Shift to BS-VI had significant impact on aftermarket service industry, here’s how – Times of India

It wasn’t very long ago when maintenance of our cars and bikes had become a problem when they sat in the parking for months. This was during the lockdowns brought on by the pandemic. One way out of this situation was vehicle service on the customers’ doorstep and so this section of the aftermarket vehicle service industry did go on to boom. Telling us more, we have Shishir Gandhi, Co-founder, GarageWorks, who also elaborated on the challenges faced as the automotive industry moved on to BS-VI technology for emission standards.
GarageWorks began operations in the pre-COVID era in 2017. How much did consumer preferences change due to the pandemic in terms of doorstep two-wheeler service and maintenance?
While doorstep service providers like GarageWorks have been operational since pre-covid times, doorstep two-wheeler services were majorly discovered during the pandemic as a lot of local mechanics were forced to shut shop and the customers had to come online in search of services/ garages nearby. GarageWorks website saw a 6X jump in monthly website visits post the first lockdown. The initial preference towards doorstep was due to hygiene factors, however, with the country returning to normal since March/April ’22 it’s become more about trust and convenience.
Do you think the increase in demand for aftermarket doorstep service is a temporary push due to the pandemic or is this a trend here to stay? What will keep the customer sticking with this method of servicing their two-wheeler?
As mentioned, doorstep is now more about convenience & trusted services. Consumers have realised doorstep service is the new normal. The convenience of availing a lot of other services at home which were not prevalent in the pre-covid era is a key factor. With the kind of consumer retention that we see, doorstep is here to stay and permanent. All we need to focus on is service quality and customer engagement.
The automobile industry shifted to BS-VI emissions norms in April 2020. How has this affected the aftermarket service industry?
Shifting to BS-VI has had a significant impact on the ‘independent’ aftermarket industry. Roadside mechanics who mostly learned handling the latest models with trial & error mechanisms are now more sceptical when it comes to doing trial & error in BS VI. They are more open to exploring upskilling opportunities on how to handle BS-VI which wasn’t the case in 2017 when India switched from BS-III to BS-IV (as technology shift was not that significant).
This inability to handle BS-VI also worries a lot of OEMs as they understand that the majority of the owners stop visiting the dealer workshops post the free servicing/warranty coverage period. Any inappropriate handling by a local mechanic impacts the brand’s image indirectly. Hence, a lot of initiatives are being taken by several stakeholders to ensure that the independent aftermarket is well-versed with handling BSVI.
Overall, BS-VI has led to a positive shift in the upliftment of the massive unorganized sector which the two-wheeler aftermarket is. Local mechanics have understood the importance of technology and are starting to accept that technology is not something they can sustain without eventually.
GarageWorks raised USD 1 million in a pre-series A investment round earlier this year. How are these funds being deployed? Is there a special focus on personnel training considering the changing dynamics in the two-wheeler market and the onset of electric two-wheelers?
Our focus on fund utilization is on technology, geographical expansion & service quality. With a presence in 5 cities and setup work-in-progress for 3 cities, we plan to provide doorstep services in 25 cities by the end of this year. In terms of service quality, we had our share of learnings around how relevant the existing skill development courses are for two-wheeler technicians.
We understood that the technicians completing these courses are more recruited as helpers or junior technicians with a starting pay of 6000-7000 rupees per month. We realised there is a need for something which is more relevant to the technicians in upskilling and helping them earn better incomes. So in partnership with Pratham, we introduced ‘Smart Technician’ certification which trains them to become a hands-on technician in 90 days.
What are the technology-led employability/sustainability challenges for the unorganised workforce? What can be done for a wholesome evolution of this industry?
The most basic challenge today for the unorganized workforce is to engage & communicate with the customers. There is a significant shift towards digital engagement and we are experiencing it across sectors. Not adopting technology creates the first miss in the customer experience – engagement. Every customer who drops their two-wheeler at a garage wants the mechanic to provide timely updates and build transparency through communication, and this is not possible without technology. We firmly believe in anyone who adopts technology for engagement will eventually pull the customers leading to sustainability issues for the others.

Second challenge is to keep oneself updated to the latest trends/ technology/ requirements. We have moved from 2-stroke to BSVI, but the independent aftermarket in the two-wheeler industry is still dominated by mom & pop shops operating on land parcels or footpaths.
Today, including all variants, there are approximately 109 different two-wheeler models in the market. This wasn’t the situation a few years ago. How many models is a mechanic / garage going to be well-versed with? With EVs this will be further compounded. Without the help of technology how is he going to remember the different parts that apply to different models ? Adopting technology would help them access free video content that could help them upgrade their skills.
As said earlier, the ‘independent’ aftermarket is starting to accept that technology is not something they can sustain without eventually. At GarageWorks we are quite focused on leveraging technology to disrupt the aftermarket. More than discovery, our focus is on how technology can enable a superior customer experience in terms of convenience, transparency and quality. Our mantra is ‘Every two-wheeler owner needs to visit a garage for repair, maintenance or some aspect of vehicle management. The one who gives a better experience will win the customer and technology has a pivotal role to play

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