Narain Karthikeyan Shifts Gears to an AI-Powered Venture

AI and ML have the potential to impact the automotive e-commerce industry by enabling more personalised shopping experiences for consumers: Karthikeyan
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Narain Karthikeyan, who scripted history as the first Indian to compete in Formula One, is now making a mark in the realm of entrepreneurship. “Motor Racing is a team sport, and Formula One is a very complex business,” said Karthikeyan in an exclusive interview with Analytics India Magazine, discussing how he shifted gears from motor racing to entrepreneurship.

Dubbed as ‘the Fastest Indian in the World’ by Autosport magazine, Karthikeyan demonstrated his versatility by competing in various other racing series such as Le Mans Series, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, and Super Formula championship.

From F1 to entrepreneurship 

Born to a business family in Coimbatore, Karthikeyan’s entrepreneurship journey began when he co-founded Leap Green Energy, a renewable energy startup in 2006. However, the journey really took off when he co-founded DriveX, an end-to-end affordable mobility platform in 2020.  

“It is all about cutting-edge technology, agility, and innovation. I can relate very closely to what I am doing in terms of our digital platform. The experiences that I’ve managed to accumulate over the years by racing in Formula One and other racing series and by working with several OEMs across the country, have helped me a great deal. I think the connection with the automobile ecosystem definitely fuelled my ambitions,” he said.

Karthikeyan, along with his childhood buddy Christopher Sargunam, 

identified that the Indian mobility is dominated by two-wheelers, and the annual volume of two-wheelers transacted in the county is over 20 million. However, the pre-owned two-wheeler market is extremely unorganised, with organised players making up less than 1% of the market. Thus, DriveX was born.

DriveX

Funded by TVS Motor, DriveX is an end-to-end affordable mobility platform. The company started as a two-wheeler subscription platform, providing affordable and flexible mobility solutions, and has since expanded to five cities in a short span of time. 

“Chris and I are childhood friends. Our common points of conversation have always been about racing and business/technology. One such meeting during the COVID lockdown ignited the spark of the idea when we shared the need for affordable mobility in the country and how technology could play a role in bridging the gap,” said Karthikeyan.

The founders of the startup, drawing upon their extensive experience in the automotive, technology, and BFSI industries, set out to create a revolutionary platform that addresses the specific needs of the affordable mobility sector in India. Their decades of expertise in these fields allowed them to form the company and develop this innovative solution.

“DriveX is a fully-integrated model present across the pre-owned two-wheeler vehicle value chain, covering all core areas such as the procurement, refurbishment, and retailing of multi-brand vehicles. 

“We would like to be the forerunners in bringing scalable technology solutions to the pre-owned industry to create an inclusive, transparent ecosystem for all stakeholders. The vision for DriveX is to be the largest pre-owned vehicle platform in the world,” Karthikeyan beamed.

The power of AI/ML

Today, in the changing technological landscape, it is pivotal for a startup to be technology-first to stay competitive and relevant in the market. Today, startups across multiple domains are levaring the power of AI/ML and big data to scale.

“We believe AI and ML have the potential to significantly impact the automotive e-commerce industry by enabling more personalised and efficient shopping experiences for consumers. DriveX uses ML algorithms to personalise the shopping experience for individual consumers,” he said.

Explaining further, Karthikeyan said that this is done by personalising the product listings and recommendations on the DriveX platform based on every customer’s unique preference, past interactions, etc. “This type of personalisation helps improve customer experience by providing more relevant recommendations and reducing the time and effort required in the product discovery phase,” he elaborated.

DriveX is also working on leveraging the potential of AI and ML to optimise the pricing and availability of products in real time. “For example, machine learning algorithms could be used to analyse data about consumer demand, availability, market pricing, and other such factors to determine the optimal price for a product. This kind of optimisation helps improve the efficiency of the platform,” he said.

Overall, Karthikeyan believes that the use of AI and ML in the automotive e-commerce industry has the potential to bring about significant benefits. “However, as a responsible organisation, we are also extremely cautious about potential ethical and privacy concerns, as these technologies continue to develop,” he concluded.

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Pritam Bordoloi
I have a keen interest in creative writing and artificial intelligence. As a journalist, I deep dive into the world of technology and analyse how it’s restructuring business models and reshaping society.

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