The automobile industry in India has come a long way. According to an IBEF report, the industry accounts for 7.1% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The two-wheeler segment, comprising scooters and bikes, holds 81% of the overall Indian automobile share. This segment is also reportedly growing at a CAGR of 9.48%. Though the numbers speak for themselves, the industry still lags behind when it comes to using technology. Bike owners still prefer using roadside garages to get their vehicles serviced – spending INR 200-400 for one go and wasting man hours and water.
In a tech-savvy world, with everything available at the touch of a button, this procedure sounds like medieval torture, does it not?
In stark contrast, the US already has a mechanised car and bike cleaning industry worth $5.97 Bn, with more than 14,414 successful outlets. India is still at the threshold of picking up on this lucrative vertical. And then there is BikeSpa – an Israeli company – that has also manufactured a prototype cleaning service outfit to clean, care and maintain two-wheelers.
Inspired by BikeSpa’s model and product, Arnav Shah and Siddharth Jain sensed an opportunity to capitalise on the market. They decided to fulfill this gap by starting up BikeCleanse – which manufactures and operates Automated Motorbike Washing (AMW) machines to wash all types of motorbikes within 3-4 minutes at the touch of a button while recycling up to 95% of the water.
Till date, BikeCleanse has serviced over 1,00,000+ plus bikes and helped save over 50,00,000 litres of water, as claimed by the founder.
The Eureka Moment
It all started when Arnav and Siddharth while studying at Michigan State in the US, would very often visit car wash chains to get their car washed. On these visits, they noticed that the techniques used by people there to wash cars were very different and effortless. There was no manual labour involved for washing cars, unlike India.
This gave them the impetus to research more about the market and they realised that the Indian automobile market had immense potential to be exploited. During their research, they discovered that 81% of the Indian automobile market consisted of 2 wheelers – a fact corroborated by IBEF.
Bike washing was largely being done at roadside shops, unauthorised garages requiring the customer to wait for 30+ mins per bike, wasting 100+ ltrs. of water per bike, lacking customer experience etc.
“After we returned to India in 2011, we were not satisfied with our role in our family businesses. Therefore we decided to jump into our initial plan of launching a car washing startup,” says Arnav. That’s when they decided to develop a brand aimed at organising the country’s scattered bike care market.
They started their journey in Hyderabad where they visited a number of service centres and roadside garages and found that these local vendors use 50-100 litres of water, per bike, and use a hydraulic lifting machine to wash extensive mud – an expensive process. During their research, they met Naresh Talla and Manoj Geesala, who were working on the prototype of an Israeli automated bike wash machine.
Arnav and Siddharth discussed their business idea with the two of them and they both decided to come onboard as partners. After one whole year of extensive research, in 2015, the four of them quit their respective jobs and formally launched BikeCleanse.
Building An Automated Washing Machine For Two-wheelers
In the first iteration, the founders approached authorised and unauthorised dealers to adopt the product and solution, but they eventually turned their attention to their customers, adopting a B2C model. The prototype AMW machine was tested at Hyderabad’s Manjira Mall – to get live feedback from customers.
The machine uses specialised nozzles placed on a conveyor belt as well as at the bottom of the washing bay. These nozzles wash the majority of the bike, including under the mudguard and rims. A point to keep in mind, the amount of dust/dirt/grease etc. may differ on different bikes, which demands some amount of micro scrubbing prior to selecting the appropriate automated wash cycle. With integrated water recycling, BikeCleanse’s AMW apparently only consumes 7 litres of water per wash after recycling 95% of the water.
Not only this, they have also installed a water purification mechanism within the machine to improve the quality of the water. Their inbuilt mechanism brings the pH (sodium) level down to 8 so that it doesn’t harm the bike’s body.
The AMW is a simple plug and play system that requires around 100 sq.ft. of empty space to be installed at a suitable location. An additional 100–200 sq.ft. is required to provide detailing services with the required power requirement. Apart from this, the machine requires a water inlet and drainage facility.
BikeCleanse’s six-month pilot project gained validation, as they served 18-20 bikes per day where they charged INR 150 for per bike. “We have developed the technology in house at our facility in Hyderabad. We also have a patent applied on the Automated Bike Washing process that involves recycling the water used,” says Arnav.
Today, they work on three revenue streams in the B2B and B2C segments – the franchise model where they provide the machine as part of the franchise to a customer looking to start a low cost business. “As part of the franchise, we also provide location support (through our agreements with Indian Oil and Hindustan Petroleum), marketing support, technology support (through our franchise management app).”
Another model is equipment sales where they sell their machines directly to service centres of Original Equipment Manufacturers (Honda, Hero , TVS etc.) who use the machines to service their bikes. And, lastly company-owned stores. “In the company-owned model, we own and operate our own BikeCleanse-Instant Motorbike Care stores at prime locations across the country.”
The cost of the AMW machine varies from $10.3K (INR 7 Lakhs)-$13.9K (INR 9 Lakhs), depending on the model people opt for. Furthermore, they also provide a free one year warranty with an AMC to ensure safe and continuous working. Starting from a capacity of 2-3 units, today their factory has a capacity to manufacture 40-60 units a month.
The interesting part is that, apart from the OEMs, the bike care industry is a highly fragmented industry with no existing single brand known for bike care centres across India. BikeCleanse aims to organise part of this fragmented market through bike care stores.
