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Barath Sundar: Convenient Alternative To Traditional Vehicle Maintenance Processes

MechMonkey provides a convenient alternative to traditional vehicle maintenance processes. Through the MechMonkey mobile application, customers can book, manage and track service appointments with local dealerships and garages.

Tell us about yourself?

I am originally from Chennai, India. I moved to Newfoundland back in 2018 to do my undergraduate in Business Administration at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

I was always fascinated by cars and wanted to own one asap. When I bought my first car (2013 Honda Civic) in 2019, I realized that maintaining a vehicle is more hectic than we think. And as an international student working part-time, I felt that I was spending too much money on repairs.

The first problem was finding an auto repair shop; few were expensive, few were affordable but had poor customer reviews on google. There was no platform where I could see auto repair shops near me, their pricing, availability, and previous customer satisfaction in one place.

So, I started doing the regular maintenance myself, such as Oil change. Eventually, I bought all the tools required for most of my car’s repairs. One fine day, my colleague approached me to ask if I could do his oil change so he’ll pay me. I took my tools to his driveway and offered the service.

That’s when MechMonkey was born, and I found a business model. When I started doing my car maintenance, I started liking it very much, so I started advertising on Facebook and Instagram that I’ll go to peoples’ driveways and offer mobile auto service.

I charged $25 labour for an oil change at the customers’ driveway. I did ten successful repairs, and my 11th customer was shooting me with questions like insurance? Certification? Is this a registered company? And so on. I stopped there, took a break, and came up with a change where certified independent mechanics will offer mobile auto repairs with the help of the MechMonkey mobile app.

It’s like an Uber driver using the Uber app to get orders. And there were a lot of hiccups on that as well. Insurance was the main thing. Insurance companies thought it was a high-risk business, so no one was ready to write a policy for us. MechMonkey v1.0 ended there.

Eventually, I worked on a business model with dealerships and garages involved (MechMonkey v2.0). With the help of the Genesis Incubator located at St. John’s, NL, I was fortunate enough to meet with an executive from an Automotive Group, which owns several dealerships in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I pitched him MechMonkey v2.0 and saw the traction. I understood that our platform solves not just customers’ problems but also dealerships’ problems. We continued working with Genesis, developed our tech, and successfully executed a pilot project agreement with Hickman Automotive Group last month. Ya, that’s how I got into this.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Don’t feel so bad to dump a bad idea for a good one.

What problem does your business solve?

Automotive vehicles are changing rapidly, yet the vehicle maintenance process has remained the same for more than a decade. Finding the right auto repair shop, booking an appointment for maintenance, and picking up the vehicle after the service is completed is quite a hassle.

One must either call or spend 5 minutes to fill out the online request and wait for someone to call and confirm the appointment. There is no platform where we could see the list of auto repair shops near us, their pricing, availability, and previous customer satisfaction in one place.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

My problem as a newcomer to a place and having issues servicing my vehicle inspired me the make this process convenient. We are solving the problem faced by the customers and the auto repair shops in the automotive repair industry.

What is your magic sauce?

We think the magic sauce is the two-sided marketplace model where our customers will have a broad list of dealerships and garages to choose from. This will enable our customers to decide based on essential factors like price, available appointment time and customer reviews.

And for auto repair shops, they can attract a new set of a customer base that they did not have access to, and we also solve the problems they face with their booking system. And most importantly, we are so blessed to be in the Newfoundland tech eco-System, where people are very supportive, especially for early-stage startups like us.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

In the next five years, we see MechMonkey as a platform that takes care of the whole vehicle buying and maintenance process. We want our customers to think about MechMonkey when they need help with their vehicle buying/selling/maintenance.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

The biggest challenge we had was how to build such an innovative system and platform without any funding for the company. I tried to save up as much as possible and borrowed some from my friend to finish developing the MVP. Now, the biggest challenge would be scaling this across NL and beyond.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

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