With supply chains in the automotive industry continuing to be disrupted due to COVID-19, demand has surged in the used-car market. Today, one of the startups that's seeing a lot of growth as a result of that is announcing a big round of funding to further tap the opportunity.
Cars24, a startup out of India that has built an app and website for selling used cars and motorbikes, has raised $400 million: a Series G of $300 million in equity and a further $100 million in debt. The fundraise is coming just three months after Cars24 last closed a round -- $450 million, with $340 million as a Series F and a further $110 million in debt -- and as a mark of how heated the market is right now, Cars24's valuation has nearly doubled in that short time: It's now $3.3 billion versus $1.84 billion three months ago.
Alpha Wave Global (which co-led the last round under its previous brand, Falcon Edge Capital) is leading this Series G, with participation from other existing investors. Cars24 is not disclosing who those investors are, but other backers include DST Global, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Alibaba, Tencent, Moore Strategic Ventures, Exor Seeds, Raptor Group and around 20 others.
Cars24 claims to have a 90% share of India's used-car market, and it's gotten there by way of technology. Its tools include a search engine for people to find vehicles (its wide inventory being one of the main unique selling points versus physical used-car lots); options for financing for the vehicle; and logistics software to subsequently organize and carry out vehicle deliveries to new owners. It also has built analytics to measure demand and calibrate pricing and make online assessments of vehicles. Cars24 currently has some 13 million monthly visitors to its site and has sold over 400,000 vehicles (both cars and motorbikes) to date.
Cars24 is not only on a scaling, but also a funding, tear: It additionally raised $200 million last December, putting the total raised in the last year to about $840 million. (And rumors of this latest round were circulating a couple of weeks ago.) It's not the only one: A month ago, Spinny, another startup in the used-car space raised $280 million.
While Cars24 plans to work on increasing new customers against rival services, it will also be investing in more hooks to extend its engagement with those already using Cars24. These will include more financing options and centers for servicing vehicles before and after purchase. It will also be continuing to add more countries to its international footprint, with its next launches expected in Southeast Asia.
"The primary use of the funding will be to continue to strengthen our presence in India, and in the countries where we have expanded," said Gajendra Jangid, Cars24's CMO, who co-founded the company with Vikram Chopra (the CEO), Mehul Agrawal and Ruchit Agarwal in Gurugram in 2015. Cars24 is active in some 200 cities in India, and it claims to have grown 50% in the last quarter, a record for the company.
A number of outsized startups have emerged in India with massive coffers of funding to grow domestically, with little in the way of international strategy. And with nearly 1.4 billion people, the world's second most-populous country after China, you can see why. Cars24, however, has followed a different playbook, exporting its model to several countries in the last year, starting with the UAE (July 2021), and then Australia and Thailand (both in October). It plans to add to that list with its next markets in Southeast Asia, Jangid confirmed.
Launching in more developed markets like Australia and UAE has seen Cars24 adjusting its approach based on different market factors, he added.
"In Australia and the Emirates, it's been about getting a good global supply of cars," he said. "Because it's hard to get new cars right now, that’s impacting pricing and demand for used vehicles."
In its home market of India, car ownership still lingers in the single-percentage digits -- somewhere between 2% and 3%, according to estimates -- so in that regard, the only way is up. Indeed, as one of the most populated markets, which is rapidly developing, and which has jumped in with both feet into digital services and mobile apps, India represents a giant amount of potential that Cars24 is hoping to tap.
While Cars24 will continue to focus on bringing on new users, it's also investing in infrastructure to extend how it works with those who are shopping on its platform. It has built out seven so-called Mega Refurbishment Labs around the country to assess and fix up cars destined for its platform. Sitting as a complement to the company's otherwise all-digital approach to sourcing and selling vehicles, Jangid said the idea will be to make these labs a part of how the company also provides after-care to those who have purchased vehicles with the company. Longer term, he said, these would open up to all car owners. The company is also starting to build labs in other parts of the world to extend the proposition, with the first opening in Dubai.
The other area where the company is expanding its services is in the area of finance. Jangid said. He said Cars24 was the only player in its category with a banking license and it's been using that to create payment schemes for customers. LIke car ownership itself, this represents another area of currently underserved opportunity.
"Less than 20% of used cars get financed, while more than 80% of new cars sold are financed, so you can see the huge gap," Jangid said. He said that currently, more than 50% of its customer base is financing vehicle purchases by way of Cars24.
It's not all smooth sailing for the company. Working in used vehicles, there are a number of inconsistencies in product, and the more Cars24 scales the harder it will be to ensure a consistent customer experience around that, too. We've seen other used-car startups crash over similar issues, so it will be worth watching whether Cars24 manages to navigate these challenges as it scales. It's one area where building out the physical servicing centers might help.
“We are excited to back Cars24 yet again as they continue to cement their leadership positions across India, UAE, Australia and other international markets," said Navroz D. Udwadia, co-founder and partner of Alpha Wave, in a statement. "CARS24's robust competitive moats across in-house reconditioning, access to the widest assortment/supply and deep data science drive a delightful customer experience, and reflects in its best-in-class NPS. We believe this investment will help CARS24 fortify its moats even further and scale 10x from here over the next few years. We remain impressed by the team's vision and execution, and are delighted to deepen our partnership with CARS24."