Narain Karthikeyan, India’s trailblazing Formula 1 driver, has transitioned from the thrilling world of motorsports to the dynamic realm of entrepreneurship. Following a triumphant victory in the Super GT x DTM Dream Race in Fuji, Japan, in November 2019, Karthikeyan had anticipated a return to the track for the following season. However, the unforeseen disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic prompted him to reconsider his trajectory.
Credits: The Better India
The Genesis of DriveX Mobility
Passionate about cars and eager to make a difference in India’s changing mobility scene, Narain co-founded DriveX Mobility in April 2020. The company’s explicit goal was to offer reasonably priced mobility alternatives, which were desperately needed given the societal conventions that discourage social interaction and financial limitations. With the support of his vast Formula 1 experience, Karthikeyan aimed to use his close ties to the automotive industry to establish a platform that was not brand-specific and focused on secondhand motorcycles.
DriveX Mobility’s Mission
DriveX Mobility sets themselves apart by providing premium reconditioned two-wheelers at affordable costs. Through a tech-driven platform, the company sought to bring confidence, assurance, and transparency to a sector that was primarily dominated by unorganized brokers. The necessity for cost-effective transport choices is addressed in a 2020 KPMG research, which also highlights how the emphasis on economical personal mobility is in line with changing consumer tastes.
TVS Motor Company’s Strategic Investment
In a significant development, Indian two-wheeler giant TVS Motor Company acquired a substantial 48.27% stake in DriveX Mobility in August 2022. Valued at INR 85.41 crore, this strategic move reflects TVS’s recognition of the untapped potential in the pre-owned two-wheeler market. Sudarshan Venu, Managing Director at TVS, commended DriveX’s unique platform, envisioning a transformation in the largely unorganized pre-owned two-wheeler segment.
Rapid Growth and Market Expansion
DriveX Mobility has grown remarkably since it was founded. The company now employs about 250 people and ships 2,500 units a month, a huge increase from the meager 15 units it sent in August 2020. The company’s expansion was further spurred by the injection of external capital, which totaled approximately $11 million over two funding rounds. Remarkably, DriveX declared the launch of ten new dealerships around India, expanding its presence in the very competitive Indian market.
The DriveX Business Model
DriveX sources pre-owned two-wheelers through customer-to-business (C2B) and business-to-business (B2B) channels. These vehicles undergo refurbishment in the company’s in-house factories in Hosur and Coimbatore, adhering to the highest quality standards. With OEM support from industry giants like Bajaj and TVS, DriveX ensures a seamless refurbishing process. The company has strategically established 38 outlets and touchpoints for retail, providing customers with an experience akin to purchasing a new two-wheeler.
Overcoming Challenges through Innovation
Navigating challenges in the supply chain, DriveX employs digital platforms for spare parts, streamlining the refurbishing process. The integration of digital tools allows technicians to identify and acquire necessary parts efficiently. Over the course of its short existence, DriveX has significantly reduced the turnaround time for refurbishing, from 90 days per vehicle to the current 45 days.
Narain Karthikeyan’s Motorsport Experience Fuels Success
Narain attributes much of DriveX Mobility’s success to his background in professional motorsports, emphasizing parallels between building a winning racing team and a successful business. The company boasts a team of over 150 technicians dedicated to the meticulous refurbishing process. Narain’s ability to leverage his extensive network and understanding of automotive processes has propelled DriveX towards becoming a market leader.
Future Outlook and Potential Impact
DriveX Mobility has raised $11 million in series-A and seed finance, putting it in a strong position to grow. Prior to evaluating a series-B investment, the company plans to expand throughout India, demonstrating its dedication to building a strong position in the used two-wheeler industry. Narain agrees that a shift to pre-owned two-wheeler electric cars (EVs) is inevitable as the automotive industry gradually moves toward EVs. He does, however, highlight the continued market for automobiles with internal combustion engines (ICEs), especially in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.
Narain Karthikeyan’s journey from Formula 1 to entrepreneurship exemplifies the spirit of adaptation and innovation. DriveX Mobility’s rapid growth, coupled with TVS Motor Company’s strategic investment, positions the company as a significant player in India’s pre-owned two-wheeler market. As DriveX continues to evolve and expand, Narain’s unique blend of racing expertise and entrepreneurial vision sets the stage for an exciting chapter in the Indian automotive industry.