Dialogue: Sunil Sarfraz Munj
PakWheels.com has emerged as a one-stop website for everything related to automobiles. Chairman Sunil Sarfraz Munj talks to Slogan in this exclusive interview.
What role has PakWheels played in the Pakistani auto sector?
Before PakWheels, buyers and sellers used newspapers, car bazaars or dealers to buy and sell their cars, which was an utterly time consuming and cumbersome process. Now, with PakWheels.com, not only can buyers and sellers meet, but they can also conduct relevant research on their desired vehicle, get valuable info from reviews of a particular model, troubleshoot various car-related problems and engage with other like-minded car enthusiasts through our discussion forums.
Therefore, when it comes to changing industry dynamics, the manner in which buyers and sellers interact with each other as well as how potential buyers do research, PakWheels has been at the forefront of it all.
Which is the most popular car model on your website?
There is no one particular model, to be honest. There are different categories of vehicles with 2 or 3 immensely popular vehicles in each category. For example, in the small hatchback category, Suzuki Mehran, Daihatsu Mira, etc. are the most popular. In mid-size sedans, the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic are in high demand. Similarly, in the SUV segment, Toyota Prado and Toyota Land Cruiser garner a lot of attention whereas in the hybrid category, the Toyota Prius and Honda Vezel have managed to gain quite a bit of appeal.
What is expected in the auto policy for 2015-16?
My comments would be based on nothing but mere speculation and I believe speculation is not good for business. We take the automotive business very seriously so no comments on the upcoming auto policy and its draft. However, this I can assure you, that if you were to ask for a list of suggestions, it would be very long!
How successful are the PakWheels auto shows and what do they achieve?
The success of the PakWheels Auto Shows can be gauged from the fact that each year’s auto show turns out to be bigger than last year’s show, both in terms of number of cars displayed and the people who attend. This has all been made possible by the support and encouragement of the PakWheels community.
Does PakWheels support the import of used cars?
PakWheels has always been consumer-centric; hence, we believe that car imports create a competitive environment in the industry, which is good for both the industry and the consumers. Yet, we believe that it is necessary to provide local car manufacturers with the opportunity to improve their production and technological processes. This is something that the government can encourage leading to increased growth of the auto industry. Local auto manufacturers will also benefit from the innovations and new ideas that are generated as a result.
Where does the company see itself in the next 5 years?
According to some industry analysts, the internet population of Pakistan will increase from 30 million users currently to 100 million users in the next 5 years. With developments such as these, provided the auto industry and the economy continue their upward trend, we expect to see PakWheels cross the $1 billion valuation in the next 5 five years.
What is the status of PakWheels industry relations in the market?
The consumer has been the foremost for us from the very beginning; yet, that doesn’t mean that we take the industry for granted. PakWheels is well connected to all its stakeholders such as consumers, automakers, car dealers and even auto workshops. We are working in close collaboration with all of them so that we support products and services that are of value.
Was a service like PakWheels needed in the Pakistani market?
There are more than 3 million cars in Pakistan. Out of that figure, 0.7 to 0.8 million are traded each year. Some 40 to 50% of those cars have already been placed online The estimates are that they would all shift completely online in the next 5 years. This is because with the ever-increasing number of people currently online, there is an increase in the demand for easy accessibility to information related to cars as well as a process that facilitates the smooth buying and selling of cars. So yes, there was definitely a need for this kind of service, even back in 2003.
In what ways can PakWheels become even more useful for auto enthusiasts?
We have a motto, “Think Wheels, Think PakWheels.” This motto drives us to keep adding new and innovative products and services that are of interest to auto enthusiasts across the country. We currently have some projects lined up which are expected to drastically improve the user experience of PakWheels.com. We are also open to suggestions, hence, we regularly conduct surveys to find out what our users want and introduce new features based on their needs.