It was around September last year that Singapore-based used-car marketplace Carro ran into issues trying to get loans for its customers approved in a timely fashion. That was a problem because most car buyers in Southeast Asia finance the purchase through a loan. So buyers who don’t have access to credit can’t afford to buy cars – which is a problem for Carro.
So the startup decided to build its own financing service to help car buyers get the credit they need. Enter Genie Financial Services, a new subsidiary of Carro that wants to make automobile financing more accessible. “We built our own credit engine that allows us to underwrite loans in a different way than banks,” Carro CEO Aaron Tan tells Tech in Asia.
That’s because the startup knows the car buying and selling business better than a bank, Aaron says. Based on the data it has gathered and its own algorithms, the team can come up with more accurate car values and price loans based on that information. “We fundamentally understand the value of a vehicle over time because we buy and sell cars all the time,” he adds.
Carro and Genie are separate companies – the latter’s CEO is Helen Neo, who has over 30 years of experience in the auto-financing industry. The two businesses will share technology to calculate loans according to a customer’s risk profile. To rate a buyer’s creditworthiness, Genie uses both financial data like payment history and data from sources like social media accounts.
The company has also created a chatbot service called Genie Bot, which will offer support and information about car financing options for comparison.
To boost development for Genie, Carro has raised US$12 million from new, undisclosed investors. The startup’s existing backers, including Venturra Capital, Singtel Innov8, and Golden Gate Ventures, also participated in this round.
The rest of the funding will be split between Carro’s markets in Southeast Asia – the startup is currently operating in Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand. The additional capital will make it easier for the company to work with banks on underwriting loans, Aaron adds.
Carro is also exploring a new way to buy and sell cars with the launch of Carro Express, a service that allows people to sell their car directly to the startup. The seller gets to walk away with their money instead of waiting to get bids from dealers. Carro then resells the cars to dealers through its own auction platform.
Aaron says this makes the process of selling your car a lot faster and more hassle-free. It was born out of specific customer demand. “Many times, we get requests to sell cars within a day or two,” he says. “While consumer-to-consumer is great for price optimization, it takes, on average, about two to three weeks to sell a car – and that is a long time for some customers.”
The startup plans to continue adding new services around car ownership.
Other services by Carro include Graph.sg, an online tool where people can calculate the value of their car, Carro Accessories, an online shop for car-related gadgets, and Carro Workshop, a mobile app for finding maintenance shops based on location and customer reviews.
The startup plans to continue adding new services around car ownership, although Aaron doesn’t share more details for now. The financing service is currently available in Singapore because it fits the market. “We’ll pick and customize services according to individual market needs,” he explains. “Nothing says we have to follow the same playbook everywhere.”
The used cars market in the region is also served by Singaporean startup Caarly, which Carousell bought to form the Carousell Motors marketplace. In Vietnam, Caramo also uses machine learning to determine fair prices for car buyers and sellers. It launched this month with fresh angel funding.
Aaron is confident in Carro’s position in the market, despite the competition. He believes that his company is much more specialized in what it’s offering, focusing on the team’s expertise in the automotive space. The fact that Carousell chose the used car category for a dedicated app just highlights the opportunity in that market, Aaron feels.
He doesn’t reveal specific numbers about the company’s progress since its US$5.3 million series A fundraise last June, which was also joined by Alpha JWC Ventures, Skystar Capital, Coffee Ventures, and GMO Venture Partners. Carro claims to have transacted over US$36 million worth of cars in 2016.
For 2017, the startup will focus on its current markets, with a series B later down the line.
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