A Flourishing Goldmine

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Ololade doing his thing
Ololade doing his thing

Car wash business has become a flourishing pastime for some unemployed youths in Nigeria

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Jun. 17, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

TEMIDAYO Ololade may not fit your description of a regular entrepreneur, but his earnings per day is enough for him to make a tidy living and pay for the services rendered by Ahmed Salisu and Usman Mustpha, who work as his assistants. Unlike other entrepreneurs, running a car wash on the street means that Ololade is free from the harassments of shylock landlords in Lagos because he does not own a shop. He is also not perturbed when the tax officials come around because he is not obliged to pay tax for his kind of business.

A flourishing goldmine
A flourishing goldmine

Like Ololade, many Nigerian youths are now embracing car wash business as an escape route out of the pervading unemployment crisis in the country. The business requires little capital and can be done in a business or residential area. Ololade, who began the business about a year ago in Agege revealed that he now makes more than what he used to make from selling recharge cards and other stuffs on the same street. “I started by washing cars for people in their compounds. Every morning, I will go to their houses and asked if I could wash their cars for them. They will provide water and soap and still pay me N 100. But now that I have my own place, I charge N300 for cars and N500 for buses and SUVs. That is more than what I used to make when I was selling recharge cards.”

Although prices vary according to the area, carwash business is lucrative mainly because everything required to start the business can easily be afforded. For instance, in Ikeja where youths like Ololade eke out a living from washing cars for customers and shop owners, all that is needed are two gallons of water, liquid soap and a towel for drying.  Ibrahim Bala is a trader who deals in fruits but does brisk business by washing cars in the morning before resuming for his own business. According to him, two gallons of water bought for N30 can yield N200 after washing a car. “I buy two gallons of water for N30 and I wash a car for N200. Sometimes I wash three or four cars before resuming my own business.”

For Bala and others in the carwash trade, the rainy season of the year is the boom period for the business. This is because many car owners will need their services due to the bad conditions of Nigerian roads. Like their counterparts in other businesses, car wash operators also increase their prices in order to make more profits during the period. Steve Ikem, another car wash operator said a rainy day in Lagos means good business for him and his boys. “We make more money anytime it rains because many people don’t like to drive dirty cars. We wash for N200 on a normal day but when it rains we increase it to N250 or N300 depending on how dirty the car is.”

Carwash on the street
Carwash on the street

As more car wash centers spring up, the competition for customers increase and the profit margin of the business reduces. To give themselves the edge, some carwash operators have become creative in their business by taking their services to the customer instead of waiting for the customer to come to them. Ikem for instance, approached some companies around Ikeja at the beginning of the year with a proposal to wash their cars for them inside their premises. The proposal was accepted and he now has about two companies as clients. “Many people especially those who work from morning to evening, don’t have time to come to the carwash. I came up with a convenient proposal of washing cars in a company’s premises and some of them accepted it. They provide water but we provide every other thing and the price is very affordable. I have two companies as clients now and I am hoping to expand.”

Like every other business, the seemingly lucrative carwash trade has its own risk too. Cases of missing items or damage of something in the car are very rampant. To avoid that, Ikem has advised that carwash owners must trust those who work for them and pay them well. “There are always cases of missing items in a car. But when you employ people you can trust and pay them well, you can avoid that and your customers will be very satisfied.”

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