Markish Arun, Vice President of Engineering, Zoomcar

A veteran in the engineering segment with close to two decades of experience, Markish has been a techno-functional executive for over 15 years. His rich and dynamic profile indicates the value he brings to the table. He has previously worked with Goibibo and Makemytrip as the Senior Director of Engineering where he led the supply-side engineering and product initiatives. An entrepreneur himself, Markish co-founded Magicrooms.in, a real-time inventory distribution engine for hotels in India, which he sold to Yatra.com in 2011. He also co-founded Koruko.com in 2013, an IoT-based retail engagement platform, which was later pivoted as Trip38.com. In a conversation with CXO Outlook, Markish talks about hiccups in car rental industry, Zoomcar’s plan to enable 1 lakh electric vehicles by this year, and much more.

 

What is the outlook for your sector! What are the hiccups that you are facing right now?

COVID-19 has changed the dynamics of our economy indeed. What used to be the norm till last year may well become obsolete in the coming weeks. Therefore, each industry needs to adapt itself to the new normal. The car rental industry, to that end, is well-equipped and prepared to serve its customers. There is an exponential spike in demand expected for car subscriptions, especially considering the current recession, car subscriptions can prove to be a better option than ride-hailing and as a more affordable and quicker way of acquiring a car, delivering a safe personal mobility replacement. The last couple of months have been quite a wild ride for everyone and particularly for those in the mobility sector, we began to gradually build up operations and saw bookings and subscriptions come back in a strong way. We are already seeing a 400% rise in demand and we expect this to settle down at 200-300% over the next few months. People are now looking for shorter term mobility options as opposed to a long-term expense of owning a car. We have seen a steady rise in demand for cars for personal work and emergency use cases. This December we witnessed a 2x jump in short term rentals compared to the same period last year. We have also seen a 100% recovery from the end of October. I think this is an interesting time for our business because everyone is in a constant state of evolution.

How have you leveraged your services over the past couple of months?

People are now looking for shorter-term mobility access as opposed to a long-term investment. We have seen a rise in demand for cars for personal work and emergency use cases. Rentals for intercity travel are up. The notion of owning a car amidst such an intensifying emphasis on social distance may have taken the backseat. Still, the necessity of a mobility service remains as relevant as before. As people would avoid public transport to keep themselves safe from contracting the virus, the need for rental cars will only go up. The industry is looking at various car subscription models to serve the needs of the customers. We also see more demand for in-city trips compared to outstation ones and a strong focus on shorter-term subscriptions. One of our focus areas has been increasing this exponentially by adding more and more vehicle models which will be offered on a subscription basis. The big markets for us have been the top 5 metros Bangalore, Hyderabad Mumbai Delhi and Chennai, this constitutes majority of our demand. Historically we have seen about 50-60% hatch or premium hatch like swift up to the line of segment between 50-60% of distribution, that has gone to 75-80%in the last 3-4 months post covid lockdown. So, we are seeing people with lower income levels who are pinched are gravitating towards lower 6.5 lacs and under. If you look at the vehicles, that are outside the hatch we are seeing the SUV segment like Creta that are popular while the 7-seater SUV has not been as popular post Covid. So, it is really the hatch that is dominating and then the compact SUV’s coming at you in the 8 lacs to 10.5 lacs segment.

At Zoomcar, we believe this is the ideal time to realize the second phase of our broader mobility vision that focuses on bringing disproportionate efficiency gains across the ecosystem through the adoption of innovative, product driven software solutions. Zoomcar Mobility Services (ZMS) is Zoomcar’s B2B SaaS offering providing a full-stack of mobility software solutions across vehicle segments. With the launch of ZMS, Zoomcar will now provide access to its state-of-the-art, proprietary tech stack which focuses on reducing operating costs, enhancing safety, increasing vehicle monetization, and improving customer engagement. This B2B Saas offering is a more diversified approach to complement our existing B2C business where we are going direct to consumer on the rental and subscription side.

Can you brief about your plan to enable 1 lakh electric vehicles by this year?

Coming out of Covid, there has been a big push towards eco-friendly transportation that’s helping provide a strong tailwind to a lot of these two-wheeler and three-wheeler players to go electric and we want to be a part of that as the technology enabler, who are leading technology services. on 3 wheelers we are working with one of the largest 3-wheeler electric player ETO Motors, we are also working with other 3-wheeler electric manufacturers. On the 2-wheeler side we are working with leading 2-wheeler manufactures for their subscription and their additional service model. We are certainly very excited about having it out there on road across the country. This is purely an enterprise model where we are powering the subscription businesses and we are powering the connectivity for a number of electric 2-wheeler manufactures. This is our enterprise Saas business – Zoomcar Mobility Services, we are empowering the broader electric ecosystem of electric ecosystem of 2-wheeler and 3 wheeler players for connectivity IoT as a service as well as subscription as a service for them. So they can run these services accordingly we are providing a technology empowered platform for that. What ZMS is providing to the EV makers is access to its state-of-the-art, proprietary tech stack which focuses on reducing operating costs, enhancing safety, increasing vehicle monetisation, and improving customer engagement. ZMS comprises two primary software offerings: IoT as a service combined with subscription as a service. One of the major services of the technology is the company’s proprietary driver scoring mechanism, an AI-Powered algorithm with machine learning capabilities that tracks the real-time driving behaviour of the customer along with the present health of the vehicle.

How to gain more acceptance here among Indian users, and how to make the environment more conducive for Indian consumers?

The electric two-wheeler game in India is a very high-volume game, they are the smaller ticket sizes, but they are high volume in terms of the overall units. The time is now, from an infrastructure standpoint with the relative range and products and what the use cases actually is, there is actually no constraint today. Two wheelers and 3 wheelers are effectively at cost parity when you have taken in consideration with subsidy, so you are talking about something which is there and efficient and effective today. So in electric 2 wheelers and 3 wheelers you will see very strong exponential numbers on growth. On the electric car side that’s a slightly long game that really depends more on having a better range and a better price point.

What other measures are you planning to bring about in the future?

Zoomcar has always been at the cutting-edge of tech-enabled mobility solutions. AI and IoT are the two pillars on which our experience works, and Covid-19 has brought their importance into even sharper focus. For example, app-enabled keyless entry technology minimises human contact, which is critical in these times of viral spread. Our entire tech stack and operations have already evolved to ensure that every car is thoroughly sanitised before and after each drive. We use AI for vehicle monitoring and predictive maintenance. For example, our models can detect patterns in engine temperatures and coolant levels to predict engine seizures before they happen and guide customers safely to a stop before an emergency situation occurs. We also have models that predict the optimum replacement times for batteries and clutches, thus minimising breakdowns. Last year, we captured almost a 100 billion vehicle-related data points such as speed, distance, revolutions per minute, clutch and brake times. Our unique driver score technology encourages customers to drive cautiously and will have far-reaching consequences for the safety and longevity of our cars. The Zoomcar app, moreover, allows customers to reach out at any time in case of a query through email, messages and chatbots. With keyless entry systems that require little to no physical contact and real-time updates regarding vehicle sanitisation, rental car brands are leaving no stone unturned to offer customers a safe and comfortable experience. Technology has taken the safety aspect up a notch and the silver lining for companies is that it allows them real-time monitoring of their vehicles to avoid any loss or damage to the cars. With features such as chatbots, 24×7 customer experience, the flexibility to reschedule or cancel bookings free of cost, and integrated payment gateways, shared mobility brands are bringing everything under one roof with mobile apps.

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