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CarDekho Bootstrapped First, Raised Money Later, Acquiring Bootstrapped Startups

Posted on Monday, Jan 21st 2019

According to IBEF, the Indian automotive industry is expected to reach INR 16.16-18.18 trillion (US$ 251.4-282.8 billion) by 2026. The growth is expected to be driven by increasing middle-class income and a young population. Auto portal CarDekho was bootstrapped and profitable for six years before it raised external funding. It is a textbook case study of a capital-efficient startup that has acquired several bootstrapped startups as discussed in my recent article on Bootstrapping to Exit.

CarDekho’s Journey

Jaipur-based CarDekho was founded by IIT Delhi alumni and brothers Anurag and Amit Jain in 2008, a year after they founded a software company GirnarSoft. A visit to the Delhi Auto Expo sparked off an idea to create a platform that could make car buying easier. Today, CarDekho is an online car search platform for both new and used cars that offers expert reviews and price comparisons. It also facilitates car purchases through its partnerships with car manufacturers, dealers, and financial institutions. It has offices in seven cities and employs over 2,000 people.

The parent company GirnarSoft also operates auto sites such as Zigwheels.com, BikeDekho.com, Gaadi.com, and Powerdrift. It has also introduced college discovery platform CollegeDekho.com, TyreDekho.com, and TrucksDekho.com. CarDekho and GirnarSoft have used an acquisition-led strategy to expand. Together, they have acquired eight startups, all of which were bootstrapped.

GirnarSoft acquired software consulting company Valueserve Management Consultants in 2013, video production, VR, AR, and web designing startup Drishya360s in 2015, emergency roadside assistance startup Help On Wheels with annual revenue of $4M in 2016, SaaS startup Connecto in 2016 to improve user experience, 3D visualization platform Volob in 2016, and automotive content startup PowerDrift in 2018.

CarDekho acquired auto news portal ZigWheels with annual revenue of $1M in 2015. It acquired Gaadi Web, an auto portal for new and used cars with annual revenue of $4.5M, in 2014 for $11 million.

CarDekho has also expanded to Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia with Zigwheels.my, Oto.com, and CarBay.my. It has over 39 million monthly unique visitors, 1.9 million YouTube subscribers, and over 5 million mobile app downloads.

CarDekho’s Financials

CarDekho revenues increased by 40% to INR 160 crore ($21.6 million) in FY18 from INR 114 crore ($15.6 million) in FY17. Losses nearly halved to INR 70 crore ($9.8 million) in FY18. This growth was driven by its increased focus on its used car business and the financing and insurance business. CarDekho has 5,000 dealer partnerships across India including 3,000 for the used car business. The insurance business covers over 800 dealers and over 450 dealers offer financing services for used cars.

CarDekho claims that its used car business is growing aggressively at 150% while the new car business is growing at 40%. The used car business currently accounts for 20% of the business but is expected to account for 50% of the revenue in 5 years. Its financing business has also scaled tremendously with loan disbursements growing to over INR 1,000 crore ($140M) from INR 200 crore ($28M) last year.

Car Dekho competes with Cars24, Car Trade, Droom, and Spinny as well as Quickr and OLX.

CarDekho has so far raised $177.5 million in funding from investors including Google Capital, Hillhouse Capital, Tybourne, Sequoia India, Times Internet, HDFC Bank, Dentsu, RNT Associates, Aquila Capital, and Ratan Tata. Its latest funding round was held early this month when the capital-efficient startup raised $110 million at a valuation of an estimated $400-$500 million. In an earlier round in 2016, it was valued at $360 million.

CarDekho is clearly focused on building a sustainable business rather than an overvalued startup. It has diversified from the slowing auto classifieds market to financing and insurance for the used car segment. It goes on to show that a focus on unit economics always pays off.

Have you come across any such capital-efficient startups that CarDekho may acquire?

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