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Amit Jain of CarDekho: Mobility dreams

Amit Jain, co-founder and CEO of the CarDekho Group, on starting a business from a garage, how they hit upon the idea of creating a portal for cars, and his love for coding

Amit Jain, 47, leads, the online automobile marketplace that connects car buyers and sellers.
Amit Jain, 47, leads, the online automobile marketplace that connects car buyers and sellers. (Illustration by Priya Kuriyan)

Amit Jain’s world might revolve around cars but at heart, the co-founder and CEO of the CarDekho Group is a techie. “I’m a programmer by profession... Writing code is something I love and I still do it,” says Jain, 47, who leads, the online automobile marketplace that connects car buyers and sellers, while also offering content, reviews, comparisons and other services to help users pick their next set of wheels.

Founded in 2008, the CarDekho Group is one of the leading autotech and finance solution providers in India with more than 60 million monthly active users. Valued at around $1.2 billion (around 9,960 crore), the group now operates in many areas: insurance (InsuranceDekho), fintech (through digital lending platform Rupyy) and other automobile content portals (BikeDekho, ZigWheels and Powerdrift), and has a total workforce of 6,000 employees.

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CarDekho, which “drove into the unicorn club after a $250 million fundraise”, according to a 2021 Mint article, is backed by investors like Peak XV (formerly Sequoia), Hillhouse Capital, CapitalG, Ratan Tata Trust, LeapFrog, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank, among others. In FY23, the group recorded revenues of 2,331 crore, up 46% from FY22. The group expects to grow its revenue 60-70% in FY24 as well.

I met Jain recently at the CarDekho office in Gurugram, Haryana. Away from the noisy, yet lively, open office environment, we settle down in a conference room. During an hour-long conversation over tea, Jain recalls how this journey of becoming a serial entrepreneur and building a “billion-dollar company”— which is what he achieved— started from a garage.

Born in Jaipur, Jain was raised in a middle-class family with a focus on academics. After finishing his schooling in the city, he studied civil engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. “IIT Delhi is a great campus. You become street smart here. I became more confident and sociable. Your dreams become larger. In Jaipur, I was in a cocoon,” says Jain.

His first earnings came from teaching tuition classes to meet his expenses in Delhi, says Jain. After graduating in 1999, he started working with Tata Consultancy Services as a software engineer, which took him to Mumbai. A year later, he joined the American software company Trilogy, spending a year in Austin, Texas. “It was a very enterprising, entrepreneurial kind of a setup, where they would promote college students to build their own startups. I saw a different world there,” says Jain.

He slowly rose through the ranks at Trilogy, becoming a product manager and moving to Bengaluru after six years in the US, helping the company set up an office in the city. “My first startup within Trilogy was a service called,” Jain recalls. “We would read your postpaid mobile bill and tell you the right plan for you to save more money. I built, marketed and acquired customers for it. It was a full-stack startup made for the Indian market. But the CEO of Trilogy said I couldn’t spend on marketing. That’s how I learnt how to get organic traffic. That was a big learning curve.”

By 2006, Jain, along with his brother Anurag (also an IITian), decided to move back to Jaipur when their father was unwell. “There was no IT industry in Jaipur as such. That’s when we thought of starting our own company,” he explains. Together, they incorporated GirnarSoft, a software solutions and services outsourcing company. GirnarSoft today serves as the parent company to CarDekho and its other popular auto portals.

The brothers named their company after their family home “Girnar” and Microsoft. “Initially, we started our office inside a garage and hired many freshers who interned with us. No senior or experienced person would want to join a small setup. “Some of these ‘interns’ are still with CarDekho in different leadership roles,” Jain says.

By the end of 2007, Jain was at a crossroads. After just a year, GirnarSoft had done exceptionally well. “The company was profitable in the first year itself. We were sitting on a cash pile after the end of year one. But the outsourcing business was not going to get us to our goal of building a billion-dollar company. That’s when we thought we should build something that is product-led and online,” he adds.

It was around the same time that Jain and his brother visited the 2008 Auto Expo in Delhi and returned with a concept for their new venture, CarDekho. The idea was simple: use technology and the internet to provide the best-in-class car buying or selling experience to customers. Similar platforms existed, like CarTrade (2006) and CarWale (2003). Other players like Cars24 (2015) and Droom (2014) came along later.