“The automated machines are able to provide a service, which is better than the garages – in terms of time (3 minutes Vs 25 minutes), cost (INR 90 Vs INR 100), environment (7 ltrs Vs 50 litres-100 litres of water used), and most importantly locations (petrol pumps and malls, enabling on-the-go services),” he adds.
Location, Location, Location: Setting Up The Manufacturing Unit
Arnav and the team’s initial challenges mainly revolved around manufacturing capacity and choosing the right location to set up their warehouse. They started with a small workshop to test the market with a capacity to build 2-3 units a month. “While working on our pilot, we received a large order from a customer from Gujarat who ordered seven machines but didn’t have enough space to deliver the requirement. And, therefore, we ended up using part of a parking lot to fulfil the order,” recalls Arnav.
This made them realise that they needed to move into a bigger space and therefore they went in for their seed round of funding, in March 2016, which was led by Sidharth Pansari’s Primarch I Venture Advisory and others. The amount raised was INR 2 Cr and Sandeep Patni, Abhishek Agarwal, Apurv Salarpuria and Singapore Angel Network also participated in the round. “We intend to raise our Series A round and some funds have also approached us but we are still at a very initial stage of discussions. We want to use most of this in creating sales and after sales service network.”
BikeCleanse is not the only player providing speedy services to bikers. Players like Express Bike Wash, Let’s Service, Gear6.in, Autoyaar are a few other homegrown players giving tough competition to the team. But, as Arnav reveals, their major competition is unorganised, local garages which cater to 80% of the countrywide, bike care market.
The startup’s major USP, though, is water recycling. “Today, water wastage has become a huge issue. Make in India, Startup India has helped put the focus on companies such as ours. We are in the business of creating entrepreneurs through our bike care franchisees at a low capital investment INR 7 Lakhs–INR 9 Lakhs.”
BikeCleanse bike care stores have been successfully operational in a Tier I city such as Bengaluru and a small town in Andhra such as Porumamilla. “A first-mover advantage in the interiors of the country will help us immensely in the coming two years as we scale across India,” he adds.
Tapping Into Cars And Solar Power: The Road Ahead
Run and operated by Cleanse Solutions, BikeCleanse’s main focus is to be a pioneer in automated cleaning technologies across various verticals. “Our first focus market is motorbikes. In the future, we will be coming out with products for other verticals such as CarCleanse which will target the car industry and SolarCleanse which will target the solar panel industry,” says Arnav.
The startup has also signed an agreement with petrol pump companies such as Hindustan Petroleum (HP) and Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). HP and the IOC operate in more than 40K+ locations across India and BikeCleanse plans to tap at least 10% of these locations by next year. “Machines have been sold to petrol pumps of IOCL and service centres/dealers of Honda, Hero and are in the process of receiving vendor approvals at headquarter level with Bajaj, TVS, Royal Enfield, and Yamaha,” says Arnav.
The startup intends to focus on scaling across the country through a mix of franchising and company-owned centres and this will be done through setting up of BikeCleanse Instant Motorbike Care stores across major bike populated cities of India.
Currently, having a presence in Hyderabad, Surat, Ahmedabad, and Bengaluru, the team looks to open 50 new company-operated stores across India by next year. Not only this, BikeCleanse also aims to launch new stores in Mangalore, Coimbatore, and Visakhapatnam by year-end.
Also, the founders are not only expanding their services in the Indian market, but also tapping the international arena. Export orders to markets such as Colombia and Spain have already been received. Arnav smelled an opportunity in the African market as people there play Bike Polo. BikeCleanse’s mentor and advisory, Nimisha Madhwani, the ambassador to Uganda is helping them expand in the African market.
“We aim to be in across 40 cities from the current 7 cities in India and across 10 countries internationally through our distributors within the next 1 year. Apart from that, we intend to add our new product CarCleanse within the next few quarters,” says Arnav.
Perhaps this is why, they have grown about 12x year-on-year overall (franchise+equipment division) with 30+ BikeCleanse stores present across India. In 2015-2016, their revenue reportedly grown 10x. “This time we are targeting three to four times the revenue we have made in the current fiscal year,” concludes Arnav.
Like logistics and hyperlocal startups, the automobile maintenance industry in India is fragmented, with local players in smaller locations in Tier II and III regions taking up the bulk of the market share. With carbon footprint becoming an increasing problem in major metropolitan cities, water shortage too is an immediate concern that needs to be addressed. BikeCleanse’s AWMs provide a long-term solution by first reducing the amount of water required to clean bikes and also by automating the process, making scale possible to accelerate growth.
Onboarding established franchise partners such as IOCL, HPCL and more also means that the company is not trading on only company-owned stores to penetrate this market and make a brand name for themselves. On the other hand, with competition from the unorganised segment as well as other players such as Express Bike Wash, Let’s Service among others, and the innate infrastructural and financial needs of buying, installing, and running a BikeCleanse centre, it remains to be seen how the nascent startup plans to tackle capex and opex in order to continue growing as per the targets the team has set for themselves.
BikeCleanse is part of Inc42’s 42Fellowship – a year-long fellowship programme for India’s top growing and upcoming startups with the aim to build a close-knit community who can help each other multiply their impact.