Carsales’ Ajay Bhatia has stepped down as chief executive of the Melbourne-based organization he has been part of for 13 years. Bhatia, who joined Carsales in 2008 as chief product and information officer, became general manager of consumer affairs in 2017 and in December 2019 was named local general manager.
Bhatia’s journey into medicine began as a technologist, rather than a more traditional path like sales or finance.
Bhatia is heading to Germany to join the Adevinta Group as CEO of online vehicle seller mobile.de. He replaces the interim CEO of mobile.de, Patricia Lobinger. Bhatia says her goal at mobile.de will be to ensure the team is motivated and focused to bring customer, consumer and business innovation to the German market. The team, according to Bhatia, has already built up an excellent market position for the company with 1.5 million cars currently on sale and 16 million unique visitors to the website.
In an interview with CIO Australia, Bhatia says he has “absolutely given his all” to Carsales and now is the time to move on. “I’m even more excited to take on new challenges and the family are thrilled to be in a new part of the world. I’ll miss Carsales, I’ll miss my friends and I’ll miss anything Australian,” says- he.
Achievements of Ajay Bhatia in Carsales
Bhatia has played a crucial role in the success of Australian e-commerce. In 2017, he was promoted to General Manager of Carsales’ consumer business after spending several years driving the organization’s technology strategy. He has spent the last two years at the top following the organization’s breakthrough into global markets in countries like Argentina, Colombia and Chile.
Bhatia tells CIO Australia that 13 years in a company is a long time to single out his greatest success, but says what he is most proud of is the team that has been built at Carsales.
“This team has helped me dramatically accelerate the growth of the Australian business, delivering great returns for our investors. And it was this team that built a platform for success. We have the world’s best automotive product online for dealers and consumers and promoter net score [NPS] of these products is world class,” he says.
During his tenure, Bhatia and his team created a search engine, RyvusIQ, which allows consumers to advertise, sell and buy new and used cars online. In 2014, the Brazilian company WebMotors announced that they were using this engine to drive their website.
In November 2016, the organization held a hackathon that resulted in what it claimed was a world first in image recognition software. Dubbed Cyclops, the software automatically selects and assigns angles to each image uploaded by photographers directly to the Carsales platform to better showcase aspects of vehicles for sale. An artificial intelligence feedback mechanism helps software learn from mistakes to improve performance over time.
At the start of 2020, Bhatia led Carsales through a period when its inventory grew as uncertain customers held back vehicle purchases due to the economic impact of the pandemic. At the time, the company temporarily laid off 250 employees and cut executive pay as vehicle inquiries on the site dropped significantly.
Ajay Bhatia shares lessons from his career
Bhatia admits one of her missteps occurred earlier in her career as a less experienced executive attending board meetings and trying to sell to members around the table. “Once I started sitting on a few boards I realized how bad it was to be sold. Now my approach is very different and I wish I had learned that more early,” he said.
Bhatia is co-chair of the Australia-India Chamber of Commerce in Victoria and a non-executive director of Placie, Myeloma Australia, RedBook Inspect, Tyresales, Stratton Finance, Assembly Payments and iCar Asia.
“There are many other examples where, at first, my perspective was more limited and I struggled to make decisions that took a holistic perspective,” adds Bhatia. “Now, having managed almost every part of the Carsales business, including technology functions, I am much better equipped to see all sides of the fence.”