Buying a car is a luxury not many can afford. Young professionals are increasingly opting to rent a vehicle for short periods instead of going for a long-term commitment to a loan. What do you think about renting a car? Sakshi Vij, the founder of MylesCar spoke to SheThePeople about how you can have a car and remain hassle-free, her experience as a woman entrepreneur and how the mobility sector in India is changing.
Vij established her firm MylesCar in 2013 after contributing to the growth of her father's company Carzonrent for six years. She got the confidence to take the plunge and start her own company in the mobility sector because she saw how the industry had growth potential. When we started her challenge was to make everyone understand that there was another way of vehicle ownership. To help us understand vehicle subscription and vehicle sharing, and how India is looking at electronic vehicles she gave us some interesting insights.
How Do You Think Renting Vehicles every month Is Better Than Buying One For Good?
Let's say you want to buy a car, you would typically decide on how much you can invest. Suppose that amount is 10 lakh rupees. You will first have to make a down payment, which might be a couple of lakh rupees, and then a loan on the rest of the amount. Once you find the right kind of car to buy, you will have registration insurance and then the maintenance of maybe four to seven years. You are now stuck with the same car for whatever period until you can buy a new car.
What we do is we say that vehicle ownership or car ownership, in particular, doesn't have to be so, rigid. As a user, you should be able to decide how much you want to spend on a monthly budget on your vehicle. When you find the right vehicle for your needs, the amount you pay should be inclusive of all the things that go into purchasing or maintaining a vehicle.
In the subscription model, as a customer, instead of buying a 10 lakh rupee vehicle, you are taking a call whether you want to spend 35,000 rupees a month on your car. So you don't have to worry about a down payment, you don't have to worry about maintenance, insurance, registration, any kind of paperwork. Even if your car meets with an accident, the Insurance Claim we will handle as well.
How was the transition for you when you started your own company? Were you preparing yourself for that?
I was preparing even during my time at Carzonrent. I was always looking at areas where I could bring my skill sets into the industry. For me, while it was the best learning ground because of my father, but it was also my interest in seeing how this industry was developing. I won't say that from the time that I joined, I knew that I wanted to do car sharing, or I wanted to build a business of my own.
The mobility industry and the sector has grown over the last 10 years, it has encouraged me to do what I'm doing in Myles today. The vast amount of experience that I got working in various parts of the sector, on the corporate chauffeur drive or operating on radio taxis, on cab application, all of that. And that led me to then further understand how I can make a bigger change in the vehicle ownership market itself, because that's, that's where mobility is going.
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Do you think car sharing and making the number of vehicles on road less will help with the environment? How is your venture helping with that?
Absolutely. Car sharing does allow for a much lesser number of vehicles coming on the road because everyone gets to use the car for the time for which they want. But in addition to that, one of the transitions that we need to make in the city of Delhi, but also overall is that we need to start using vehicles with greener fuels, and electric vehicles is a very viable option then for customers.
One of the things that we are doing in our subscription business is that we are seeing a lot of customers finding electric vehicle subscriptions, extremely advantageous. Almost about 40% of our customers today are using electric vehicles on our platform, even though the overall cost of electric vehicles is very high, but on subscription, they are actually able to afford as instead of worrying about a 25 lakh rupee car, they are only worried about a 50,000 rupee monthly rental.
It is not very easy in India to procure and maintain electric vehicles. Do you agree with that, if yes how do you deal with it?
I don't think it is difficult to procure an electric vehicle in India, but we have a limited number of cars in the electric vehicle segment that is available in India. That number, however, is changing, we are getting more and more car manufacturers, also two-wheeler manufacturers who are bringing in electric vehicles into the market. Electric vehicles have a much lower maintenance cost compared to petrol and diesel vehicles.
The challenge is that electric vehicles are very expensive upfront. Even though it is also true that fuel cost would be negligible because they're just charging the car. So that becomes really, a saving. maintenance cost is a lot lower. But from a customer's perspective to buying this car is more expensive. Therefore, a subscription becomes interesting because the customer doesn't have to buy the car, they can subscribe to it and only pay monthly for the way.
The automobile industry is very male-dominated. How has been the journey for you, so far, as one of the few women in the industry?
When I started up, the industry was still coming on its own. And at that point in time, yes, the idea of it being male-dominated was quite stark. And at that point in time, it was even difficult to find another woman in the office or within the industry that was doing what I was trying to do. Now, of course, the times are a lot different. Globally, as well as in India, women are getting into the mobility landscape. I do believe that the change we needed was for the industry to take centre stage.
And now that the industry has taken centre stage, and mobility is such a large sector for any economy. Therefore, more and more women are getting into it. I don't think whether it's investors or whether its partners in this industry have the option now because there will be more and more women that will come into it. And the businesses will have to accept that. The business needs to run in a more gender diverse manner.
How did you expand your company at the initial stages?
When we started MylesCars the idea was just to have, you know, a certain number of cars available and test the market. And we just opened up our website put 14 cars on our platform, we didn't even do any marketing then. And within the next five days, we were sold out for the next two months, which was our first success and this is how we started.
Now we have a significant number of partners such as Maruti Suzuki, Toyota, MG Motors, where we are providing subscription services to these OEMs. Currently, we cater to more than 50% of the car ownership market share in the country. The growth has been very encouraging. Our platform today has over 2000 cars that are available for subscription rentals and other services. It has been an exciting journey in terms of how we have evolved from being a pure car-sharing player to evolving into a car subscription and major player in the market.
What were the challenges you faced during this journey, in terms of funding, building a core team and scaling up?
Initially, the biggest challenge was just making everyone understand that there was another way of vehicle ownership, we were selling a concept, it was not something that was heard of in the country, we continue to educate our customers in a big manner. The second of course, has been finding the right people to work with, to find people who can buy into that same vision as me. And I've been fortunate to find some people who have been a part of our teams and have grown with us.
Lastly, as an entrepreneur, you have to create a balance between just scaling up and creating numbers in the market versus having a really strong product that helps you create numbers. And we have also then been fortunate of having some good investors with us, who have helped us and supported us to first focus on our product and then go up and scale in the markets.
Do you believe Indians have an advantage in car subscription market? How?
A very interesting thing as far as the total penetration of the car ownership market is concerned, there are only 22 cars per 1000 people in India. This number however, is over 500 in a China or the United States market, which means that there is a significant amount of latent and available penetration that is possible in the Indian market.
Having said that, the reason why the penetration is not increasing is also because car ownership comes with certain gaps, the process is not simple enough, it's not flexible enough. What car sharing and car subscriptions do is they make this process easier, convenient and affordable.
How would you say you have grown as an entrepreneur?
As an entrepreneur, your journey never comes to any conclusion. When I started it was very unnerving to take the plunge. I was coming from a space where I'd seen a lot of other markets. I had studied in Singapore, Dubai, Boston and I've seen what was happening in the rest of the world and therefore replicating that for India or doing it even better or making those concepts suitable for India was really the vision that I had, we've come close, and we need to do a lot more. Personally, for me, my growth as an individual has been significant.
As an entrepreneur, through the journey, there's a lot more maturity that one has to incorporate, there's a lot more aggression that one has to incorporate. So it's a balance of emotions and I constantly keep on learning through my journey.
How is Myles' future looking like, what are your plans?
We are very bullish about the market going forward. We are also extremely excited about the electronic vehicle experience that's coming in. We are seeing that even as of now the number of requests that we get on a monthly basis, about 30% of the requests are all electronic vehicles. And so that is exciting times, we believe that over the next five years time, we should be add about 150 to 200,000 vehicles in the market on subscription through Myles.