“Both Anurag and I love cars. I think every middle-class person has this dream of buying a luxury car. I used to sit on Marine Drive (in Mumbai) and watch these luxury cars go past. Around the time of the Expo, we were also looking to buy our first car. We used the profit from our first year of GirnarSoft to buy a BMW 3 Series,” Jain says. “I researched a lot online (about the BMW). But there wasn’t much information available—even about some of the cars I saw at the expo and wanted to know more about. I went to multiple showrooms. After being involved in the buying process—and noticing how challenging it was for car buyers on the ground—we realised there was an opportunity here to create something.”

Using car brochures collected from the Auto Expo, Jain and Anurag set up a portal where people could find the right information and review cars before making the decision to buy. “We coded the site in a week’s time,” says Jain. “We slowly started getting traffic on the website: 50-100 people a day. We used to think if we even get just 25,000 users a day at some point, it will be a big number... Now, we do almost 100 million visits a month.”

You always need good talent... I am constantly on the lookout for more founder-level skillsets (in a person). It’s not easy to find hunger, flair and ownership in one person.

Once he started his entrepreneurial journey, Jain decided to go all in. Back in 2008, was not the only portal he and Anurag launched. The brothers started a website for astrology services ( since their grandfather was an astrologer, as well as an e-commerce site to take their father’s silver jewellery business online (

“We were still discovering what to do. Our DNA was generating free and organic traffic, utilising my SEO skills and keeping the customer acquisition cost at zero,” he says.

This knack of finding untapped spaces—or “white spaces”—spurred Jain and Anurag to start other portals as well: MobileDekho for gadgets and MyIndiaGuide for travel in 2009 and e-commerce site ShopDekho in 2010.

This entrepreneurial journey has not been without bumps along the road. As they continued to build CarDekho, some of the other businesses had to be closed or did not scale as expected—like the astrology and jewellery startups. “We didn’t want to pursue anything that couldn’t be scaled. Every business had its own problems and learnings,” says Jain. For instance, when was not doing as well as competitors like Flipkart, Jain decided to pivot and start PriceDekho, which was a portal for product price comparisons. Jain had also invested in futures and options.

Then, in 2008-09, their company almost went bankrupt because of the market recession. “That was a lesson... We created a site where a user could learn stock market trading in a virtual world with virtual money. It was called and it came from my own experience of losing money.” A more recent example of a bet that didn’t quite work out was CarDekho’s used car franchise retail business, which was discontinued in 2023. “I realised there were no profit pools in that business, so I shut it down.”

But CarDekho continues to grow. According to data from web analytics company SimilarWeb, it was one of the top 3 most visited vehicle websites in India for January. In December, it entered the personal mobility space by acquiring a majority stake in the shared mobility platform Revv, which offers shared car rental services. “Shared mobility is already growing in India. See the number of people who are leasing cars now, either through corporate leases or subscriptions. That is also growing,” says Jain.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are another segment that Jain and CarDekho have a keen eye on. “In a decade, you’ll see that the majority of new cars sold will be EVs,” he predicts. “Preferences are changing dramatically. They want technology over commodity now.”

Entrepreneurship remains close to Jain’s heart. He regularly posts motivational quotes on X and has been one of the “sharks”, or judges, on popular TV show Shark Tank India for the last two seasons. As some of his recent investment deals on the show highlight, it’s the person and not the business that often seals the deal for Jain. “You always need good talent... I am constantly on the lookout for more founder-level skillsets (in a person). It’s not easy to find hunger, flair and ownership in one person. Whenever I find someone like that ek aur business chaalu kar leta hun (I start another business),” he says, citing the example of Crack-Ed, an upskilling platform, which he started with Debojit Sen in 2022.

Away from work, Jain enjoys tennis, a sport he plays daily if he’s in Jaipur. He prefers spending time at home, with his wife and twin boys. “When we are not busy playing board games, I love teaching them mathematics.” Having grown up in a joint family, Jain makes it a point to meet his extended family regularly. “A joint-family setup teaches you a lot about collaboration, family values, culture, while staying happy. That has been a key part of my life.”

When he’s not in Jaipur, Jain catches up with his colleagues and team members at CarDekho. “Work hard, party harder. That’s something I believe in.”

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