As Ethiopia’s economy grows so will the number of cars in the country, which is when entrepreneurs like Abraham with a different perspective of business, introduce new ideas to benefit themselves as well as others.
The preeminent entrepreneurs are individuals with a vicarious urge for learning, deciphering and disrupting age-old process; hence making them phenomenal problem solvers. In this generation where people are always looking for a better, faster and smarter ways of undertaking their everyday chores, a lot of those problem saving and change makers seem to be emerging every now and then taking up on the different aspects of challenges people are facing. These individuals are backed with lots of experiences or mere observations focused on coming up with a solution to a well-defined challenge so it could provide a clear value to the user who perceives it and is willing to use the product or service.
One such a person is Abraham Girmay, founder of the first mobile car washing system in Ethiopia, AB. The footprint of US and European countries, though not very popular amongst the residents of this vibrant city now might just get popular. Mobile car washing system which has endeared itself to customers mainly in other countries is set to cash in on the Ethiopian market where more and more people have now taken to this easily accessible service.
Abraham who spent eight years in Dubai has had a dream of returning home to build something in which the society could benefit from. With the experience he garnered from working in different capacities from labour to technical areas both here and Dubai before settling in Addis Ababa a year and a half ago, it was easy for him to come home with a workable idea.
“Life has taught me almost all the things that I need to know more than any education ever could”, he told Addis Insight.
This new mobile car washing machine technology, he explains is copied from Dubai and replicated here in a way that is suitable for users in Ethiopia. His journey started a while back when he first established his own washing service in Dubai but did not peruse it because of the challenges of finding employable work force. After consulting with his friend, he decided to bring the idea here where it could create job opportunities for many as well as introduce an enhanced, eco-friendly and cost wise system to customers.
In September 2016, Abraham returned home with just one sample mobile car wash cart and pitched his idea to Super Double T Fiberglass manufacturing company to help him with manufacturing the eco-friendly carts. He succeeded in convincing the owner, Ato Tsegaye.
“I first started with just 10 mobile washing machine carts which created a job opportunity for the same number of people”, he explains.
“I was so happy when the idea was appealing for the responsible government offices including the Ethiopian Roads Authority, Ministry of Environment Protection and Forestry, Ethiopian Road Transport Authority and the Zone’s health department because it made things easy to set up AB”.
Mobile car washing systems are internationally preferable for their easy service and mainly because they are environmentally friendly. As it is said, “A critical asset of every entrepreneur is to be able to detect problems and to see what other do not see”. Taking up on that, Abraham after he settled all the legal requirements of setting up his business he cleaned up the area behind Bole Medhanelem Church which used to be garbage dumping site into his permanent office.
He cleaned the area helping residents breath-in cleaner air and making his dream of bringing an eco-friendly, faster, and convenient car wash service in the city come true at the same time. Most importantly, he explains that he wanted to make sure the water mercilessly being consumed by car washing service providers is systemised.
He pointed out that those providers use up to 10,000litres in about two days wherein AB mobile car washing system could use that much amount for months as the service consumes only three to five litres of water per car with run-offs minimised. AB’s car washing carts are easy to move and can carry up to 70 liters of water that can wash nearly 23 small vehicles.
Luckily for him, when introducing the service people were not resistant to the idea instead they were very supportive, he reminisces. As the key to a good customer service is building good relationships with customers by going above and beyond what they expect taking the extra step to break the age-old process, he first worked on his employees as well as tools they would be using. He made sure everything is uniform and clean from his carts to his office as well as employees to assure customers of professionalism and excellent services.
“When a car comes, we do not just go straight to washing, we have different levels. First, we use dusters to take the dust off the car. After the dust is cleared off, we use water in a way the sprinter covers only the body of the car so there will not be any kind of wastage. When the car is thoroughly wet we use three different towels. The first one to clean the dirt off, the second to get missed spots and the third one, a microfiber towel for a final drying”, Abraham explains.
“We also have tire polish, car shampoos, and dashboard creams. That is to give our customers our utmost service worthy of their payment.”
