When Arnav Shah and Siddharth Jain were students at the Michigan State University in the US, they would get their cars washed frequently. However, they noticed that the techniques employed in the US differed vastly from the way cars were washed in India. There were no car wash employees roughing up your ride, subjecting it to what seems like methods of medieval torture in order to get it to squeak and shine. “There was no concept of manual car washing there, unlike in India. Upon returning, we were both keen on doing something in this space, and giving it a state-of-the-art facelift,” says Arnav.
Numbers do the talking
Once back in India, Arnav was in line to take over the reins to the family business Kooverji Devshi & Co. which manufactured and supplied fire-trucks to the government. Still harbouring the dreams to startup, he headed to Austria to work with Rosenbauer- the world’s best in the field. He returned to the family firm, but didn’t enjoy his stint. Meanwhile, Siddharth was working for his family business in international markets, but he was keen to come home.
“He returned, and I was looking to branch out as well, so we both zeroed in on our original plan of car washes.” Research showed that India had a thriving two-wheeler market, with 130 million bikes playing on the road. Last year, 16 million bikes were sold. Every bike is washed on an average of six times a year, making it 96 million washes, amounting roughly, to a Rs. 15 Billion market opportunity.
“We started visiting all kinds of service centres – and learnt that they use 50-100 litres of water per bike, which was a criminal waste. There were three or four in charge of the completely manual process. To wash the mud in the area below, they would either flip the bike over and harm it, or buy a hydraulic lifting machine, which was expensive and had limited utility.
A small centre would wash close to 30 bikes a day, and charged a customer anywhere between Rs. 50 and 200. Very often, bigger companies would outsource their work to them. During the course of their research, they met Naresh Talla and Manoj Geesala, who were who were working on a prototype of an Israeli automated bike wash machine. “But, due to the heavy cost associated, no after-sales service, rusting, and inadequate pressure for Indian bikes, it was not suitable for the Indian market,” says Arnav. Naresh and Manoj decided to come on-board as partners.
The four unite
The four put their heads together to come up with a solution. “After months of R & D, we developed our own prototype, which was meant for Indian conditions with a focus on being eco-friendly.” Cleanse Solutions opened for business in January 2015.
“We added bottom nozzles and modals, and fit in a water recycling mechanism to reuse all that water. We recycle 95 percent of the water used and save half a million litres of water per service centre. We now wash a bike with only seven litres of water, as opposed to the previous 50-100. Our machine cleans the bike completely in three minutes, and requires only one person to push the button and then supervise. We have also installed a water purification mechanism within it. If you go to North India, the quality of water you get has a higher a Ph level. Our in-built mechanism brings the Ph level down to 8, and makes it soft water, which doesn’t harm the bike’s body,” says Arnav. With their innovation, a company owning their machine would break even within a year and a half.
Evolving designs and business models
While their initial strategy was to approach both authorised and unauthorised service centres with their technology, in June, they began considering a B2C approach, and placed an installation at Hyderabad’s Manjira Mall, to gauge customer reactions to their services. Various Harley and Triumph owners starting bringing their bikes once a month, to use the bike wash, owing to its speed and superior quality, and quite happy to pay the slight premium involved.
With this validation of their B2C idea, they decided to explore the franchise model next, and Siddharth’s expertise in this area gave them more confidence. Their business evolved to become 60 per cent B2C with four outlets in Hyberabad – one at Manjira Mall, another at HPCL, and two more at IOCL petrol pumps; and 15 other franchises sold to a master franchise in Gujarat - who has committed to purchase 180 Machines over the course of the year. “We give him location support and we have tied up with IOCL, HPCL and BPCL. We identify all the petrol pumps that get an average of 4,000-5,000 bikes per day. Even if they send us 1 per cent of those – we will break even for the franchises cost.”
While the B2C Machine costs Rs. 8 lakh, the ones they sell to service centres cost less as they do not have to be aesthetically appealing. “We even customise the machines for different service centres depending on the space available. We have a new machine that can be completely dismantled and reassembled after being transported to the interior of the shop.” They now have machines coming up at a Yamaha showroom, a Hero Showroom in Hyderabad, and a Honda showroom in the North East, and a service network at Telangana, Andhra Pradesh Maharasthra, Gujarat and Delhi for 24-hour support in the rare case of malfunction and breakdowns.
But, a milestone in its own right is the deal they cracked with Bajaj. They are now developing a machine specifically for Bajaj models – altering the nozzles so that water doesn’t enter their electronic components, and making some pressure regulations as well. “This deal will make us the only company to be vendor-listed by an automobile giant, which is a huge deal.”
What else is cooking?
Last year, they had clocked revenues of Rs.76 lakh, and now, they’re clocking Rs. 76 lakh a month. They recently closed their first formal round of funding through Intellecap, raising an undisclosed amount led by Satveer Singh from the Singapore Angel Network, which has a lot of support in Indonesia, and is helping them build a unit there to meet the demand in that market; Calcutta’s Pansari group, HDFC CIOs; and Nimisha Madhwani, the ambassador to Uganda, who will also help them expand in the African country. “They play bike polo after which the participating bikes could certainly use a thorough wash.” This month, they will be moving into a factory that can produce 40 machines a month, in one shift.
They are also in the process of patenting their first-of-its-kind machine right now, with an L-shape conveyor that goes 270˚ around the bike, which means that with an increase in efficiency, water usage comes down. “We have installed one at a Royal Enfield service centre in Hyderabad that washes 60 motorbikes per day using only 7 litres per wash as compared to 60 litres. when done manually. We will be installing another one at a Yamaha service centre in Hyderabad by the end of May,” says Arnav. It will be priced lower as well at Rs. 5 or 6 lakh.
There are other players in the market such as Express Bike Works, a company that carries out bike washes in 2 - 7 minutes, with about 10 stores in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.
Cleanse’s long-term plan is to become a one-stop shop for cleaning solutions. Expect new technology right from a remote-controlled duct cleanse with tentacles and a video camera, to a solar cleanse coming off their assembly line soon.