SellAnyCar.com drives through online success

After 19 people showed up to kick the tires of Saygin Yalcin’s car over a period of six weeks and still refused to buy it, the serial entrepreneur decided something must be done. His answer: SellAnyCar.com.

He promises his new startup will buy absolutely any car, in any condition, guaranteed. Within thirty minutes.

It sounds almost magical, but the numbers speak for themselves. SellAnyCar.com delivered over 300,000 car valuations to consumers in the first eight months of operations. Its many inspection stations around the UAE see around 300 inspection appointments a day.

Yalcin backs up his claim by breaking down the process. “Getting an instant evaluation online takes around 15 seconds. Following this, the seller makes an appointment for a free car inspection at any of our nationwide branches. The inspection takes 20-25 minutes, with the last few minutes used in the offer process, making a contract and taking care of all paperwork.”

Payment is made instantly. “We pay you via a bank transfer. We have bank accounts in almost every major bank in the country, so we can transfer to your account very quickly.”

AN EFFICIENT PROCESS

The almost magical trick in fact has a well-thought-out business model behind it. Any car, Yalcin explains, is useable by some business or other. Even junk cars have worth as scrap. The trick is to identify all the uses a car could be put to and find reliable business partners in each category to supply to.

“We find the best distribution channels and sign contracts with them. So we already know what use we’re going to put any vehicle that comes to us. We make the offer accordingly.”

And the offer range is staggeringly diverse – from million dirham exotics to one dirham. “We buy any car – damaged, written off, brand new, exotic, sports. We don’t sell bad cars to consumers. We have business partners who use our car inventories and they specialize in every single use you can put a car to. So even if a car needs to be junked, we pass it on to our partners.”

Once explained, Yalcin’s model is genius in its simplicity. SellAnyCar.com acts as a distribution hub for cars. All of them are passed in bulk onto businesses that can use them, depending on category and condition. And that frees SellAnyCar.com to focus on its core business – inspecting cars.

“We know the car’s condition and what it’s worth – far better in many cases than the owner. We have an instant valuation database with millions of records. We developed this AI in-house. It knows the market value of any car in real time and is capable of learning,” Yalcin says.

The most Yalcin has paid for a car is AED 1.4 million (USD 380,952). The least – AED 1.00 (USD 0.27). But who’d want to sell their car at just a dirham?

“You’d be surprised. Many times, owners realize their cars are liabilities. It costs more to run the car than to sell it. So they come to us and we pay them the symbolic value of a dirham. We’re basically saving them money that they’d have to pay the municipality to dispose of their car,” he says.

A SERIAL ENTREPRENEUR

Yalcin is a serial entrepreneur with a number of online startups under the belt. Born and raised in Germany, the MBA graduate founded his first company in 2008: an online fashion brand that he sold on to the largest Russian online fashion store. Post that, he looked into members-only shopping clubs. Opportunity beckoned and he moved to Dubai in 2009 to set up Sukkur.com, which was successfully sold to Souq.com in 2012.

After handing over his managerial roles at Souq.com and Sukkur.com, Yalcin was ready to get hands on with new ideas again. SellAnyCar.com was set up using personal funds from previous successes.

SPEEDING TO VISIBILITY

sellanycar.comSellAnyCar.com has nine branches across the UAE. The company also has a partnership with Emarat Fasttrack, which sees SellAnyCar employees use the facilities to perform inspections.

The partnership is win-win, says Yalcin. “We get to be within easy reach of our customers. And Emarat gets traffic through their shops. We’re the number one car buyer in terms of traffic. We get up to 300 appointment requests for inspections a day. No one does that number in the automotive industry in the country, or regionally.”

BUMPY ROADS

The number one challenge for SellAnyCar was to gain consumer trust and become an established name. “Consumer trust leads to better conversion between inspection and sales. It takes a bit of time. But we’ve managed to become part of the top five used car dealers in the UAE within eight months of operation.”

Besides the technology challenges, and the artificial intelligence systems we had to build, SellAnyCar.com suffered growing pains common to most startups. “We exceeded the business plan multi-fold. And that comes with capacity needs that can’t be fulfilled instantly. We need to find the best people, in the time and budget available. [Around] 40% of my time is actually spent recruiting.”

UNCANNY MARKET KNOWLEDGE

Yalcin’s gigantic car database gives him savant-like information on the UAE’s car market. He trots figures out casually, apparently unaware of their value to anoraks.

“Our database shows the car market here is skewed towards new cars. The average age is 2007-2008. Less than 1.4% of cars are older than 15 years. The average value of cars in the UAE is almost double that of those in other countries,” he says.

Some tidbits are astounding. For instance, that 52% of cars imported into the UAE from the US and Canada have officially been classified as junk. “It’s not us saying that – they have a formal insurance certificate stating they’re write offs. They might have been in floods, accidents, what have you. We can track all that. We’ve had so many consumers finding out the truth here after they’ve been sold cars by friends and family,” he says.

DRIVING INTO THE FUTURE

Expansion plans are flowing thick and fast. The business is launching in Turkey, while getting ready to launch in a potential 150 locations across Saudi Arabia. Yalcin’s numerically inclined mind tosses out market facts. “Turkey is the largest car market in the MENA region. The number of cars sold last month in Istanbul alone matches the cars sold in the entire [Saudi Arabia].”

He says SellAnyCar.com is a long-term project for him. He’s not looking to exit anytime soon. “This is so much of an opportunity. We’re only just touching on phase one, i.e. building the sourcing channel and the car buying service. That alone will take years.”

As seen on Zawya Business Pulse. To see more, please click here