Jakarta

Car wash businesses reap
millions as car sales rise

It’s raining money: A man washes a car at a car wash in Permata Hijau, South Jakarta. The rainy season sees more customers having their cars washed at such businesses by paying Rp 12,000 to Rp 75,000, depending on the service. (JP/R. Berto Wedhatama)
It’s raining money: A man washes a car at a car wash in Permata Hijau, South Jakarta. The rainy season sees more customers having their cars washed at such businesses by paying Rp 12,000 to Rp 75,000, depending on the service. (JP/R. Berto Wedhatama)

The rainy season might make Jakarta motorists sigh over gridlock on inundated roads and grime-coated cars after pouring rain. For car wash businesses in the capital, however, the season is a gold mine that keeps rainy days at bay.

Crusted soil and dirt drives more customers through their doors, and more dough into their pockets.

Rochman Iroyo, who owns an automated car wash on Jl. Pramuka in East Jakarta, said that his business saw 150-250 customers lined-up to get dirt cleaned off their cars a day after the rain. During a bright, sunny day, he sees between 100-150 daily visitors.

Ross, who owns an eponymously named 24-hour car wash in Cempaka Putih in Central Jakarta, echoed Rochman. She said her business saw 120-150 cars drive through her gate after downpour. She added that normally, she only had around 100 customers daily.

Downpour might double their profit, but car wash businessmen say that with or without rain, getting dirt off Jakartans’ vehicles is a lucrative business.

The reasons are simple, they say. With the nation’s stable economic growth, more and more Jakartans are able to purchase cars. Hectic lifestyles, however, inhibit them from washing their cars themselves. As a result, many car owners are attracted to car washes for their ability to clean their cars fast and efficiently.

The Indonesian Automotive Industry Association (Gaikindo) earlier this month revealed that car sales nationwide between January and October sat at 923,132 units, toppling 2011 annual sales at 894.164 units. Jakarta Police data also shows that the numbers of vehicles on the road has been rising by 11.26 percent every year.

Rochman, for instance, said that he was inspired to establish his business in 2004 after seeing how a car wash business he frequently dropped by was never seen sparsely visited. “There are more and more cars in Jakarta every year,” he thought to himself. “Moreover, Jakarta’s urban people love to show off their fancy look with clean and shiny cars and I won’t have to worry about a drought in customers. This might score me a great business.”

Rochman then decided to spend up to Rp 1.5 billion (US$155,763)to establish his own business, including buying an automated, drive through car wash machine.

The business is a proven money maker, as the man could reap Rp 4.5 million to Rp 11.25 million gross a day, depending on rain or shine. He charges his visitors Rp 45,000 for a wash.

Rochman refused to disclose how much he spends to operate daily, simply adding that the profit “is more than enough to pay my 30 workers and cover all the bills”.

Establishing the fat business, however, does not always require a hefty bank account or sophisticated equipment.

Ross, for instance, started her business in her yard with rubber tubes, buckets, sponges, polishing wax and car shampoos back in 1997. Now in 2012, only two vacuum cleaners used to clean car interiors have been added to her equipment stock.

Ross said the business was unintended. She leased her yard as a taxi pool back then, and washed some of the cabs by request.

“Many private cars passing stopped and asked to have their cars washed too,” she said.

That was when she decided to open a car wash service and hired her neighbors as employees.

She can now garner a minimum of Rp 1.3 million daily by charging Rp 13,000 for a service and spends only Rp 2 million for equity bills, Rp 300,000 for polish wax monthly and Rp 60,000 daily for car-shampoos.

The rewarding business, Rochman and Ross say, of course attracts more people to profit from it. Rochman said there were only around 10 automated car wash businesses when he first established his business, but he now had around 30 competitors running similar services.

Ross, on the other hand, said that she was the first to run a car wash business in the area before her neighbors started to follow suit. “Now there are seven,” she said.

Rochman and Ross, however, said that there is not much to worry about. “There are more and more cars in the capital and never enough car washes. Customers also have their own preference on where they like to get their cars washed,” he said.

Arum, 26, said that she preferred an automated car wash as it offered her faster service compared to other car washes. “It’s okay to pay more as long as it quick,” she said. Rahma, 26, a resident of Pejaten, South Jakarta, said that she loved to have her car washed near her house not only for the short distance, but also for the services it offer.

“They offer customers free drinks while waiting. They also cleanse my car’s pit,” Rahma explained.

While Erik, 30, said he always has his car cleansed and rinsed at Ross’s car wash as he always passed it on his way from work on Jl. Gatot Subroto, South Jakarta.

Location plays an imminent role in determining whether the business will succeed or fail, Rochman says.

“Choose a location that is passed by people coming home from work. Don’t worry if you have to spend a lot of money on rent because soon enough, the money will come back to you,” he said. (aml)

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