The origin of Zantrik offers an interesting insight into how companies get started and eventually evolve. In this story, we hear how Zantrik was founded from Zantrik founder and CEO Al-Farooque Shubho. The story is an excerpt from our interview with Mr. Shubho published in 2018.
Back in 2011, I was working at Brainstation-23 in their British Telecom team as their architect. That’s when I first thought about pursuing entrepreneurship as a career. Eventually, I left Brainstation-23 that same year to form my own team and start a business, which eventually became Smart Aspects where we serve clients from the USA and Australia.
Fast forward to 2016. I had a terrible experience with my car while it broke down in the middle of the road on my way to a meeting. There was scorching heat outside. I used to drive the car myself but I didn’t have much knowledge about how it worked. There was no repair shop nearby. I called up my technician but he was also unavailable at that moment. I had to wait there for hours before getting help. After that incident, something dawned on me. Humans are planning to go to Mars, but in Dhaka, you are helpless if your car broke down in the middle of the road! I realized that this is not a problem unique to me. This is a problem for everyone in Dhaka.
That’s when I first thought about Zantrik. Since I’m a software engineer, I thought about what if we design something to help people who face similar challenges. That’s how we started developing a software that would allow people to get emergency help if their car broke down in the middle of a trip. That’s how we started.
We started working on our backend in early 2017. We decided to build a scalable model. We decided not to own any workshop. Instead, we would partner up with third-party workshops who would fix cars on behalf of us.
We finally launched the first version of our product at the beginning of 2018. We started with our roadside help product, which was more of emergency services. Eventually, we have expanded into other services. Today, we are providing services like repair services and insurance. Our goal is to build a one-stop solution for all your vehicle maintenance needs.
Over the past months, we have learned a tremendous amount about our users. While we started as an emergency service, we soon realized that it was not the right service for most of our potential customers. Moreover, the emergency situation doesn’t occur all the time, which means if we pursue only emergency businesses, it would limit our growth opportunity.
We conducted a survey in Dhaka and found out that almost 75% of car owners don’t believe the mechanics they go to for servicing their vehicles. They think that the workshops overcharge them and the quality of the repair is not good enough. We also found out that about the same percentage of people don’t have enough time to get their cars to a workshop for regular maintenance. But every vehicle needs to be maintained. If you own a car, you need to change the engine oil, filters, and so on.
When we found out that emergency repair services won’t cut the deal for us, we decided to cover all of these issues, which would eventually lead to a subscription model. We had to come up with something that would allow us to build a sustainable business. We wanted to shape our offering in such a way that we could build a profitable business right off the bat, while, at the same time, offering our customers quality services at an affordable cost.
The result is our subscription model that provides a round-the-year maintenance service to our members at a great price. We provide them at half the prevailing market rate and that too with a good margin for us. It has been possible because we work with a number of value-chain partners who have agreed to provide their respective services at a better price since we consistently provide them with a good volume of work. The subscription model has created a win-win situation for us, our partners, and our customers.
We added some extra benefits to that. If you become our member today, you get the first four servicing and four car washes for free. You get engine oil and filters that have guaranteed quality. And, all of these you get at a competitive price. You can call our service from anywhere. We can fix your troubles either over the phone or our partner workshops can send mechanics to your location within 30 minutes. So far, we have 1,600 partner-workshops all over the country. We can serve you even in Teknaf, Tetulia or Sajek Valley.
Our motto has been to make the lives of vehicle owners easier. We have added insurance service to make the process of availing insurance easier for our users. Since it’s mandatory to ensure every automobile, we have made the process a lot easier by bringing it online. You can get this service now just by clicking a few buttons. We aren’t charging anything extra for insurance service other than the government or insurance company charges.
We are also gradually exploring the B2B market where we see a huge growth opportunity. We are in talks with a big ride-hailing company to launch a special package for their drivers. Then, there are other companies where a large number of employees have vehicles of their own. We are going to offer specialized and exclusive packages to them. Rent-A-Car companies can also benefit from our service. Some of their cars run thousands of miles every day.
The opportunity in this space is huge and we are just getting started.
Building the initial operation
One important thing that we needed, in the beginning, was funding. It’s not easy to build something, particularly in the service industry, without investment. But I had some advantages in this regard. Since I am a software engineer myself and have a team, I didn’t have to spend any money building the first version of the product. I had some personal savings that I put into the business. So initially, it was basically my skills, some internal investment and a lot of hard work.
We have closed our first external investment from a leading local venture capital firm. This is our first round of external investment.
This origin story is an excerpt from our interview with Zantrik founder Al-Farooque Shubho published in 2018. You can read the full interview here.