My Week: Vinay Gupta of WhipCar

Gupta spotted a problem with the car industry: cars are very expensive, and people use them relatively little. Borrowing other people's cars instead of buying your own is his solution...

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

We launched back in April 2010, and I was interested in looking at the cars ‘area’, because a car is the second most valuable thing people own, and yet the average car is used for about 4.6 hours per week. And more than that, people are now delaying the purchase of their first car – there has been a 20% reduction in the number of people under 30 who own their own car. So the point of our business is putting car owners in touch with people who need a car short term, but don’t own one.

No two weeks are the same for me. There are a lot of varying challenges – I do everything from working with the PR team to customer service. When we launched the company, no one else was doing this, so we have to spend a massive amount of time raising awareness of the concept, and educating people about how exactly it works. So I manage those campaigns.

With customer services, you’re dealing with real people and they all have different requirements. We’ve discovered that the FAQs section on our website needs constant updating, and we even have an out of hours team to help customers when the offices aren’t open.

I meet with insurers quite often to refine the product – our business requires a complex insurance package because the risk analysis of customers has to be quick. We have an analysis algorithm, which we use to define our policy, and that often needs tweaking and work to stay in agreement with the insurer.

I’m now also involved in working on a mobile-based product. We’re developing an app that is designed to get us a bit closer to being able to rent a car with ‘three taps’. We’re testing the product internally and so there is currently a lot of discussion surrounding it. 

Just this morning I had a meeting about test-drives. An interesting element of the business, which we did not anticipate, is people coming to us asking about what kind of car they should buy, based on where they live. So they are asking to use WhipCar to test out a number of different models from local owners. This influences their purchase, and in response to it we’re developing a service that caters for them.

The most challenging thing about running WhipCar has been getting people to understand the concept and then to be comfortable with it. It takes a long time for the market to become ready for a new idea, and there is an enormous amount of effort involved in the process of education. On a personal level, the challenge of creating a start-up is that it is consuming. It is your life; there is little or no work/life balance. You feel as though you are working all the time, even when you are not in the office.

The best thing about it, however is that you are creating something that didn’t exist before. You are essentially creating change – the fulfilment comes from seeing that people value what you’ve created.

If I had to offer advice to other entrepreneurs, I would say: it is important to set a boundary between business and personal time. If you don’t take time out to put things in perspective, you can become too wrapped up in it and lose sight of how to strategise properly. It is important to see friends, go to the gym, and watch TV. 

I don’t have any preconceived ideas about where I want to be in five years time. But it would be great to feel that in some way, cars are being used differently, from the way they are now. 

To find out more about WhipCar, visit the website at www.whipcar.com

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