Vijayan, who was born and brought up in Chennai and who was the chief information officer of Tesla before he founded Tekion in 2016, says the idea of starting a company in the business ERP (enterprise resource planning) segment has its genesis in his days at Oracle. “While I was doing high technology stuff there and later at VMware, I always wondered why business applications had to be so complex and not simple and fun,” he says.
On the business application side, he says, systems have remained complex with minimum innovation. Implementations often take years, and another six months to train employees on it. But it is a world apart when it comes to the customer facing systems of, say, Flipkart and Amazon. “Do you hear from anybody that he took six months of training to shop or sell on Amazon? That is the kind of opportunity on the B2B side – to set up a platform through AI and ML to make it cooler.”
Tekion, headquartered in San Ramon in California, with major tech centres in Bengaluru and Chennai, brings together carmakers, dealers and customers on a single platform to offer a seamless solution for vehicle purchase and servicing.
A major part of the platform design, product management, and data crunching to enhance customer experience is done out of Bengaluru, which houses 300 engineers, and which has plans to add another 200 in the next one year. Chennai does all the technology related to IoT, connecting the car purchased with the platform, the dealership and the television. The last one also serves as a screen that keeps customers up to date when the vehicle has been taken for servicing.
Every part of the platform has something from Bengaluru, including product management, design, hardware and machine learning. This team focuses on two major areas – enhancing personalisation and recommendation when a buyer is looking to purchase a car on the platform, and gathering information about user behaviour and driving habits through proprietary data. “For example, based on the data we generate on the platform, the team in Bengaluru can say precisely that in the west coast of the USA, what type of cars or colours are preferred by buyers between 20-25 years of age. That helps dealers to store inventory and also for the manufacturer to distribute the stock,” says Vijayan.
Vijayan did his Master’s in science from the University of Madras. He initially dabbled with a computer education business in Chennai, and then moved to IT. His stint at Tesla, where he reported directly to CEO and chairman Elon Musk, helped him understand the auto industry. The industry, he says, is really fragmented and needs a technology overhaul to make a vehicle purchase a “pleasant one,” instead of having to rummage through forms and protocols at a dealer showroom.