Making A Crack In The Window

Updated: Nov 15 2003, 05:30am hrs
Imagine this: Your cars windscreen breaks. You pick up a phone and dial a toll-free number. Trained mechanics pick up your vehicle and deliver it back in an average of three hours. They get in touch with your insurance company and everything is taken care of; no cash transactions. This concept has been developed by a relatively small company: Shield Autoglass Ltd (SAL) began this pioneering idea in 2000. While in western countries more than 90 per cent of passenger car glass replacement is done by companies like SAL, in India even today such services are majorly taken care of by the unorganised sector.

Three years ago, SAL, which serves under the brand Windshield Experts, conducted a market test to find the service gap. With two major investors in the business PSC Glass of Tokyo and Allied FinCap Services chief operating officer Ratish Ramanujam is the man whose idea gave birth to a service that has battled the unorganised market.

Today, the company claims a marketshare of 35 per cent of glass replacement market for passenger cars in the national capital region (NCR) since its inception and has partnerships with all insurers including Tata AIG, Iffco-Tokyo, Royal Sundaram, Oriental and New India. With eight service centres spread across the NCR and Punjab currently, the network is set to increase to 25 by the end of this fiscal, that too, across the country, and 50 by the end of the next.

Windshield glass breakage is a distressing thing. Not like other damage to cars. This service makes it relatively painless. All it takes is one phonecall, and chances are the insurer who has insured your car will be one of our partners, says Mr Ramanujam who is armed with an engineering degree and an MBA.

Whats more The company is now eyeing the Middle East to offer its services there as well market research has shown that there could be a service gap there too.

We have a customer satisfaction rate of 95 per cent as opposed to the industry standard of about 58 per cent according to an NFO study. Our challenge now is to maintain this service, and we have brought in audit firms to help us do so, Mr Ramanujam says.

SAL keeps low inventories, backed by a logistical buying network it buys its glass from Asahi India, and imports windshield glass from the UK and Japan for imported cars, therefore making available replacement for all passenger automobiles.

As the companys network increases, with both owned centres as well as through franchisees, the service will be plied on highways and interstates as well. Partnerships with car makers themselves is a possibility soon, says Mr Ramanujam.

We are in talks with the Delhi Police to create awareness about the difference between laminated and tempered glass. While the former is shatter-proof and a standard with OEMs, the unorganised replacement market comprises majorly of tempered glass that shatters on impact, says Mr Ramanujam.

Almost 40 per cent of SALs business is from recommendations of previous customers. The company, which is targeting a turnover of Rs 50 crore in four years is also looking at getting into replacement of plastic parts and bumpers of cars as an additional service in the next few years.

Meanwhile being the first and only player in the organised segment, with an ambition to spread to south including Bangalore, Chennai and Kochi within the year, as also Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Pune, a global service has been decisively brought home.