Exclusive Interview with Erwin Sikma, Co-Founder and MD of Carmudi

Erwin Sikma, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Carmudi, sits down with Vmag for an exclusive interview.

While at Rocket Internet, Carmudi’s incubator, Erwin founded 12 classifieds ventures in Asia. Known for his passion for cars and entrepreneurship, he has scaled up Carmudi’s operations into 18 countries within a short span of 6 months.

Before making the decision to become an entrepreneur at Rocket Internet, Erwin was a strategic adviser with McKinsey & Company serving large corporations and institutions across the U.S., Russia, China, Middle East and Europe. Previously, he had been responsible for Sales and Marketing for Heineken in Sierra Leone and supported Kempen Capital Management on topics such as currency hedging.

Erwin was born and raised in the Netherlands. He holds a Master’s degree with distinction in Financial Engineering. Erwin is very interested in discovering different cultures and exploring nature and architecture. He is an active outdoor person and is regularly participating in sport events like iron distance Triathlons. He is passionate about bringing top notch online services to emerging markets and providing the transparency and security that people deserve.

Would you explain to our readers what exactly Carmudi is?
Carmudi is the online marketplace for vehicles in emerging markets across the globe. Professional dealers and individuals buy and sell cars, motorcycles, trucks etc. through our online platform. Carmudi stands for quality and has a state of the art website and mobile application to make it very easy for people to use. Carmudi has a strong and experienced team that supports its professional clients and guarantees the quality of the platform and the content available.

Carmudi is currently live in 18 countries and growing its presence quickly. Carmudi is also expanding its offering in several cities across the largest countries in the world. Carmudi launched officially in Pakistan beginning of 2014 and is already the best online marketplace of the country with presence in more than 5 cities across the nation.

Why the name Carmudi?
The name sticks and it is related to cars. It is also a name that is universal so it can be used in all the countries we are present. We believe that a global company needs to have a global name, like all big brands have to distinguish its uniqueness and develop a more personalized association between us and our clients.

Why did you choose to launch Carmudi in Pakistan?
Pakistan is a high potential market in terms of GDP, population, internet penetration, adaption and growth. The country is however already ready for online services and adapting it at a rapid pace. New investments in mobile internet will accelerate the shift from offline to online. We are here to provide this high quality service to all Pakistani’s.

How has the response been from the Pakistani market?
Extremely good. We have signed up more than 80% of all professional dealers in all cities in Pakistan and they receive many phone calls and emails through our platform. Our mobile application is very well received in the market. We are now even investing more, so all Pakistani’s know that Carmudi is the place to go to for buying or selling vehicles.

Where would you rank Pakistan in terms of potential from the rest of your areas?
In the Carmudi sphere it is on the top of the other countries. It is a huge market, the people are very open for online services and we see a huge demand for our products. We also get very good responses from the market. So we are confident that Pakistan is one of our best markets.

What makes Carmudi stand out from other similar websites?
Quality and the Carmudi Standard. We are very strict on quality information, strong diversity of inventory, no-fraud, up-to-date listings and have a very strong and capable team that supports professional dealers in selling their vehicles. On top we are a German based company backed by internet specialists from Rocket Internet. We have shown that we are the player to beat in each of our 18 markets.

What are your future plans for Carmudi in Pakistan? Anything interesting coming soon that we should know about?
There is a very interesting product development coming up very soon. Furthermore you will hear more about us very soon.

Doing business in Pakistan can at times be frustrating, have you had any problems?
Sure, we are a start-up and trying to build a business in an emerging country like Pakistan. We have tons of issues each day, but we are entrepreneurs and have issues for breakfast. We don’t look at problems, we look at opportunities. And that is why we grow faster than most other businesses. We take risks and get going.

From your experience here in Pakistan, is there anything that really stands out in your memory?
On the business side it is the quality and drive of the people we have in our teams. Very smart and motivated people that want to make our business big and learn useful skills in the meantime.

Besides I have visited Lahore and Karachi and loved the cultural heritage and vibe in both cities. I especially loved the Fort, Kings Mosque and of course the Pakistani food!

During your recent visit to Pakistan, did you find it different from how foreign media portrays the country? If so, would you care to elaborate?
Pakistan is often in the news due to political or social unrest. Unfortunately this overshadows all the good things that happen in the country. I feel that the Pakistani’s are still very positive about their country and want to move forward. I am looking forward to more entrepreneurs that are going to support this development. We did a talk about this at LUMS and saw that the country is up for some very exciting new ventures.

What is your favourite Pakistani food? Was there a particular desi dish you really enjoyed during your trip or did you stick to more continental/fast food?
I really enjoy the Pakistani food. In my trip to Lahore, I visited a place called Andaaz and really loved the ‘kebabs’ and ‘gulab jamuns’ there!

We’ve been told you have a passion for cars, has this always been the case?
I love to move around and I love to explore the world. So having a car has always been a passion for me so I can get out of the city and explore new places and nature.

What car are you currently driving?
Unfortunately, I am mostly a passenger in either a plane or taxi as I am travelling a lot to grow Carmudi across the globe.

What is the greatest challenge you have faced as an entrepreneur?
The feeling that you can always do more! This is probably and instinct that every entrepreneur has.

What advice would you give to the aspiring youth of Pakistan?
Take a risk. Start your venture today and not tomorrow. Pakistan has so much potential and needs people like you to provide new products and services in revolutionary ways!

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