Features Monday, July 27, 2015 - 05:30
  The internet has been a boon for many, and Team BHP is one of those who benefited from the internet-generation wanting to know more about their cars. The website is monitored by a group of automobile aficionados who have been brutally honest about the industry and its products over the past decade. The first Team-BHP forum discussions did not receive the 2 million visitors the website receives on a monthly basis now.  The group came together on tiny communities on MSN in the early days of the internet in India and have grown rapidly since. “We wanted to discuss Indian cars, analyse industry happenings, exchange ownership reviews, share tips & technical information, all of it shoehorned into one definitive knowledge base,” says their website. Being independent in the truest sense of the word, the team stipulated from the outset that they would not carry any advertisements from car companies. As a result, they have literally been able to say what they want, and how they want to say it. The approach has garnered them more than just a “cult following” among petrol-heads who want as much as they can get from their machines. The decision to ride alone could have cost the website though, but it has not. Rush Parekh, one of the founders of the website answered why, and has opened up to TNM for a chat on all-things-automotive, and also on the group’s plans for the future, which may include a TV show.  Here are excerpts from an interview: 1.)  Why and how did the idea of Team-BHP come about? Firstly, it was to have a neutral platform for car owners. From thought to action, it took merely four days for Team-BHP to go live. Considering the thousands of car owners onboard, it is safe to say that we have been successful in our objective. Today, we have over 20 lakh unique visitors each month. And we haven't spent a paisa in marketing. Secondly, we were fed up of traditional auto media and their biased reportage. Car magazines are acknowledged as the most corrupt form of media anywhere in the world. We wanted authentic information on the thing we love most, which are cars.                               2.)  In your opinion which is the best and the worst car you have driven while at Team-BHP, and why? The best car I've driven so far is the Formula Renault at the F1 track in Sepang, Malaysia. The sheer grip was unreal! Another unforgettable one is the Audi R8 which came with a six-speed manual gearbox. Well, two of the worst cars I've driven are the San Storm (which was within 2 months of Team-BHP going live) and the 1st-generation Maini Reva. Both of these cars were junk. They failed miserably in the Indian market and rightly so. I doubt we will ever see rides as bad as these again. 3.)  Do automobile companies take Team BHP more seriously now (as say a car-and-bike magazine)? Very seriously- They follow us more than any other automotive media. Car manufacturers understand that we are the voice of the customer. Our entire content comes as contributions from car owners and enthusiasts. Auto manufacturers screen Team-BHP on a daily basis, in particular their product teams (what owners have to say about their cars, emerging trends), after-sales division (customer complaints etc.) and marketing (brand perceptions etc.). Automobile companies also screen the forum to know their competitor's products better. After all, who knows a car better than its owner?                             4.)  We have heard that you are quite unwilling to allow outside investors into the Team-BHP space, why is that? I believe that the best company is one that is self-sustaining. We have grown to become the number-one source of automotive information in India. And we have done it courtesy our own hard work, and with the support of our members. Team-BHP fiercely values its independence. This allows us to be swift, focussed and absolutely unbiased in our reporting. There's a certain magic in being self-built. We have no loans and no venture capital funding. Period. Whatever we want to accomplish, we are able to take care of ourselves. 5.)  Are there any plans in the offing for a TV show of some sort? We have definitely thought of this from time to time and - hopefully - would have a Team-BHP TV Show one day. The reach of the tube in India is unmatched. Equally, I might add, the only reason we have not pursued creating our own TV show is because of our commitment to quality. If we do something, we want to do it in the best way possible. No half-hearted efforts for us, Team-BHP wants to be the benchmark in everything it does. 6.)  Considering the fact that the forum has been around for quite a long time, has the auto-literacy increased, according to you? Absolutely. Ours is a vibrant community with an incredibly high level of knowledge sharing. We learn, we educate...everyday on Team-BHP. The average car owner here is far more knowledgeable than one who doesn't read Team-BHP on a regular basis. 7.)  Has it ever reached a point since the website came about that you thought about packing up and shutting shop? Never. Cars are in my blood. There is nothing else I wouldd rather be doing! It's not only an industry that we understand very well, but something we are excellent at reporting on too. I consider myself very, very lucky to be behind the wheel at Team-BHP. 8.)  If you would want to feature a car or a bike on the website (no restrictions). Which ones would they be? A Formula One car, without a doubt. That is the only beast we have not driven yet. Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis come and go, yet an F1 car can give you the driving experience of a lifetime. I would love to have a good number of laps in an F1 car, and then share the experience with BHPians. 9.)  As the website has got bigger, what are the changes you have had to make, say in terms of investment? Over the last four to five years, we have become a lot more structured in the way that we function. Our style of working today is very precision-oriented, with an eye for detail. Team-BHP realises the responsibility on its shoulders with over 20 lakh visitors relying on it for information, monthly. We have raised the bar very high internally and are a highly disciplined team. 10.) Are there incidents of an auto-manufacturer expressing its distaste when a bad review comes its way, or are they generally fine with the critique? One manufacturer stopped giving us their cars for testing. It did not really make a difference to us because of the support we have from BHPians. We have borrowed members’ cars and published reviews anyway. It is incredibly generous of our members to trust us with their brand-new cars for a couple of days. Not even the maker of the car can keep us away from it for an objective review. As long as we know our report is accurate, which is the key, we do not care what the car manufacturer thinks of our piece. It is our members who have got us where we are today, not manufacturers. Hence, our reports, analysis amd reviews are only compiled to serve the reader. Luckily, we don't have a financial relationship with car manufacturers simply because we don't accept advertisements for car models. This helps us remain independent of the auto industry. All images courtesy Rush Parekh at Team-BHP  
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