The best way to learn is to learn from other’s experiences.
In this week’s edition of Founders’ Guide to Thrive in association with Intuit Circles, we spoke to Rohit Bhatnagar, Co-founder, GaragePlug, member of Intuit Circles, about his journey and how having a supportive community has helped him through COVID.
GaragePlug is a pioneer in automotive workshop management software globally. Founded in 2017 by automobile industry veterans, they are on a mission to be a one-stop-shop for software solutions in the industry. Rohit describes GaragePlug as an “automotive cloud platform for the aftermarket Automotive Service industry on a subscription model, primarily focused on the Middle East market.”
GaragePlug’s journey has been nothing short of a spectacle! They want to build a platform for a connected ecosystem in the automotive aftermarket where all stakeholders in the industry- the owners, workshops, and suppliers all have a common platform to connect on. While they’re at it, they’re looking to help multi-brand outlets and service centres grow.
Rohit and his co-founder, Ashish Shrivastav– an Automotive Domain Expert & Ex- Toyota Kaizen leader, realised that there was a gap while working at their previous organisation, where they interacted with automotive workshops on a daily basis. Having seen the need and demand for it, they capitalized on the opportunity in 2017. Shubhra Srivastava, the third Co-Founder and now CEO, joined the founding team to double-up the energy and help in Global Expansion. Soon after her addition to the team, GaragePlug saw a sudden jump in revenues and growth in a short span of time!
When they started, they spoke to over 200 workshop owners- talking to them about the challenges they face- and attending their workshops and meetings around the country. He talks about associations in Karnataka that dealt primarily with owners and technicians of 2-wheelers, with close to 25,000 registered members out of which 5,000 would regularly attend these workshops and meetups.
What also helped was their experience in the industry as they were then able to apply all that they had learnt from their time. In great detail, Rohit explains how the workshops were managing inventory and daily operations on old-school Excel sheets. However, one thing they noticed was that they all had and were well-versed with their smartphones. Not only that, 4G was now beginning to be used widely. This is where they realised that their platform would fuse technology with the requirements of these owners, and so, GaragePlug was born.
Initially, their product was simple and catered specifically to the Indian market. It was as simple as WhatsApp for these people to use it on their smartphones. With only 2 functions- issuing invoices and creating orders- to their app, GaragePlug gradually became a big hit with their target demographic. In their first week, they received three annual subscriptions and that pushed them to continue developing the application to conquer the market.
In close to a year, they had over 100 workshops on their platform.
After receiving their first enquiry from the UAE in 2018, the GaragePlug team redirected their attention to a new territory. The problem there was similar to the one at home- they were using accounting software to help manage their workshops. So, they took on this challenge and built their product further to address global needs.
When they ventured into the UAE, their product had to meet government mandates as well as a bit of a language barrier. They had built a multi-lingual facility for the Indian version and were easily able to tackle the Arabic on their application too. This also helped in their popularity amongst the Arab workshops, as there was nothing like a workshop management system available to them in the past. With GaragePlug, these workshops were able to bring back customers, and so their entire user base became reliant on their software for practically everything- from operations to accounting.
GaragePlug is now home to over 500 Workshops in 12 countries, with thousands of users relying on the platform for daily operations. They plan to expand to the United States in 2021/2022, the leader in the automotive industry and are very optimistic about their future.
GaragePlug & Intuit Circles
Rohit talks about how COVID made the situation for GaragePlug a matter of survival. While they were trying to increase their revenue streams, a lot of people on Intuit Circles recommended that GaragePlug look to expand to other countries given their success in the Middle East.
So, once again the team redirected their attention to markets like Singapore and Australia, which were beginning to open again. “Our philosophy is that every new market is a new product-market fit for you,” Rohit says and continues talking about how they studied the market and now have 50+ customers in those regions. “In difficult times they really helped us get into new geographies and kept our base strong.”
Rohit had nothing but praises for the kind of support that the GaragePlug team received from the community at Intuit Circles. “What happens is many times you would need support, you may be feeling low, you may be having some difficulties, you would probably need a shoulder, you’ll probably need somebody to help you out. And having such communities really help you in sorting out your problems.”
He added that having an ecosystem of startups and having a community of like-minded founders really helps speed up a lot of things and helps you feel supported and motivated.
Started with serving independent service centres, GaragePlug is now adding value to some of the big Auto OEMs and Lube companies of the world
Intuit Circles is a strategic startup ecosystem engagement initiative by Intuit, that facilitates business growth and knowledge for startups through smart-tech. It aims at powering prosperity for startups by providing for some of their biggest needs. If you’re a startup looking for a supportive community to help you grow your business, sign up on Intuit Circles today.
Thank you so much for reading, do read about launching a product during a crisis here.