The service delivers clean cars in 15 to 20 minutes charging 50 Birr for small cars and 70 Birr for pickups putting all their equipment in consideration. This is cheaper than the regular car washing services in Addis whether it is drive through or la bajo.
Mulatu Zelalem, one of their clients that Addis Insight met on one of their sites said he goes to them because they do a quick service and he wants to help their business. It is also cheaper here, he explains.
“The main reason one uses a mobile car wash service is to get a quality and convenient service and so far I am happy for they deliver that”, he said.
“My friends and I are happy that we can trust the washers enough to leave our cars and keys with them until they finish or even the whole day”.
Echoing Mulatu’s reassurance Abraham said his employees, if/when they find anything in the car they bring it to the office until they finish and hand it to the owner. The clients also can leave their cars for as long as they need to and it will be looked after until they return.
He has now created jobs for 11 people who make 20% of their earning in addition to tip. They wash 40 to 50 cars a day.
Setting up a mobile car wash business could be a fun, profitable and an interesting business for someone with business perseverance and smartness. With the right location, top-notch service, and good marketing, one can serve large customers who require their cars to be washed quickly and efficiently, for an affordable price.
Worldwide, there are more than 150,000 retail car wash locations, according to the International Carwash Association. Germany is home to a particularly high number of commercial car washes. Global sales of new cars, a key industry growth driver, have recently increased significantly in Spain, China, and the UK, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers promising such services and on-demand business massive profits.
Following that mobile car wash business belongs to indeed a growing industry and pretty much thriving in all the parts of the world especially in developed countries such as United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and Italy et al. As a matter of fact, there are no companies with a leading market share in the industry.
Statistics has it that in the United States of America alone, there are about 61,332 licensed and registered car wash businesses responsible for employing about 194,594 employees and the industry raked in a whopping sum of nine billion dollars annually with an annual growth rate projected at 2.7%.
“The first reason why it is encouraged that you start your own mobile car wash business today is that of the rapid rise in the number of car owners. As the economy recovers and booms, more people will become car owners and they will need to get their car washed”, Alemayehu Nigussu, a researcher at a private consulting firm explains.
The mobile car wash business industry on its own is a niche in the automobile business especially in Ethiopia but despite the heavy tax burden on cars, there is a rise in the number of car imports.
“As this grows and income increases there will be a corresponding increase in the demand for cleaning related services such as mobile car wash”, he adds.
Over and above, mobile car wash and auto detailing businesses all over the world are still enjoying good patronage particularly if they are well positioned and if they know how to reach out to their target market (businesses, transport and haulage companies, government and household et al), according to him.
In 2016 government records show that 110,000 cars were imported to Ethiopia, an increase of more than 50% in the previous two years. In addition to that Ethiopia currently produces 8,000 commercial and private vehicles for the local market a year- something the government admits is a way below the country’s potential. However, at least half a dozen car assembly plants, mostly Chinese have been set up in Ethiopia since 2014.
“As Ethiopia’s manufacturing capacity expands, a nation of few cars could see a lot more traffic with car owners in need of reliable and fast car washing service. This opens up opportunities for entrepreneurs with eyes and determination to bring in new ideas”, Alemayehu asserts.
Sharing the sentiment of Alemayehu and past the challenges he faced to sustain his business mainly with employees and marketing. AB’s Abraham who launched his company with just 10 mobile car washing carts a year ago is now franchising and also branching out. He has already expanded to different locations mainly in condominium sites and recently in Kazanchis near the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in Addis.
In addition to this, he has also sent five mobile car washing carts to Hawassa, five to Gonder and a sample to Mekelle. Abraham is just starting off as he dreams of taking this service across the city and beyond to other African countries.
“I want to get other individual car washers working just by experience to join me for a reliable, cost-wise and advanced way of providing the service so that we could reach out more customers together”, he said.
Abraham is now working on another project which he wishes to introduce in the coming Ethiopian New Year. He wishes for the society as well as government ministers to play a role in fostering enterprise and innovation as successful innovations improve our standard of living. After all, as Ellen Thrasher once said, “A small business is part of the heartbeat of the larger community”.