First of its Kind
Finding a site without competition is near impossible in the United States. In fact, most car wash owners are happy if they have three of four miles to call their own.
What would it be like to be the only automated car wash in an entire city? Not a small dot on the map, but a city with a population approaching one million.
That is the situation for Akmal Asoev in his native Tajikistan. He recently opened the first touch-free full-serve car wash in the capital city of Dushanbe, and has impressed the local population with the ease and efficiency of machine washing.
Tajikistan, located north of Afghanistan, is no stranger to professional car washing — plenty of hand-based washes exist. Automated washing however is a novelty, and Asoev is on the forefront of what he believes is a revolution in the way cars are washed in his country.
Educated at Bellevue University in Nebraska with a major in Business Administration/Finance Management, Asoev had the dream to return to his native country and open an automated wash and distribute car wash equipment in the region. Once back home, Asoev founded Arco Fudes a Limited Liability Company with two other local businessman, Olim Rahimov and Firdavs Fayzullaev, and went to work securing a site and earning a distributorship.
After almost a year of planning and nine months of design and construction, the entrepreneurs’ dreams have come true. They earned distributorships in Central Asia with Washworld, Jim Coleman Company, and CSI (Lustra); and opened Express Car Wash in October 2010.
“Central Asia is a growing market,” Karen Ott of Washworld says. “Washworld is excited about the prospect of assisting emerging countries in incorporating American car wash technology.
“Language is always an issue [in international sales], which is why having a bilingual distributor is absolutely necessary. Express Car Wash is the first of what we anticipate to be many systems to be located in this area.”
Prior to the opening of Express Car Wash, car owners in Dush-anbe looking to get their cars clean had two options: wash it themselves or go to a manually-operated location and suffer in-consistent results.
“The main reason for going into the car wash business was the poor quality of car wash services in whole Central Asian region.” Asoev says. “My idea was to bring car wash services to the next level by entering the market with American quality. So far we are the only company here who is moving the industry forward.”
Express Car Wash features a touch-free in-bay automatic and four self-serve bays. The in-bay naturally features Washworld’s High Velocity Vehicle Wash System, while the self-serve bays are equipped with Jim Coleman Equipment. Both wash systems utilize Lustra chemistry.
“The community was amazed at seeing the touch-free automated car wash equipment,” Asoev says. “The were especially impressed with the triple foam option.”
The community has been so in awe of the operation that Asoev has taken to granting tours of the facility to first-time customers. Express Car Wash virgins are treated to a free car wash and a demonstration of all the features of the facility’s state-of-the-art equipment.
Despite the fact that the location sports four “self-serve bays” customers are not permitted to wash their own cars. Express Car Wash employees handle all car washing duties themselves, while customers are invited to relax in the café.
Street traffic past the .2-acre site is a modest 1,000 cars per day, but Asoev is quick to point out that car ownership is held in high regard in the region and owners typically wash their cars every two days. With that kind of return business it is no wonder Express Car Wash already has eyes to expansion just one year after it opened its doors. The wash is open 7 a.m. to midnight and averages about 100 cars per day with a 50/50 split between the in-bay automatic and the self-serve bays.
“There is zero competition,” Asoev says. “We are the only car wash who has full services. Other car washes only function because of their location, people go there because they are a little far from us. We can win the whole market if we expand and open another three locations.”
Unfortunately, just like in this neck of the woods, financing is tight. The local lending institutions are currently offering very high APR, forcing Asoev to put his expansion plans on the back burner.
As such a new and novel business, large-scale marketing efforts are not necessary. That is not to say that Asoev and company are not doing all they can to promote the business. The wash offers a 20% discount on holidays, and plans are in place for three levels of discount membership cards. The Express Club Cards will offer 5%, 10%, and 20% discounts to members respectively. A frequent washer card with a free wash after a certain number of paid washes is also in the works.
In addition to the car wash, the facility features a coffee shop. The café features both interior and exterior seating, for those who wish to view the wash process in action. The restaurant serves coffee, soup, sandwiches, soft drinks, and ice cream. During the morning hours the café also serves breakfast. Asoev and his partners included the restaurant in the site plans in the hopes of making the wash a destination and a center of the local community.
To celebrate its first year of operation and to reward its loyal customers, Express Car Wash is planning a one-year celebration featuring a DJ, dancers, and a car show. Asoev expects the event and anticipated TV coverage will provide a greater understanding of automated vehicle wash technology and make the wash a topic of conversation throughout the community.
To help keep the bottom line healthy, the wash has service contracts with international organiza-tions and embassies: United States Embassy; The United Nations; ZTE, a Chinese telecommunications manufacturer; OBCE; Qatari Real Estate Investment Group; among others.
The car wash industry likes to brag of its worldwide reach, in fact the most prominent car wash organization is called the International Carwash Association. Despite its global reach, there are still parts of the world that have not seen modern automated car washing in action. Entrepreneurs like Asoev and company, along with their distribution partners, are hoping to cash in on these car wash-less areas and get what every owner throughout the world dreams of: market domination.