Carmudi Philippines’ Abhishek Mohan talks about how they are improving online car shopping
Whether or not you’re a car enthusiast, buying a car is a significant moment in your life.
Let’s set aside the things motoring journalists go on about, such as ride, braking, trunk space and how much understeer a car produces when cars are hurtled around corners at triple-digit speeds. From a purely economic perspective, a car is the second-largest investment that you will spend on (after your home). Indeed, our country’s billion-peso car industry keeps on growing because, aside from low interest rates that allow for manageable car loans, it is able to make the process of getting your hiney in a shiny new set of wheels both convenient and secure for everybody, from first-time car buyers to jaded motoring journalists.
And with the advent of the Internet, the second-hand car market is slowly catching up. From the years of buying issues of Buy & Sell or Car Finder Philippines to look at hundreds of little rectangles filled with three-liners on a certain model, online car-buying websites offer more detailed descriptions of used cars, as well as photos (an expensive option for either well-off or truly desperate sellers in the papers).
But on the heels of these advances are evening news stories of buyers getting swindled or, worse still, injured or killed by unscrupulous creatures who seem to have ascended from the darkest depths of the underworld. Indeed, caveat emptor is not only a friendly piece of advice when buying used cars online in the Philippines, but also a matter of life and death.
“The classifieds business is booming around the world, but so is fraud,” said Abhishek Mohan, managing director of auto-classifieds website Carmudi Philippines. “It’s very easy to put up fraudulent listings on classifieds. On our part, we not only make sure that the data is clean, but also get as close to the actual transaction offline as possible.”
Always into tech
Mohan was born and raised in India, graduating with an economics degree from Saint Xavier’s University in Mumbai. In 2005, he moved to the Philippines and finished his master’s degree in business administration from the Asian Institute of Management in 2007.
That year, he joined an e-games company in Manila, followed by setting up his own mobile-advertising company a year later. “I have always been into tech and start-up companies,” he said.
Mohan also said he has spent most of his career in the Southeast Asian region with a variety of companies, particularly in the Philippines.
“I have seen this country go from being an afterthought to a front-and-center economy, which is why I’m here,” he said. “The business environment and banking environment have improved. In addition, Internet penetration in the country has grown immensely, so I think it’s a great place to be.”
Mohan was then tapped to join Carmudi Philippines in December 2015. He said the company was founded in Germany in 2013, then expanding to over 20 countries, with the Philippine subsidiary established about a year later. Like its competitors, he said Carmudi Philippines is a place where people can buy and sell cars. But he said his company considers quality as paramount.
“We don’t just want to be another player in the industry,” he said. “We want to be somebody who is actually improving the industry. We’ve taken a step back and focused on growing responsibly, which is why we have quite a large quality-assurance team.”
As a result, he said Carmudi Philippines is now the top car-focused classifieds website in the country. Data from the company said the site has around 29,000 vehicles posted and over 3.8 million views a month.
“Often, there is a duality between speed and quality,” Mohan said. “But despite focusing on the latter, we haven’t received complaints about the speed of our website.”
Stringent data checking
He said there are two ways to post an ad on Carmudi Philippines. First is the method for individual sellers, which includes uploading a description and photos of the car.
“From the moment of upload to the moment it goes live on the site, there’s a quality-assurance process,” Mohan said. “We have a team that goes through every facet of each listing and then approves it. In contrast, ads on other sites go live the moment the account holder hits ‘upload.’”
Mohan said the second method is for car dealers, where a team is sent to gather data and take photos of the cars. “And even that data goes through a secondary process of quality control in the office, with the team going through every facet of the ad before it goes live,” he said.
In terms of expanding its offline reach, Mohan said the company tied up with service-station company Rapide Auto Service Experts in February 2016 to certify vehicles posted on the site. In a statement, Carmudi Philippines said the agreement will allow buyers and sellers the option to have their vehicles inspected by Rapide professionals so Carmudi could issue a certification describing the actual state of the vehicle.
“That’s our focus right now: to certify the quality of the car,” he said. “We also do a check with the Land Transportation Office to check if the car is ‘hot’ or not. That’s another level of checking to make sure that the cars on our site aren’t stolen or involved in criminal activities.”
Looking at new cars
Mohan also said the company is looking at integrating ads for new cars on its site starting April this year, especially in light of the steady, double-digit annual growth in auto sales in the Philippines. He said Carmudi Philippines wants to provide the best deals for new-car buyers, too.
“We have partner banks, dealers and original-equipment manufacturers,” he said. “It’s just a logical extension of what we’re doing right now.”
In addition, he said the company is planning to help its partner dealers with a technology-based initiative to make them more sophisticated.