MechaniK TV: Skill development in the aftermarket auto repair industry one video at a time

'Since an overwhelming majority of vehicles in India still get serviced in the independent aftermarket, massive online reskilling of independent mechanics is going to be an unavoidable, mammoth task.'

By:September 6, 2021 11:30 AM
For representational purposes only

Own a car or a motorcycle? The obvious thing to do after a period of time or km driven is to get it serviced at a workshop authorised by the OEM the vehicle comes from. But even this rule of thumb recognised, a lot of people prefer to get their vehicles serviced or repaired at aftermarket repair shops that aren’t authorised by the OEM. You can’t force a vehicle owner into taking their vehicle to an authorised shop each time, but what can be done is to improve the aftermarket repair industry through skill development of the workforce. This is what MechaniK TV says it’s focussing on. So, we got in touch with Rajeev Radhakrishnan, Founder & CEO, MechaniK TV, to learn more about how it works and how can it benefit.

What is the concept behind MechaniK TV?

The independent auto-aftermarket has not been disrupted in over 30 years since liberalization in the ‘90s allowed foreign lubricant players to start operating in India again. But with the pandemic, the switch to BS6, the arrival of the EV era and the announcement of the scrappage policy, the aftermarket too is set to be disrupted in a big way. Since an overwhelming majority of vehicles in India still get serviced in the independent aftermarket, massive online reskilling of independent mechanics is going to be an unavoidable, mammoth task.

This is where we see MechaniK TV, India’s first and largest independent digital platform for automotive mechanics, coming in. Our Android application is a free-to-use, one-stop-shop for the automotive mechanic for technical knowledge, troubleshooting videos, industry news & insights, live webinars, new vehicle reviews and more!

On MechaniK TV a mechanic can find videos that are relevant to the latest BS6 two-wheelers, solutions to tricky problems in motorcycles and passenger cars, using modern diagnostic devices like OBD Scanners and other useful information that a mechanic can easily use in day-to-day operations at a workshop.

Today, MechaniK TV generates 15 original industry-relevant videos every week and to date has generated more than 5Lakh video views and 32000 viewing hours from the application. Content in MechaniK TV is currently in Hindi, Marathi, and Bengali.

The application is rated 4.4 on Google Play Store and has close to 50000 downloads.

What problems in the automotive repairs industry led to realisation and conceptualising of MechaniK TV?

There are some fundamental business challenges in the INR 45000 Cr per annum Indian independent automotive aftermarket that urgently needs solutions. These problems have existed for decades, even before the industry-wide impact of technology shifts caused by BS6 implementation, the imminent CAFE norms introduction or the electric vehicle era kick-in, or the policy shifts towards organized vehicle scrappage.

The independent auto-aftermarket comprises three major components- the mechanic, the spare parts retailer, and auto-aftermarket brands. T7E, the company that runs MechaniK TV, helps design tech-enabled marketing & engagement programs for auto-aftermarket brands that target mechanics and spare parts retailers. All three of them have their unique problems which persuaded us to conceptualize Mechanik TV. But it was obvious that the mechanic community was the lynchpin. If we can solve their challenges, it has the potential to improve the effectiveness of the entire aftermarket. Hence, we decided to focus on the mechanic community first.

The mechanic community works in an ergonomically unfriendly work environment. Their customers do not always trust their intentions or expertise. They face constant margin pressure, compelling them to look for ways to supplement their income. It is a challenge for them to regularly stay updated with the latest technology and typical issues across different manufacturers and ages of vehicles. Moreover, they need to significantly reskill themselves if they are to be ready for the EV era.

The market seems ripe for a solution like MechaniK TV, which helps mechanics reskill themselves, without having to exercise difficult choices between earning their keep for the day versus investing in the future.

What are the training programs that mechanics can benefit from? How can a mechanic access them and (if they are) how much are they charged for it?

MechaniK TV focuses more on mechanics working in the independent workshops, though we know that there are a few who work in franchised workshops too who follow our content.

Close to 70% of our users are two-wheeler mechanics. And most of the rest are car mechanics. About 80% of our users are either owner-mechanics or are the chief-mechanic in the workshop. So, our content is designed to cater to them.

For two-wheelers, most of our focus has been on BS6 technology, troubleshooting videos and relevant industry updates. For car mechanics, BS6 has not meant that big a shift because cars were already rather clean in terms of emissions.

We do not just focus on technical or business matters, though. We have a guest speakers’ session on Mondays that I host live, where we talk about different topics. The Mechanic can access all our content on the app and can get in touch with us through the app or through our WhatsApp business account. Currently, all the content, training and skill programmes are free of cost.

We are working on our first certification course for BS6 two-wheelers, which will be our first paid certification. While pricing has not been firmed up, our benchmark would be to keep the cost of our course close to a day’s earnings for these mechanics. But unlike in the case of conventional training programs where a mechanic must forego earnings for a day to get his learnings, in the case of MechaniK TV, we ensure they do not have to do that.

Also read: Emergence of multi-brand car service centres and future trends of automobile servicing in India

How can the automotive aftermarket assist the development of an electric vehicle ecosystem in India?

We see the aftermarket playing the role of a key enabler in EV penetration in India. An electric vehicle will come with its unique set of service and repair issues, and in this case, it may not only be with the vehicle. It could also be with the charger, for instance.

When a prospective 2-wheeler buyer knows that his neighbourhood workshop has the skills to diagnose the problem with an electric vehicle and repair the EV and its charging device, we believe that could be an inflection point.

Also, in urban areas, it is predicted that electric 2-wheelers are going to make an entry into a household as its second or third 2-wheeler, perhaps as a coming-of-age gift for a young adult in the family. In that scenario, advocacy by the mechanic community could also be a factor to consider while electric 2-wheeler manufacturers think through their awareness campaigns.

What is MechaniK TV’s status with regards to funding and its expansion plans?

We want to focus on making Mechanics familiar with the fundamentals of the latest technology, both on conventionally powered and electric vehicles, with an emphasis on practical applications and demonstrations.

Even though we have 35,000 mechanics registered with us, there is a long way to go. Our estimate is that there are about 8.5 lakh two-wheeler mechanics working in about 2.5 lakh garages across the country. We want to reach 35% of this audience in the next 2 years.

The fastest way for us to grow is to expand our content to other regional languages. Today, most of our content is in Hindi, with a few videos a week in Marathi and Bengali. We want to expand to all parts of the country.

Above all, we want to do everything possible to improve the quality of their work and life. In that sense, we have not drawn a line that we have said we will not cross or not do for our users. For example, we realised very early that mechanics are going to need on-board diagnostic (OBD) scanners to diagnose problems in BS6 bikes. So, we made available to our mechanics OBD Scanners at the best prices, and we sell a decent quantity of them every day!

We are raising capital to fund these growth efforts. If we get it right, the impact we will create is to make the life a mechanic easier and better. We would have helped them feel proud of the work they do for society. And, while our focus is on the mechanic community, the consumers in this space too should feel the impact of our work, which is very much part of our vision.

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