AutoeBid: Amin Saleem
Amin Saleem explains how his online car auction business has steered its way to success
Many budding entrepreneurs who come up with an idea for a brand new kind of business see their dreams dashed, sometimes through lack of finance and interest or through their own poor planning and application.
Amin Saleem falls into the select band of UK entrepreneurs whose sparks of inspiration not only proved to be viable, but also highly successful. Saleem is the founder of AutoeBid, an online car auction business.
Customers looking for their ideal vehicle enter their specifications onto the site, along with the maximum price they would be prepared to pay. They then sit back as a national network of car dealers take part in a reserve auction, competing against each other to offer the lowest price possible to the customer. Savings of over 20 per cent on cars are not uncommon.
In return for this service, Saleem chargers users one per cent of the purchase price or £250, whichever is the greater amount. With over 10,000 signed-up users and widespread coverage in the national press, it’s no wonder that AutoeBid has proved to be a stunning success.
“I am still the only company offering my service in my market, and the market is large,” Saleem explains. “New car sales were 2.5 million in the year I started. It was obvious that consumers were using the internet more and more to research their purchases.
“Many of those consumers did not like the ‘sales environment’ created by large dealerships. Consumers wanted an alternative to pushy salesmen as well as wanting the best possible cost saving.”
Saleem came up with the idea of an online car auction during his previous job, but felt confident that going it alone would prove fruitful.
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“I had the concept when I was working for a large IT services organisation in 1998,” he says. “I presented a white paper on the concept to my employers, it was received very well however the company was then bought out by another and all plans were shelved.
“I then felt I should try to do it myself. It took a few years of research and development before I left my job to start this up full time.”
Faced by the usual problems when starting up, such as a lack of funding, Saleem also had to contend with the unique challenges presented by creating a whole new market. Fortunately, he managed to get the dealers on board, although he admits to some low moments.
“Keeping motivated to go on when times are difficult is very hard,” he says.
Saleem not only quit his job to start AutoeBid, he also sold his house to fund the venture. However, this gamble has paid off, with both customers and dealers finding advantages in trading cars online.
“Because consumers pay us a fee if we achieve their desired purchase price in a reverse auction, auction, suppliers end up selling cars at not cost to them at all,” he explains. “When you consider the average footfall for a new car dealership is £200, that’s £200 just to get a buyer into their showroom. It’s easy to see why we have so many suppliers.”
It’s clear that Saleem’s attitude helped him overcome his early difficulties, with the entrepreneur pointing out that the most successful men and women in business had to battle against adversity.
“When you start and run your own business, you can’t have any negative thoughts,” he explains. “Setting goals for your business and putting those goals into action is what will make you start living your dreams of being an entrepreneur.
“Whatever type of business you decide to start, you have to have a game plan. To be and entrepreneur you have to be willing to take chances.
“If you want that safety net that you have always had in your regular job, being an entrepreneur is the wrong thing for you. This business will be yours and you will have to deal with the ups and downs of the business instead of a boss – after all, you are the boss.”
AutoeBid is based at the START International centre at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, London. Amin Saleem says that of all the workplaces he visited, the START centre is the “most cosmetically pleasing and excellent value for money.”
For more information on START, go to www.start-centres.co.uk
I am still the only company offering my service in my market, and the market is large