This IIT Kanpur graduate's full-stack car service startup Pitstop shifts gears to accelerate growthDebolina Biswas
Bengaluru-based car services and repairs solutions firm Pitstop is present across tier-1 cities in India, and is now looking to explore opportunities in Southeast Asia.
It was September 2014, a pleasant evening in Bengaluru, when Mihir Mohan decided to go on a road trip to Coorg with his family. Making his way out of the maddening traffic that Bengaluru is infamous for, Mihir managed to hit the Mysuru road, but his car broke down.
“I had got the car serviced the previous week, and yet it failed,” says Mihir.
He was stuck on the road for nearly three hours with his family. Eventually, a passer-by helped him take the car to a nearby garage. But the trip had to be cancelled.
Triggered by this incident, Mihir Mohan, an IIT Kanpur graduate, decided to find a solution to this pressing problem. Thus was born Pitstop in August 2015. The Bengaluru-based startup also has an app to provide car repair and services at your doorstep.
Mihir, with the help of a few angel investors, set up Pitstop with an initial investment of Rs 30 lakh. After riding on its success, the startup raised a combined fund of $2.9 million from Venture Capital and angel investors.
Pitstop’s investors include Blume Ventures, Goldbell Group, Ramakant Sharma, Founder of Livespace; Rahul Garg, Founder of Moglix; and angel investors Anuj Srivastava and Shailesh Rao.
Doorstep repair services
While you have Zomato for food, Uber for travel, then why step out to get your car fixed?
Mihir says, Pitstop has an Android application and website for its customers to book car repairs and services from the comfort of their homes.
The platform has standardised pricing (available on the app and website) for certain services such as general inspection, body repair, long drive express check-up, and second hand car inspection, among others. Customers can also select services and book them online through Pitstop’s website.
How it works?
After receiving the request, the platform assigns a mechanic automatically, depending on his location, to deliver the service at the doorstep – either home or office.
Apart from providing services, the mobile app is also used by on-field mechanics to provide real-time updates to the customers regarding vehicle diagnostics, repair estimates, payments, and other feedback.
“This ensures transparent communication and helps in building trust,” says Mihir.
Similarly, whenever a vehicle requires change of parts, the backend system (Pitstop’s patent mechanic app) books the required spare part. The mechanic then initiates a request through the app to change the spare part. Then, the spare parts department gets a notification through the app/website, and the logistics team prepares to deliver it in 15-30 minutes.
For this, Pitstop has partnered with Shell, Hella, TVS, HiQ and Livguard to buy and supply spare parts.
Pitstop has also built a dashboard and reporting tool, which is used by the drivers/mechanics to manage pickups and drops.
Additionally, a Pitstop van, with a mechanic and the required spare parts, is deployed at the customer’s doorstep. The startup owns 10 such vans in Bengaluru at present.
Unlike traditional garages, where customers leave their cars for half a day to get the servicing done, Pitstop says it typically takes 75 minutes to do a general service.
"We have a completely automated system in the backend. Initially, we started manually, but that involved making too many calls," says Mihir.
Executives interfere only when there are escalations and rescheduling of services.
"Our biggest challenge was to build a supply of trained technicians and crack the on-demand spare parts logistics which helps in delivering service at doorstep within 90 minute," says Mihir.
Thirty-eight-year old Mihir, a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Kanpur, started his career at Virtusa and later moved on to the entrepreneurial world with N-Net Technologies, a startup focusing on real-time tracking of shipping containers. Mihir also founded Unamia, a kids wear brand for children up to eight years of age.
“I was attracted by the independence of entrepreneurs and wanted to build solutions,” says Mihir.
The Pitstop core team has experts from the automotive sector - Shiv Soni, who joined after the acquihire of his company, Motorwhiz, and now leads the engineering team. Rakesh Sidana, Founder and CEO of MeriCAR, is also a key member of Pitstop.
Ritesh Mehta and Sathish Pillai, with their background in the auto sector, work with the service operations team, and joined Pitstop after having worked with companies such as Honda, Mercedes Benz, and Cartisan.
Since its inception, Pitstop has partnered with 175 garages and has undertaken over 50,000 orders across cities Bengaluru, Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, and Chennai. Over the last six months, it has serviced almost 3,50,000 cars in total, and more than 3,600 cars at the doorstep.
"We are serving around 300 clients every month in our (Singapore) pilot at more than 25 garages," says Mihir.
Pitstop’s monthly revenue is about Rs 2.5 crore, and according to the founders, the company has been growing at a rate of 455 percent.
The Indian auto-components industry has experienced healthy growth over the last few years and according to an IBEF report, it has expanded by 18.3 percent to reach $51.2 billion in FY 2017-18.
Some of the prominent players in the Indian automotive repair market include GarageOnRoad, Vehito, Automovill, Koovers, and GoMechanic. However, what sets Pitstop apart is its doorstep services and presence across tier I cities, says Mihir.
“We are a full stack service provider, unlike other players, who are aggregators,” says Mihir.
Pitstop is hoping to become pan-India by 2021. It is evaluating opportunities in Southeast Asia and plans to expand to Malaysia and Vietnam by 2020. The startup is also working on pilots to get into vehicle insurance, road-side assistance, and auto-parts and accessories sectors.