Pune-based Nitin Sharma’s entrepreneurial journey epitomises the proverb ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Six years after water scarcity left his family’s car wash business high and dry, the 40-year-old is saving 12 lakh litres of water daily and earning Rs 2.5 crore in annual revenues from Go Waterless -- his car care brand that offers waterless car wash and other services.
Nitin dropped out of his MBA in 2004 to join his family's car wash business. Everything was going well until the business began to face water scarcity in 2016. The problem continued in 2017 as well.
An idea to overcome water shortage
“We would wash about 50 cars a day. The only water source was borewell as we did not have a water storage facility,” Nitin tells 30Stades.
“In 2016 and 2017, our business was affected due to water shortage. We could buy water tankers, but it was not a sustainable model for a profitable car washing business,” he adds.
That is when the idea of a waterless car washing model took root in his mind. As per a NITI Aayog report released in June 2019, India is facing the worst-ever water crisis in history. Around 45 percent of India’s population is facing high to severe water stress. Groundwater, which is the main source of water, is declining rapidly. About 40 percent of the population will not have access to drinking water by 2030, it says.
World Bank research has also found that only about 6 percent of the Indian population has enough access to water resources.
While researching a waterless car washing formula, Nitin learnt from his uncle about a waterless car washing product launched in the United States in 2010. But the idea did not work because it left scratches on cars and affected the car paint.
“This was the Eureka moment for me because I just had to refine the product formula and resolve the issue causing scratches and affecting the paint,” the entrepreneur says.
The global market size for car wash service was pegged at 31.06 billion dollars in 2022 and is expected to reach 43.81 billion dollars by 2032, growing at a CAGR of 3.5 percent during the period, according to Precedence Research.
With the growing demand for car washing services in emerging countries such as India and China, the market in the Asia Pacific is anticipated to experience the fastest revenue CAGR during the forecast period.
In 2017, Nitin put together a team of experts in physics, chemistry and car paint to work on a formula that could clean cars better than water without adversely impacting the vehicle. After two years, the team came up with an eco-friendly product which is in a liquid form.
“The product is a combination of organic extracts of five plants. Every extract has its own property like cleaning, protecting car metal and paint, UV rays property, etc. which collectively clean cars faster and better than water,” explains Nitin.
The waterless car wash uses high lubricity sprays to polish and wash the vehicle. The spray’s high lubricity encapsulates dirt and dust particles. The process is similar to how water removes dirt. Simply spraying the liquid and wiping it off is enough to clean the car. “It works ideally for cars that don’t have thick dried mud to clean,” he says.
In the entire process from research, test and trial to setting up the venture, Nitin invested Rs 10 lakh from his and his wife’s savings.
“I did not take financial help from anyone else because nobody understood what I was trying to do until the final product was made and people began liking the waterless car washing service idea,” he says.
Daily, across his 175 franchisees, about 8,000 cars are washed without water. “It requires around 100 litres of water to wash a car. Through Go Waterless, we are saving 12 lakh litres of water every day. This is huge given the water scarcity across India and the need to conserve natural resources,” said Nitin. The product is helping in water conservation by cutting down water usage.
Go Waterless is a brand of Rewowlution Ventures Private Limited which was set up in 2019. He trained three people and began washing cars for Rs 99 to gain the trust of the car owners because the concept was very new in India. “I would also assure the car owners that if something went wrong with their cars, I would pay them. That is how I built trust. I even distributed pamphlets talking about the eco-friendly waterless car service and its benefits. Eventually, the idea gained momentum,” says Nitin.
Now, the startup charges Rs 199 for exterior wash and Rs 399 for exterior and interior car wash. It takes about 90 minutes if the car is being washed for the first time through Go Waterless, and about 45 minutes in subsequent washes.
The waterless car wash business
He opted for the franchisee route to expand the business of waterless car washing services across India. Even during the pandemic, he received thousands of enquiries from the franchisee. The first franchisee was opened in Nagpur In 2020. “My team helps the franchisees in training,” he says.
Nitin started with a Rs 2 lakh franchise fee and it has now gone up to Rs 5 lakh, where he provides everything from training, to Go Waterless products, marketing of the franchisee, standees and pamphlets. The product has been profitable from day one.
Apart from visiting Go Waterless outlets for car wash, customers can also opt for an app-based home service which was launched in 2020. Once the service is booked, the nearby franchisee owner accepts the booking and the car washers visit the location to wash the car.
Today, Go Waterless has 175 franchisees across 22 states including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir besides the national capital Delhi.
“My company’s annual revenue is Rs. 2.5 crore. Since we don't charge any royalty except a one-time franchise fee, we don't earn regular income from the franchisees. I don't charge any royalty because I want to promote the waterless idea and save as much water as possible,” says Nitin.
His mission is to save 3000 billion litres of water and help in the eradication of the drinking water shortage in India. “I plan to take the Go Waterless initiative to 90 countries,” he says.
(Bilal Khan is a Mumbai-based independent journalist. He covers grassroots issues, and the LGBTQ community and loves to write positive and inspiring stories.)