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CarToq in expansion mode, in talks for VC funding

Nitin Srivastava, CEO, MWG, talks about expanding the reach of CarToq through mobile app, besides taking it to social media channels as well as FM radio

Shanta Saikia | Delhi | July 3, 2015

Nitin-Srivastava Nitin Srivastava

Started in 2012, CarToq.com has been providing incisive analysis and content in the auto segment. A consumer interactive platform, CarToq.com is a community of over 1.1 million car owners, enthusiasts, and experts.

Unlike other websites in the auto segment which also provide useful information to the consumers, CarToq is not a trading site. It is a high engagement social media platform for cars in India, with over 10 million people reached on Facebook every month.

The portal is now on an expansion drive and is in talks for VC funding. Nitin Srivastava, CEO, MWG (CarToq.com), speaks to BestMediaInfo.com on the portal’s growth plans as well as what differentiates it from other websites in the auto segment. Excerpts:

How different is CarToq from players like CarTrade, Gaadi.com?

CarToq, as the name suggests, was created to be a platform where car buyers could talk to car owners and experts and get advice. We felt that while media sites and car sites were providing a lot of information in terms of reviews, specs, pricing information, etc., there was one need of buyers that no one was addressing. When we are in the process of buying a car, apart from this research and taking test drives, we also do one more thing. We ask people in our network about the car, and especially from those who really know about cars, or those who already own the car we are planning to buy. This informal advice network is what we wanted to create online, and that’s the primary feature on CarToq.com. Unlike a forum like Team Bhp, which has enthusiasts and experts talking and sharing information with each other, this is a platform for people who don’t know much about cars, but can ask their queries from experts. We made Q&A the core feature of the site, and then added news, features, expert reviews and research tools to ensure the buyers get all the information on the site.

How do you create this differentiation for the users?

We are not a transaction site, nor do we have used car listings or sales. We are focused on research and advice, and unlike other sites, our advice is through a real-time, interactive platform. Users log in to ask a question and within a short time, somebody from within the CarToq community answers the question. We have a rigorous reputation system on the platform, where each answer gets a quality vote from the user as a Like, and if the user wants to express a stronger satisfaction with the answer, then he or she clicks the Thanks button. Members who answer questions accumulate likes and thanks, and based on their cumulative scores, they move up the expertise level defined on the platform. The expert levels start from newbie, and go through 12 levels to reach the highest badge of Car Guru. Enthusiasts and experts are thus recognised strongly on the site for their efforts in advising owners and buyers with their queries. It is this community-driven advice that defines CarToq uniquely compared to any other auto site in India.

And that is why we have grown so fast, becoming the No. 2 media site in auto, with over 1.5 million monthly visits, and with a reach of over 10 million people on Facebook every month. In terms of engagement also, we are the No. 1 brand in the market – both among transactional and media sites in auto in India, as mentioned in a report by Economic Times.

We haven’t seen any communication campaigns from CarToq so far, why is that so?

We have built a platform that is driven by content and consumer interaction. CarToq has registered phenomenal growth rate both in website traffic and conversation on social media platform. The sustained growth rate and interactivity did not create a necessity of building a communication campaign. To car lovers and enthusiasts, the platform is known. Also, CarToq is not a transactional site, which requires a big advertising push to get users.

Having said that, we do very focused ad campaigns on Facebook, which drives our inorganic user growth. On Facebook, if you have some interest in cars, you would have definitely come across CarToq campaigns – organic and inorganic. Every month, over 10 million people see our content and campaigns on Facebook.

Will we see some communication campaign from CarToq anytime soon?

We are on an expansion mode. Yes, in the days to come, we will be rolling out a communication campaign, though it will be more in the online space than traditional print or TVC. We will stay focused on online campaigns, and Facebook will continue to be our primary campaign medium. We are expecting to double our monthly audience reach on Facebook to 20 million people in the next six months.

What is your business model?

We are on track to be the #1 media site in the auto segment in the next three months. With leadership in place among media sites, and on Facebook, we will be expanding our reach through mobile app for advice, and taking it to social media channels, including Twitter, Whatsapp and FM radio as well. We will also be expanding our content and advice for used cars in the coming months, leveraging our community and social reach to create high-quality content through our users.

We will then be leveraging this high-quality engagement with our large audiences and deliver a range of solutions for auto brands and related lifestyle brands, including cost-effective, targeted reach through native advertising, and qualified leads through better data about our engaged users.

What are your revenue streams?

We currently are monetised through AdSense, and we will soon be rolling out native advertising solutions (sponsored content) for brands looking for targeted reach and engaged users. Over the next six months, we will add lead generation solutions for auto brands as well.

There have been media reports on CarToq involved in talks with VCs to raise around $5 million. Could you tell us more about it? Have the talks been finalised?

Yes, we are in talks with investors across the board. As I mentioned earlier, we are in an expansion mode now to take CarToq to the next level. Additional funds will be utilised for expanding the product platform, and for expanding our sales and marketing operations. Investors are excited by the auto space, and given our high-engagement and social media strength, we are seeing a lot of traction in our discussions.

Info@bestmediainfo.com

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