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Franco-British Business Awards: Fixter wins for car maintenance platform

Winner of the 2020 Franco-British Business Award for New Business, Fixter offers a solution for car owners and independent garages in a market previously untouched by digital transformation

From buying your groceries to ordering a taxi, it is hard to think of a sector of B2C activity that has not been swept up in the wave of e-commerce and digital automation – apart, that is, from car garages that millions of motorists rely on throughout the UK.

This was the starting point for Limvirak Chea, Fixter chief executive and co-founder, using the model of companies like Deliveroo and JustEat for a digital platform to simplify car maintenance from booking an MOT to changing your clutch.

‘The Hotel industry changed with Booking.com, the taxi industry changed with Uber and Gett. We want to do the same for drivers and mechanics,’ says Chea, an entrepreneur whose previous ventures have included Eventbrite and Streetlife, a neighbourhood social networking tool acquired by Nextdoor.

Founded in London in 2016, Fixter was developed by AXA’s start-up studio, Kamet, with €6m in Series A funding. Its end-to-end service includes routine car maintenance with upfront costs, and the pick-up and drop-off of vehicles in cities throughout the UK.

For local garage owners, Fixter offers a tool to streamline paperwork, while helping to keep garages operating at a hundred percent capacity in an industry where many struggle with day-to-day management.  

‘If you look at independent garages, they are small shops. They have to spend time ordering parts, doing invoices, doing quotes, when the only thing that they want to do is be great mechanics,’ says Chea, noting that the platform’s popularity with garage owners has led the team to begin development of SaaS workshop management software.

Chea also sought to break down the traditional barriers between car owners and local garages. According to his market research, 73 percent of car owners resent bringing their cars to the garage and 80 percent don’t believe what their mechanics are telling them – ‘basically there is a lack of trust.’

However, the real complexity of the project – and the reason Chea notes that the sector had been relatively untouched by digital transformation to this point – is the sourcing and pricing of parts. ‘Two people can own the same car, but they may not need the same parts because they may not have been produced in the same factory, or there is a chain supplier in the middle of the equation,’ says Chea.

It’s a problem that Fixter solves through automation as well as an in-house team of mechanics who directly negotiate prices with garages.

Chea credits the 25-person team around him with the success of the business – and offers this as advice to others. ‘Everybody has great ideas and there are lots of great new businesses,’ he says. ‘But what I think makes the difference is the team that you build around you and the passion you build around the problem you want to tackle.’

The approach saw the company weather the impact of the first lockdown, when many mechanics in April and May stayed away from their independent workshops citing health and safety concerns, even though they could remain open as essential businesses.

Now that the demand is coming back, he says, they have emerged stronger. ‘The service has never been more asked by our users, because people don’t want to move around anymore. E-commerce has really risen and the demand on our website has exploded in the last seven months.’

With a strong headwind, the start-up plans international expansion as its next move, with eyes set on the Continent. It’s a compelling offer for the growing cohort of customers who expect hassle-free solutions to their everyday needs.

 

Fixter was represented at the Franco-British Business Awards by Limvirak Chea, CEO & Co-Founder.

Looking back on the New Business Award

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