Singapore: Carro raises $12m to drive growth of car loan unit Genie Financial

Visual from Carro Facebook page.

Online transactional automotive marketplace Carro has closed a $12 million investment whose proceeds will go towards its car loan financing platform, Genie Financial Services, a hire-purchase provider offering rapid automotive loan approvals and artificial intelligence (AI) based chatbots to customers.

The round was led by an undisclosed investor, though existing investors Venturra Capital, Alpha JWC, and Singtel Innov8 participated in the round. 

This car financing scheme is being offered through Genie Financial Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Carro helmed by Helen Neo.

According to media reports, proceeds from the investment will be used to fund Genie, in addition to being split between its markets in Southeast Asia – Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.

Carro reports that via algorithmic mechanisms which underly credit underwriting and customer service, Genie can accurately reprice and compute a loan to suit the risk profile of the individual and offers an artificial intelligence (AI) based chatbot service.

Genie Finance is available on iOS and Android platforms and offers consumers 24/7 support for retrieving information about auto financing or re- financing packages provided by Genie and partner banks.

According to a media release, the genesis of Genie stemmed from a recognition that accessing automotive financing could be complicated, resulting in Carro establishing a team to develop an integrated solution for customers that became Genie. Genie doesn’t just redirect consumers to the banks for loans – the firm underwrites the loan themselves. This control of the user experience allows the firm to better innovate and provide for a speedy loan approval process.

When asked about partner banks, Aaron Tan, CEO and founder of Carro, told this portal: “We partner with most of the large banks in Singapore and Indonesia.” However, he declined to specifically name the banks. 

In an official statement, Tan explained: “We want to do our part in making auto financing more efficient and accessible. Unlike other major automotive markets such as China and the United States, a larger proportion of consumers tend to take financing in Southeast Asia”.

This difference renders the automotive financing market in Southeast Asia more attractive than larger counterparts. Carro said that it had facilitated transactions in excess of $50 million worth of cars in 2016.

Asked about its growth strategy and entry into the financial space, Tan told  DEALSTREETASIA in an email exchange: “Currently we are laser-focused in cars, with no plans on entering other financing segments. We have achieved over $100M worth of transactions to date and plan on transacting over $500M worth of cars before the end of the year.”

When asked about possible plans for entering the insurance space, Tan added: “In the insurance space, we would prefer to partner in the foreseeable future.” 

Tan further said that M&A was a possibility for its growth strategy, being a “path to grow and bring aggressive, talented people on board the team” and that it had not immediate plans to enter developed economies like Australia and Japan, though it was “…definitely doing more work in other developed markets and not just in the developing markets.”

When asked about Carro’s exit strategy, Tan remarked: “I think we look as Carro as a solid ecosystem business. While we can’t rule out an IPO or an M&A. We prefer to continue executing and building a really solid company and worry about a potential buyout when it comes.”

Commenting on current inefficiencies he perceived in the venture ecosystem, given his background with Singtel Innov8, he said: “I think our ecosystem lacks good solid engineers (who are interested in core engineering stuff) and folks who have been there done that. I think for an ecosystem to be vibrant we need a generation of change.”

“A generation of entrepreneurs who have successfully exited and come back to contribute and be part of the ecosystem again would be required for us to improve our existing inefficiencies further. I also think there is a serious lack of capital in between Series A and B stages which could be further looked into,” he added. 

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.