The customer base of Ritika Jatin Ahuja’s car business is almost entirely male. And yet, the COO of Big Boy Toyz (BBT) – an aptly named family-owned dealership that retails pre-owned and zero-kilometre luxury automobiles from Mercedes-Benz to Maserati – won’t give up coaxing the wives and daughters of her customers to take more interest in cars.
“Research says more and more women worldwide are making or vetoing decisions related to a family’s automobile purchase,” says the entrepreneur, who holds a degree in the interior designing of jets and yachts from the prestigious University of the Arts London. “And yet Indian women take the backseat in this matter.”
Ritika was passionate about both business and automobiles from a young age. Born as the only child in a business family based in Delhi, she began working at the age of 17 and was a natural ‘decision-maker’. After her graduation from UK and working for a while in Dubai, she returned to India to set up her own venture, Party Like a Millionaire, supplying party goods.
Years later, she met Jatin Ahuja, the son of a well-respected chartered accountant in Gurgaon.
“At our first date, Jatin offered to drop me home, but asked me to drive his car there. I found it strange at the time,” she reminisces. “It was only later that I realised he was taking my driving test!”
The couple got married and had a baby girl, Zaara, after which Ritika decided to join hands with Jatin in his new car dealership.
“He was always crazy about luxury cars,” she explains of the origins of their firm. “At one point, he was buying and selling so many Land Cruisers that he outsold the company’s own outlets.” Soon, Jatin realised that buyers often wanted to offload their previously owned luxury cars, and decided to offer them for resale. That’s how BBT came about in 2009.
The company quickly grew by word of mouth, and they began buying new cars in bulk directly from factories. “So we’re able to offer some models for almost 25 percent less than their retail price in the Indian market,” says Ritika, who is the recipient of two entrepreneurship awards and has travelled extensively around the world. Starting with a showroom in Delhi, BBT expanded to Gurgaon and Mumbai, and now also has its own service centre in Gurgaon.
At any time, Big Boy Toyz stocks up to 100 cars ranging from Rs 50 lakhs to Rs 3.5 crore. It represents over 24 top brands, from Porsche and Ferrari to BMW, Aston Martin, Jaguar and Rolls Royce. Its state-of-the-art showrooms are a car-lover’s paradise, and you can even opt for a free stay in a luxury suite (with a private butler) at the Gurgaon flagship store if you’re a customer flying in from another city.
Ritika joined Jatin full-time in 2016 to help with the growing company’s operations. With associations for either sale or purchase with eminent personalities ranging from world-renowned cricketers such as Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh, to industrialists and CEOs of multinationals across India, they began offering services befitting their customers’ high standards.
The company is structured like a multinational, and follows a corporate style of functioning. Cash transactions are a no-no. Every car passes through a checkpoint of 151 tests before re-sale as a thumb rule. BBT offers in-house insurance plans, servicing, six months warranty and one-year buy-back, and expert advice based on their customer’s lifestyle and needs. More than 90 percent of sales are made to satisfied repeat customers.
Ritika has also added retail expertise to the business in her own unique way. An avid collector of perfume miniatures since the age of nine (she has a 563-bottle collection and has been awarded the Certificate of Excellence by the Golden Book of World Records for it), Ritika worked with scent manufacturers in Germany and bottling factories in China to come up with a unisex Big Boy Toyz Gold Edition perfume to bring in a new clientele. “The boy who buys the BBT perfume today may buy a BBT sports car tomorrow,” she explains.
A similar rationale was applied to manufacturing other affordable-luxury merchandise such as the carbon-fiber pen, signature playing cards, sticker set, jigsaw puzzle and the gift pack, which retail from their website bigboytoyz.com besides Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal.
A customer revs up a Lamborghini to high decibel levels at BBT’s posh three-storey Gurgaon showroom before taking it out for a spin. A floor above, Ritika sits in a plush office working with her core team, who head over 120 other employees across India. She has an eye on the brand’s social media – which has a following of over 2 million across platforms like Facebook – and like any working parent also multitasks with responsibilities at home, besides doing seva (service) at her guru’s ashram.
Noting that a sizeable chunk of their clients come from Hyderabad, her next goal is to set up an outlet in the southern Indian city. And, of course, she wants to educate women about cars. “Women work with budgets, they know the family’s needs. And we’re also safe drivers,” she says. Cars don’t need to be toys only for big boys.
First published in the Winter 2018 issue of eShe magazine.
Syndicated to CNBCTV18