Interviewed in the latest installment of the Shiny New Object Podcast by Automated Creative’s Tom Ollerton is Manisha Seewal, group chief marketing officer at Carro - South East Asia’s largest automotive marketplace. Here are five things Ollerton found out as a result of the conversation.
Behavioural trends translate
This year, Carro launched the ‘Netflix of cars’. Rather than owning a car outright, people can pay a subscription - the first model of its kind in the region. Seewal says the inspiration for this came from understanding behaviours that were happening in other industries - her team saw that millennials in particular were less obsessed with the sense of ownership than previous generations, in all aspects of their lives. From this came the idea for Carro’s new subscription-focused offering which has been very successful - four thousand people on its waitlist and 200 cars on the road in just a few months.
There’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty
The automotive buying and selling industry in SE Asia is a pretty different place to what we’re used to in the Western world. The government in Singapore, for example, goes to extreme measures to keep the roads clear, one of which is that cars are hugely expensive to buy. A standard Toyota in Singapore would cost more than a top class BMW in the US. As such, people rarely buy one car - let alone ten. But this was exactly what Seewal did - she believed that to truly understand the market she was working in, she had to go through the car buying process, again and again. It was worth it, she says - without this first-hand experience, her passion for making things better in the automotive industry would not be the same.
Don’t neglect the real world
Seewal points out that for customers who use Carro, half the journey happens on digital but the other half is offline. She has to make sure the customer experience is delivered all the way to the end, so while it is a technology business, it’s also about real people and relationships too. It’s a challenge to keep this consistent - particularly in the fragmented market of SE Asia - but it’s important not to neglect the offline experience or the value it has for customers.
Learn to say no
Seewal believes that time is the most valuable currency we have right now and the way we spend it will define our future. She said she’s now better at saying no which means she has more time for herself. It’s still a pretty intense working life - being at the helm of a startup is never an easy task - but Seewal feels she has that all-important balance. While spending time on other people is important, particularly if it’s a team you’re trying to motivate - it’s also crucial to make time for yourself.
Seewal talks about how more women are needed in the automotive industry. It’s heavily male-dominated, but she says that women with a passion for cars and technology shouldn’t be afraid to get stuck in as it’s an exciting and rewarding place to be. There are a few qualities that are useful to succeed though - one of which she describes through an anecdote of her job interview at Carro, where her boss described her as a good candidate due to the fact she was ‘rugged’. She said she was offended at first, but came to realise that despite perhaps not considering herself as rugged (particularly in a dress and high heels), what he meant was that she had a personal quality that allowed her to take on the real world with a smile on her face. So, she says - don't let gender hold you back. Just be ready to embrace the unexpected scenarios that the world might throw your way.
The next issue of The Drum magazine will focus on the future of the automotive industry, and is guest-edited by motoring journalists and broadcasters James May and Richard Hammond. You can subscribe to The Drum magazine here. You can listen to Ollerton's conversation with Mansiha Seewal in full below.