Companies in every industry are in the crosshairs of disruption and the tire industry is no exception.
SimpleTire is a prime example of a company that has recognized an opportunity to disrupt the tire industry by utilizing data and analytics to source tire inventory from a vast network of suppliers. The ultimate goal for the company is to enable end consumers to pick and choose between multiple tire brands while making the selection and installation process as simple as possible.
HMG Strategy recently caught up with SimpleTire CIO Chrianjoy (CJ) Das, a 2018 Philadelphia CIO Executive Leadership Summit speaker, to get his perspective on how SimpleTire is disrupting the U.S. tire industry and his role in helping the company to achieve its goals.
HMG Strategy: Please describe how SimpleTire is disrupting the tire industry.
CJ Das: The tire industry isn't different from other industries in that products could be on a shelf for a number of years. We sell tires that could be up to four years old.
The tire industry is a very fragmented and unregulated industry. There are big margins in this industry. Yet no one has played a major role in changing the industry as a whole until we came along.
If you view it from a supply-chain standpoint, it's often cheaper to buy from us than purchasing directly from a manufacturer. Nobody really tried to disrupt the tire industry for 100+ years until SimpleTire came along. Someone had to take the reigns of leadership in the industry and use technology to come up with a digital platform for making it easier for consumers to buy tires.
What we did was to create a digital platform where you can upload your inventory and we can sell directly to consumers. There are more complex things that happen behind the scenes but there's little human intervention that's involved.
What is your role in helping SimpleTire to achieve its objectives?
CJ Das: Our owners have been in the tire industry for three generations. One day, they decided they needed an online presence for creating an e-commerce site prior to my joining the company.
Because transportation costs with large, heavy tires are expensive, there wasn't a big demand for an e-commerce site. It had limited success at first.
The owners wanted to bring in a technology person to see what could be done. I was the first CIO to join the company. Anyone can create a platform, but how do you make it seamless and onboard someone in a scalable way? That was a key challenge for us, so we started with AWS and designed the system from scratch. Our owners knew some of the distributors in the tire industry and we saw how easy it was to obtain the data we needed.
How are you helping to drive the cultural changes that are needed for SimpleTire to succeed?
CJ Das: We're being a bit bold because we didn't know if this idea would gain traction. Taking a different mindset is important. Culture isn't something that I or somebody could impose. Culture typically represents the attitudes and actions of our employees and members.
Having a skunkworks team in R&D has also helped to drive innovation. The culture in any startup company should be entrepreneurial and nimble.
I like people who are anti-establishment. Young people often have no respect for establishment and that helps us. I like people who like to break the rules and ask for forgiveness later.
Some manufacturers wouldn't talk to us when we first started the company, and they viewed us as rogue. But we've gained so much momentum that there's no way of stopping us. That's the mantra I've tried to preach.
Can you point to a few of the ways that the company is leveraging technology to help it obtain and maintain a competitive edge?
CJ Das: As I'd mentioned, we're anti-establishment, so we tend not to talk to the big tech companies. We do use AWS but we don't think of them as bureaucratic. We rely on cloud technologies such as AWS that are scalable.
Can you point out some of the ways you work with senior leadership at the company to help identify and act on opportunities to drive innovation?
CJ Das: We don't have any magic formula for innovation. In a small company, every problem is my problem - whether it's in finance or marketing. We work together to solve problems. And we communicate back and forth using Slack all the time.
I can help identify when things are working well and offer suggestions when they aren't.
Data drives a lot of our innovation and shows us what should be done.
What are some insights and recommendations you would offer to fellow CIOs on leveraging the CIO's role to help cultivate innovation within the company?
CJ Das: Having a team of young people who don't play by any rules is key. Having an R&D team that are not bound by any rules goes a long way in helping us to innovate.
CIOs often act like guardians they want to protect things. We are here to enable the business. I try to give a 'Yes' answer to most business problems. Security is a big deal but that's how we come in to make sure the data is available yet secure.
If you open up and collaborate with the business, this becomes a powerful response to approaching innovation.
To learn more about CJ Das and other high-level speakers at the 2018 Philadelphia CIO Executive Leadership Summit, click here.