Delivering transparency to a traditional industry
CarFix provides a fast, transparent and reliable experience in the car repair and maintenance space, an industry that still maintains traditional practices and has been beset by a lack of transparency. The Singapore-based startup, which is an online aggregator of car workshops, connects car owners with these workshops, 90% of which do not reveal prices online. Olivia Wu, co-founder of CarFix, explains the challenges it creates for car owners, “This asymmetric information in the market means that drivers have to spend more time manually comparing prices across workshops or risk getting overcharged. Even after finding a suitable workshop, car owners have little visibility into the repairs being done and have to spend long hours waiting at the workshop to inspect their cars”.
The story behind how it all started
Fellow co-founder, Mohamad Shijudeen, had met with a minor road accident while riding his motorbike prior to leaving for an overseas internship. The workshops he approached insisted that he drove the car down so that they could assess the damages to provide a quote, despite sending them details and photos that clearly showed the extent of damages to the car. In his haste as he was preparing to leave Singapore, he did a quick settlement with the car owner based on the quote provided, without making his own comparisons. Shija eventually found out he had been overcharged and felt frustrated with the entire experience he had gone through.
When Shija returned to Singapore, he started CarFix with Wilbert Lim, a soccer mate from primary school who had just returned from Shanghai and was also keen to embark on something new. In the process, they roped in Olivia, another friend from school, to join the team, given her background in working at a Shanghai VC firm and an early-stage tech startup.
With a conviction to raise transparency in the industry since day one, the CarFix team is committed to providing unparalleled service to its users. “We do not just onboard all the car workshops in Singapore. We personally curate and watch how workshops do their work before determining to onboard them onto our platform,” Olivia elaborates. Car owners simply enter their car’s model and service requirements and CarFix will then send back a list of quotes from nearby workshops, detailing every cost so that users know what they are paying for. Quotes are viewed, and bookings are made right on the platform, and all drivers are provided with a CarFix service guarantee that gives users an additional 3 months of warranty on all services. Every stage of the repair process is transparent as drivers can check in on the status of an ongoing service in real time.
The trio on their entrepreneurial journey
Being able to test and validate ideas as quickly and as cheaply as possible is crucial in the initial phase of any startup. Olivia shared that their most memorable moment was when they successfully connected a car owner with a mechanic, all through a simple posting on Carousell. “A day after our first Carousell posting promoting our services, we got our first inquiry and within the next day, we were able to refer the customer to one of our mechanics. The customer was delighted with his experience and the mechanic was satisfied with the referral we provided. Connecting two random strangers through our platform validated our efforts and gave us further motivation,” she explains.
Although there are websites and apps consumers can use to browse options when in the market for a car, the entire after-sales space, including repair and maintenance, has a long way to go before it becomes a modern digital-first experience. CarFix has long-term ambitions to become a one-stop platform for automotive wellness, and to help drivers “turn a dreadful and time consuming process involving various stakeholders to a series of clicks with minimal disruptions to a consumers’ day”.
While drivers were open to the platform, the same could not be said for the workshops. The biggest challenge for the team lies in convincing traditional mechanics to come on board the platform. These mechanics, who are generally great at their craft but have absolutely no online presence, were initially skeptical about joining hands with a few university graduates to digitise traditional car repair and maintenance processes.
Still the team has continued to press on despite the challenges. As Olivia sums it up, “The most important lesson we all learnt from our startup journey is grit. There are days when things are going great and you feel as though this is all going to work out fine and then there are days where nothing ever gets in your favour, and when it rains, it pours. I think especially as Singaporeans working on a startup, one thing we all got to keep in mind is that the startup only dies when the entrepreneur gives up. At the end of the day, we genuinely believe in the problem we are trying to solve and we will not give up till we reach that goal.”
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