The only company in Pakistan making car selling process fast, simple, secure and stress-free
Interview with Raja Murad — Co Founder and CEO CarFirst
PAGE: What has been the growth story for being a successful company? Can you share some interesting numbers?
Raja Murad: Today with consistent hard work and determination from my team, we employ over 280 people and have 29 purchase centers across Pakistan with many new services and products under our belt. Our top line has grown to several times the monthly volume we had in the beginning of this year, but the more interesting thing is that we are growing into new value chains and expanding our presence throughout the entire auto-sector ecosystem. In accordance with our commitment to growth, we are excited to announce that our expansion plans for Faisalabad are underway and we are soon to launch our operations in this city. We hope to open our purchase centers and warehouses in every city, making our services available to all of Pakistan. So, whosoever is willing to sell their car in any city of Pakistan, has the option of driving down to a CarFirst purchase center. We aim to make the used car trade market more transparent, secure and convenient for anyone wishing to buy or sell their car. By connecting car owners to insurance, financing, warranty, inspections, and a host of other services, CarFirst will leverage not one but many revenue streams for its future growth.
Other than the marketplace model, CarFirst is trying to expand its outreach through a number of initiatives such as ‘Corporate Fleet Program’ Program — The program provides logistical support and hassle-free tailored solution such as Fleet Liquidation, Value Guarantor and BuyBack Program to multinational and local companies looking to manage their auto fleets, ‘Merchant Program’ – Creating opportunities for small scale car dealers and help them grow their volume and profits exponentially, increase our ‘Apprenticeship Program’ — Invest in training the mechanical engineering students (youth) who have a keen interest in the automobile industry, get more Dosts through our ‘Dost Program’ — An incentive program is open to everyone who wishes to help their friends and loved ones sell their cars to CarFirst, encourage customers to avail our ‘Exchange Program’ – Option to trade up an old car for new car by offsetting the value of your old car against the price of the new car, expand our ‘Purchase Centers Network’ – We are continuously working to expand our network of purchase centers within Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad and then beyond and searching newer avenues to grow by partnering with automotive related companies and lastly since the verification process and payment take up to 2-3 days we want to minimize that window and bring it down to max 1 day for which we started off with our pilot project , however on-ground realities still don’t allow for that to happen, not at least yet.
PAGE: How is consumer demands changing, which is giving space to online services?
Raja Murad: Technology and online services are a powerful tool in influencing and changing consumer behavior. As new technologies emerge to disrupt industries, companies of all sizes can’t afford to sit on the side lines. In a world where new technologies pop up all the time, the companies that put consumer needs first are in a position to win.
PAGE: As you know about a massive drop in the import of used cars from February 2019 onwards – how CarFirst is surviving in a tough business environment.
Raja Murad: The CarFirst business model is not aligned with imports and nor are we importers of cars. We are a platform for sellers to sell off used and registered cars within Pakistan. The impact for us on the reduction on imported cars has resulted in prices changes as well as changes in the mix of cars that are traded over our platform.
Speaking of the tough business climate, we have again seen shifts in the vehicle categories that are traded most. The buying behavior of dealerships who were predominantly engaged in imported cars are shifting towards used cars, as well as the impact of no ‘premium’ pricing on locally assembled cars has pushed more dealers to come work with us. We are running several training programs to get more dealers to come and work and grow with us.
PAGE: CarFirst has recently received an Award at 14th Consumers Choice Award 2019, could you tell us more about this?
Raja Murad: Being the largest network of consumers rights in Pakistan, Consumers Association of Pakistan again set another milestone this year by organizing 14th Consumers Choice Awards in Karachi. Consumers Choice Awards are awarded every year to those consumer-friendly companies, traders and organizations who offer their products and services in the best interest of Pakistani consumers. CarFirst received a ‘Consumer Icon Award’ for ‘Fastest Growing Tech Company In Pakistan’ which is testament of a strong and authentic verdict of Pakistani consumers’ nationwide. It is an honour for each and every member of the CarFirst family to receive this recognition from the biggest network of consumers rights in Pakistan. CarFirst has been a consumer-centric company from the get-go, and we are proud to play our part in simplifying the lives of our consumers through technology and innovation. Today, CarFirst stands proud to have revolutionized the way used cars are traded in Pakistan, and are grateful to be known as the most trusted used car trading platform by our consumers. This award goes out to our customers — thank you for believing in us, as we continue to work endlessly to make the car selling process in Pakistan, fast, simple, secure and stress-free.
PAGE: Looks like CarFirst is the only such platform. Do you see any competition in the coming years? How does your company set itself apart from its competitors?
Raja Murad: We don’t have competitors in the market; our model is our distinctiveness. Our model is based on actually making it easier to trade used cars. To do that, we play a part in the transaction. We’ve got purchase centers across the country where people bring their cars; we check them; vet them; our team of market and technical experts guide potential sellers on the current market value of their car and make an offer to buy accordingly; we negotiate and if the offer is accepted, we put the car on auction.
Currently, we do not see any competition coming up in the market. However, with a fresh new wave of investments coming in Pakistan, we hope to see more entrants in the used car trade market. The more companies try to make buying or selling a car transparent, secure and convenient for customers, the faster CarFirst will achieve its vision of revolutionizing the Pakistani auto sector.