Digital solutions to drive the future of dealership management: Tekion chief

Jay Vijayan, former Chief Information Officer, Tesla, is a man on the move. The entrepreneur, who hails from Chennai and is based out of California, is keen to position his six-year-old SaaS-based dealership management system (DMS) start-up Tekion as a global brand.
Digital solutions to drive the future of dealership management: Tekion chief

Chennai: With three offices in the US and a small team in Canada, Tekion’s priority is to crack the European market comprising France, Germany and other States. In India, its regional presence in Bengaluru is “consistently growing,” with a head count of 850-plus people. But Vijayan is bullish on Chennai, where it recently set up its second technical centre. “We would like to double our workforce in Chennai from the current 220-plus staff level in a year or so,” he says.

Giving a consumer perspective of the American automotive industry for which his product portfolio has been primed , Vijayan says it is the largest business after realty in the US, pegged at $1 trillion, or 4% of America’s GDP. Seeking to transform and build solutions for an industry that has not really seen disruption for over 50 years, Vijayan says, people “consume” automobiles in three ways – vehicle buying (likened to shopping), servicing and engagement (customer relationship management). “Unlike products like smartphones or premium watches, shopping online for automobiles has not generated a good experience. The price haggling and the hassle of documentation lead to friction in the process,” he tells DT Next. Apart from transparency and trust issues, there is also no direct engagement with customers from a dealer’s side when it comes to online sales, laments Vijayan.

Operational bottlenecks have been a mainstay of the DMS ecosystem for a long time now. The use of multiple applications (ranging from 30 to 100) and duplication of data has hit the automotive business to such an extent that customer retention is at an all-time low. With the automotive ecosystem changing rapidly due to the advent of electric vehicles, there is a need for the industry to resolve problems. Armed with the digital experience at Tesla, where he spent four years prior to his entrepreneurial plunge in 2016, Vijayan says, the integrated singular cloud platform for manufacturers that Tekion offers was a labour of love.

Vijayan says even Microsoft and Salesforce were unable to succeed in a space that had massive entry barriers like the complex environment of integration with OEMs. “Our strategy paid off with GM, BMW, Nissan Renault, Mitsubishi and Hyundai coming on board as investors while Storm Ventures made its first tech investment with us,” he says. He adds that Tekion has now crossed the $3.5 billion valuation mark, taking the total fundraising to $500 million.

He is quick to point out that he is still the single-largest shareholder in the company with the brand deriving unicorn status four years after inception and tripling its value in 2021. “Our business continues to grow substantially. Our year on year growth in the last two years has been 250 to 300 per cent.”

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