive With Firstride
Prasoon is Co-Founder and CTO, his previous experience with start-ups added great value to the team. He has been Head Engineering -Themediaant, and Performance Engineer – RedBus before starting FirstRide. I had privilege talking to VIJAY KUMAR REDDY on his startup journey.
Vijay like the way Travis Kalanick, CEO –Uber, is running the show, and is impressed by his approach towards expanding a start-up. He is passion for cars n bikes and did not enjoy working in a corporate world. He says there is no fun forking for others. Now I work 16-18 hours a day but I enjoy every moment of it.
Before starting FirstRide, Vijay was working on a concept where a student can use prepaid mobile balance to shop online (later came to know that I was actually building a mobile payment gateway). He spent 3 months working on the project doing research and building prototype, pitched the idea to investors (one of the VC’s liked the concept and wanted me to do a pilot run. I also built a prototype and went around meeting all the regional offices of telecom operators). His first ideas did not get guidance and then he decided to start something in a domain which he is good at, he is passionate about.
He is passionate about cars n bikes from my child hood and had also sold used cars in college for quick money. The idea of offering online booking of test drives clicked to him after market research. He says, portals like CarDekho , CarWale and others had a test drive page but it was just a mere form to generate leads. My idea was to offer just not lead but a qualified enquiry to the clients with a higher conversion ratio.
Q: What interested you to build a startup in this field?
Vijay: We believe the test drive of a new vehicle is a very important step in the car buying process. We cannot imagine spending money on shoes without trying them on, and we sure cannot imagine making the second-largest purchase without driving what you are buying.
Buying a car has become an increasingly stressful and expensive activity. The average person is generally not too familiar with the nuts and bolts of car buying. We believe car one of the most important steps of car buying is the test drive. You should never consider buying a car without taking it out on the road for a test drive. There are many things about a car that you can only experience by sliding behind the wheel.
Q: How did you decide the name for your startup?
Vijay: I got the tips from a video where Phani speaks about redBus naming. I also took reference from SnapDeal , Flipkart etc., … First indicates “new one’s” and ride stands for both cars n bikes.
Q: What kind of background, domain expertise, and attitudinal aspects are you looking for in your employees?
Vijay: Any person who has earlier worked at start-ups will be preferred because business model at start-ups keep changing with times. We need people who can adapt the changes immediately and grow with us someone who is good at handling bikes , cars and people will be preferred.
Q: Where do you see yourself heading in next five years?
We do not have direct competitors today but we have potential competitors like CarDekho, Carwale, JustDial etc., who can also take part in the game. Having said this it is also important to mention that as per FADA 20,00,000 passenger cars are sold annually in India. The total market size of revenue is 3000 crores. We wish to capture 10% of the market in next 5 years and reach a 1000 crore.
To reach our goal we are in talks with couple of e-commerce giants for associations and actively looking at both Angel and VC funding. We are in talks with couple of investors for future rounds.
Q: How has the response from market so far?
Vijay: Response from the market has been good. Though initial days it was not easy. It took huge time investment on convincing dealers to use our application so that we can sync vehicle availability at their end. We had multiple meetings with dealers, built trust and then slowly made them use the application.
During August 2013 – March 2014, we worked with Chennai dealers to strengthen the model, before scaling it up to different locations. We have worked with 30-40 dealers in Chennai and tried all possible business models. We have served 10000-12000 customers giving enquiry support and over 1000+ Test Drive bookings from Chennai alone. During same time we also have done market research in Bangalore and Hyderabad.
Q: Any challenges that you faced during your startup journey and any inspirational story you could share with our readers?
Vijay: Everyday in start-up is challenging. We do not know what is going to happen next and the how to handle it. Everything and every moment are new.
We also had tough days – days when our employees worked without salaries for months, we could not pay rent for months, had meetings till 3 am with employees, employee’s sacrificed their personal life and stayed in the office for months. I must mention that all this pain disappeared once we heard people speaking good about us in the market.
We got accolades from business, investors, media. We had dealers calling and saying “We heard a lot about your service in market and why don’t you also provide us your service?” Events like Conquest 2013 , NASSCOM 10,000 start-ups shortlisting our company . Investors discovering us and writing mails to check if we are looking for funding ( atleast 15 till date). Media – print, and digital writing to ask if they can cover our story. Things like all this boost the confidence of the team and gives us 10X energy to work.
Q: Any tips you would want to share with aspiring entrepreneurs in this field?
Vijay: All you need is to believe in your Idea. You cannot expect people to give you much support. No one else will have a better knowledge compared to you since it’s your idea which has born out of your imagination. Keep moving, don’t compare with people who are doing jobs leading a happy life. You need to be determined and committed in executing the idea. Don’t give up, you will discover new things on your way which will be the future. Don’t wait for money, Keep validating the idea and come up with a proven business model. Keep the team size and expenses as low as possible. Concentrate only on one area first, which is your core.