Mohammad Waliul, a banker by profession, was on his way to work one morning when his car broke down. He drove his own car and did not have a driver. Also, he did not have enough knowledge about the intricacies of an engine.
Desperate to get his car up and running, Waliul started calling friends for help. One of his friends connected him to Vroom 24x7, a 360-degree vehicle-related service platform. Once he called Vroom's hotline number, it took the repair team only 20 minutes to arrive at his location. By the next 30 minutes, Waliul's car was repaired and he was on his way back to work.
Waliul is not alone. Many private car owners, especially those who drive their own vehicles, face similar situations. While there are many automobile mechanics in the country, it can be difficult to find one at hand, especially if your car breaks down in a location you are not too familiar with.
For those who choose not to employ a driver, your car breaking down is a worst case scenario that does not necessarily happen often. However, there are every day issues that can give you regular headaches - Who washes the car? Who checks and replaces the engine oil and filter? Who will replace the plug? Who runs to the bank and BRTA when it's time to renew your papers? Who guards the vehicle when you have left it unmanned on the street?
All these issues often force vehicle owners to hire a full-time driver, even when it becomes a heavy financial burden. And even when they do, on many occasions these issues continue to persist as finding a driver you can trust with these tasks can often be daunting.
Vroom 24x7 was founded in 2017 specifically to address this gap in the market. A 360 degree vehicle-related service provider, Vroom offers washing, polishing, inspection, parts repair, tracking, oil and gas, LPG, and even car insurance and loans.
Vroom was founded by Nazeem A Choudhury and three of his friends - all of whom are car enthusiasts. Vroom stemmed out as a "random idea" at first, after one of them spoke about the problems he was facing with his car.
Before long, everyone agreed that they needed to introduce a common platform for solving vehicle-related problems, but in a new light.
"Our raison d'etre for founding Vroom was the circle of distrust involving the car owner, his driver and the workshop. The car owner does not trust his driver and the driver does not trust the mechanic.
This entire industry is built on mistrust and that is why we figured that we need to build a platform that is trustworthy and reliable," said Nazeem, Vroom's co-founder and executive director. So far, Vroom has served around 7,000 customers.
Vroom started its services with home-based wash-polish services, which let clients have their cars washed at their homes without driving them all the way to a garage or workshop.
"We all know how relentless Dhaka traffic can be. So if a client wanted their car washed at home and not have to drive through the traffic, we simply sent one of our teams to get the job done in a fraction of the time it would have otherwise taken."
Interestingly, Vroom was the first vehicle solution company to start this trend. Soon, other businesses started to replicate the idea of home-based wash-polish service, within a year of Vroom's inception.
Vroom then decided to branch out into other services as the market for home-based wash-polish started to become saturated. The next service they introduced was to assist potential owners with the car-purchase process.
The hassles of buying a car do not simply stop at the purchase, says Nazeem. This is only the beginning. When a person decides to buy a car, the first thing to do is to look for the perfect fit. Then comes the monetary aspect.
'A loan would be nice,' is the next thought that pops up. Once the purchase has been made, the car needs to be insured and once it starts being driven, it needs maintenance.
"And when you have finally driven the car for four-five years, and are thinking of selling it, you will need to look for buyers. So this entire process of buying and selling a car requires communicating with multiple groups of people and this can become very stressful," said Nazeem
"And, this motivated me to design Vroom in a way that it becomes the one-stop solution for any car owner, where we will provide them with any and all assistance they may need, starting from purchasing a car to reselling it," he added.
Vroom even assists clients avail and process car loans in partnership with Eastern Bank Limited. Although their third-party insurance services are currently halted by the government due to policy-related issues, Vroom also assisted car owners with insurance in partnership with Green Delta Insurance.
Nazeem soon hopes to resume insurance services once the policies are revised by the government.
In association with Eastern Bank Limited, Vroom introduced a Visa and MasterCard 'fuel card' for the first time in Bangladesh, which can be recharged like a debit card. This card is provided to drivers only to purchase fuel and ensure drivers do not keep the cash change for themselves - a common scenario when drivers use cash to pay for fuel.
This card is completely cashless and can be used at all refilling stations across Dhaka. Using this card has its perks as using a fuel card avails bonuses and offers on Vroom's services.
Deconstructing the car workshop hurdles
We asked Nazeem what sets Vroom apart from the car workshops clients have to visit in person.
"Most workshops in Dhaka do not sell you original stuff. They may claim a spare part is Japanese, but will sell you a cheap copy instead. We do not do that. Our site lists all the original spare parts we have and we make sure you get your money's worth," Nazeem explained.
Vroom also has a team of five automobile engineers who act as consultants to customers. These engineers take their time to chat and break down the problem in simple terms so that the customer fully understands.
"This is why we still have not switched to chatbots like most other websites, because we figured that vehicle-related issues cannot be answered with automated replies as every car and its problems are unique, just like a human being," Nazeem said.
The co-founder also added that Vroom's team of automobile engineers are experts at identifying problems even when the client describes the issues by making sounds.
Bangladesh is currently in a transition period when it comes to cars. The government has recently approved an automobile policy that focuses on local sector development and hybrid and electric cars, as opposed to fuel-driven cars. So does this come as a threat to Vroom?
"Absolutely not," Nazeem replied. "In fact, this opens more windows of opportunity for us," he added.
Most car mechanic workshops are also very manual. Only a handful of Dhaka-based workshops are implementing technology to service cars. Vroom wants to upgrade this industry, which is why they are on track to set a nationwide chain of workshops targeting hybrid and electric cars.
"We aim to have 64 standardised workshops in 64 districts of Bangladesh. Along with targeting hybrid and electric cars, we are also targeting cargo and fleet operations across Bangladesh and these long-route vehicles need quick and high-quality maintenance at regular intervals.
We want to become a hub in the country for such services, with small automated workshops all over Bangladesh," Nazeem said.
Speaking about the Covid-19 pandemic's impact on the business, Nazeem said, "While cars started getting off the roads, our business was out on the road. Cars were not driven extensively for almost 1.5 years and hence did not need any more than basic wax polish and maintenance.
Our business fell 10 percent and we struggled to stay afloat. But things are starting to look brighter for us now that businesses are finally opening up. The point is, if there are cars on the streets, we can thrive as well."