Auto deals: Foreign investors roll in with pakwheels.com

Monday, November 10th, 2014 3:27:19 by



LAHORE: Long ago, when entrepreneurs decided to form a company that is going to make its presence felt on the internet, critics would raise eyebrows. Lack of internet penetration or trend to shop or even browse for products online would be huge obstacles.

However, recently the mindset has changed. Entrepreneurs seem to start up their companies on social media, set up a website before launching commercial operations.

And potential investors are aware of that.

In 2003, Muhammad Raza Saeed dared to trend in the then uncertain business of internet companies. He set up an online portal for the auto sector, where users could buy and sell vehicles.

Almost a decade later, the initiative, pakwheels.com, has managed to carve its niche in the Pakistani market.

The business is now serving a variety of purposes, now luring in foreign investors as well.

The portal recently succeeded in raising .5 million from Frontier Digital Ventures, a Malaysian based venture capital fund focusing on online classified businesses in the emerging and frontier markets. According to Saeed, this is a reflection of the trust foreign investors show in the Pakistani market. The funding might be pale in comparison to neighboring country India but it is a start.

The story behind the wheels

After 11 years of experience, the management still believes that it is just the beginning and this sector has untapped potential.

Pakwheels.com Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder Saeed said there was a long way to go. “Pakistani internet companies are just entering their maturity phase, and the growing mobile subscription will play a major role for us,” said Saeed, a Lahore University of Management Sciences graduate.

Raza said the mobile subscription is likely to be tripled in the coming years, from the current level of 30 million to 100 million in 2019. And this growing subscription is forcing many global internet incubators to look towards the Pakistani market.

The increasing competition among different portals is now forcing Saeed to introduce new trends. Saeed is looking to move ahead with an aggressive marketing strategy.

Along with this the management is working hard to diversify their portal through product enhancement and improvement, adding research reviews, additional content and user reviews.

Due to this, consumers will have access to the content and information of any car available, whether locally manufactured or imported. This will help user decide which car to buy in his or her budget constraints.

“We are planning to increase our user base by expanding our product line and making our portal adhere to global standards,” said Saeed.

“The next four years are extremely important for us, as we have to work hard to give each and every car solution online, to capture maximum share from 100 million mobile subscribers.”

He said that there still remain lots of things to be done for the auto portal due to the nature of the business — one has to shift its strategy quickly to remain the market leader.

The management is looking to expand its presence all over Pakistan. While it has a single office in Lahore, they are now looking to make their presence felt in other cities and establish offices there as well.

THE WRITER IS A STAFF CORRESPONDENT

Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2014.

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