Open Talk @DSIM
An Interview with Co-Founder and Head of product of CarIQ, Deepak Thomas
CarIQ is a plug ‘n’ play device. The device comes with in-built GSM technology and it collects data from the car without any intervention. This data is then sent to the Cloud where it is processed and users can receive the data over the web or smartphone apps. CarIQ collects data from various electronic systems in your car such as the engine, ABS, air bag system, among others and sends information about service requirements, critical alerts, engine health, driving data, fuel economy, etc. It also lets users share this data on social media. CarIQ also has an ecosystem of service providers via which a user can set appointments with mechanics, etc as well.
Q1.Hi Deepak, it’s a pleasure to be doing this interview with you. Thank you for taking out the time. We are very curious to know more about you and your business.
Ans. I did my schooling in Mumbai and engineering in Computer Science from Trivandrum. I first caught the entrepreneurial bug when I was 17. Initially, it was limited on how to make money online, and at that time, I was lucky to get a fair amount of success via Blogging, selling website designs and hosting services that I used to offer. I quickly jumped out of it seeing services were too much effort and not scalable and started making digital products. Since the age of 22, making and marketing digital products end-to-end has been my area of interest.
CarIQ is India’s first connected car platform. CarIQ introduces a new ‘connected car experience’ – wherein car owners can make anything associated with owning, driving and maintaining their cars a fun and rewarding experience. CarIQ makes this possible via an app.
Q2. How did the idea of CarIQ come to your mind? What inspired you to launch CarIQ?
Ans.The initial idea to connect cars came to Sagar Apte, who was my colleague at a previous Internet company we were working at, prior to starting CarIQ.Everything around us was getting connected. Our homes, our health and even our shoes! Cars have so much data that tells us so much about itself and even about us. This was left untapped.
We first explored if it was possible to read data from a car and once we figured out it was, ventured into starting CarIQ.
CarIQ uses a device we call the SmartPlug to read data from your car. It snugly fits into the OBD port of your car and is a plug-n-play device. Most people are unaware that the OBD is a standard port on all cars as it is usually located under the steering wheel. CarIQ supports all cars made after 2008. Once connected, the car data is sent to our cloud servers, where it is analyzed with hundreds of similar cars and consumable data is given back to the user. The user can set custom alerts for speeding/geo-fence etc., share trips on social media, connect with workshops and see vital stats about their cars.
Q3.Kindly, tell us what is the big hurdle you have faced or are still facing in your business?
Ans.Being a startup that has a tangible hardware product too is a tough task, especially in India. Procurement of assets, imports, finding vendors, assembling, manufacturing, getting the aesthetics of the physical product right – are not particularly easy. This requires skills across multiple domains. It also requires an initial capital for manufacturing. Unlike cloud applications, hardware cannot be bug-fixed at a central place and we have to be sure of the final product before it is shipped. This whole process took us a little under two years to design, develop and manufacture.
Q4.How important is digital marketing to your overall marketing strategy?
Ans.Digital Marketing is extremely important in building a brand. People associate with brands and it’s up to the brand to rightly convey what it stands for. Fortunately for us, we have received ample coverage in the media, and that has worked to our advantage. CarIQ is a known brand in the Indian startup ecosystem and also within the space we are in. This is mainly due to the digital media exposure we received.
Q5. What do you think is the future of Digital Marketing?
Ans.Digital marketing will only increase. In fact, it will be the most powerful and the most preferred way of marketing. The sheer number of increasing smartphone usage, major Internet companies raking in billions in advertising revenue, our addiction to technology etc. are clear signs that it is here to stay. More and more companies are increasing their spend on Digital Marketing, which makes sense as technology plays an integral part of our lives today and everybody wants a piece of the pie. Also, statistics show that traditional media is not going anywhere. I believe the Internet of Things (IoT devices) would play an important role in complementing digital marketing in the coming years. The main reason for this would be the availability of rich data that can aid in much better targeting, ultimately bringing the best experience to the user.
Q6.How did you think CarIQ will evolve during the next 5 years?
Ans.We are a “Made in India” product, ready for the world. We are confident that we will have a major mind share with car owners in India, and will also be a globally known brand in 5 years’ time. We will also be the monolith that connects various players in the ecosystem like garages, assistance providers, dealers, car manufacturers and car owners together.
Q7. What are some long-term suggestions for increasing customer satisfaction?
Ans.Listen. Especially if you are building a consumer product, feedback is of utmost importance. We have evangelists on our team who calls up our users and get to know their experience when using CarIQ, the challenges they faced, and features they think would make their car owing experience better. We listen to the feedback and take necessary steps to improve the product. Some of the requests would be farfetched, but we make it a point to add it to our roadmap and revisit when the time is right.
Q8.Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
Ans. We have raised seed capital from Singapore-based VC firm Pose Ventures and Pune-based VC Snow Leopard.
Q9. Finally, at the end of the interesting conversation, what advice would you give to young emerging entrepreneurs?
Ans. Perseverance is key. It takes a lot of time and effort to build a startup. Initial hiccups should not be seen as letdowns and an entrepreneur should keep spirits high.More importantly, time tells you how you need to alter your product to fit the market needs. You should be dynamic enough to make changes to your product to fit the needs.
“It was great talking to you. Thank you so much for your time and providing us valuable information”. Team DSIM wishes you for your successful journey.
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