Startups
Express Bike Wash claims to have built the fastest bike-wash machine in the world.

For Niraj Taksande, Bhushan Karn and Jigar Vora, three passionate bikers, one of the biggest issues with every adventure trip was finding the right mechanic to wash and service their bike. Every service centre they could find needed an entire day for just washing and servicing a bike.

The trio decided there was business potential here, if they could use their IIT and IIM backgrounds to devise a technology that could wash bikes in minutes. Extensive research followed, and they developed a prototype and launched Express Bike Works (EBW) at the end of 2013. Their product, they claim, is the fastest bike wash machine in the world.

An empirical formula developed by the founders works on a combination of the pressure of the water, the distance from which it is sprayed, and bio-degradable soap solution. “The most effective use of pressure, volume and distance of spray ensures dirt and granules are removed. Bio-degradable soap solution covers the entire body, which is rinsed off by the nozzles – this ensures all parts of the bike are washed thoroughly,” says co-founder Niraj.

What also sets Express Bike Works apart is the optimal use of water and electricity in the process. EBW claims to use only 10 litres of water per bike. It also has an in-built recycling component, which recycles water as well.

EBW is looking to sell its machines to two-wheeler manufacturers so that they can be used across company dealerships. Currently Hero MotoCorp is EBW’s client and it is also running demos with other two-wheeler makers.

Apart from making and selling bike-washing machines, EBW has also set up self-branded pit stops under the brand The EBW Store that wash bikes in just two minutes.  

EBW set up its first outlet in 2015 in Mumbai. Today, it has 26 stores, not only across India, but also in five other countries – Colombia, Rwanda, Indonesia, Thailand and Nepal, and has serviced over 10 lakh bikes till date.

EBW stores not only wash bikes, but also run a protection against rust and paint-chipping. They also provide express maintenance service – which covers an oil change, lubrication, chain restoration, break and clutch care and electrical care.

EBW also offers an on-road assistance service in India and claims to provide assistance under five minutes.

For its stores, EBW has partnered with Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) to set up exclusive EBW stations across their fuel stations.

A case-study for success

At a time when startups are struggling to get their unit economics right and hit profitability, EBW is one of the few cases that has managed to turn profitable after just the first year of operations.

And how did it do that? To begin with, its biggest USP is the speed at which a user’s bike is washed. Making the machine in-house reduces costs for the company and also lets it continuously improve upon it. “We are continuously improving on the component and technology level. We are always working on bettering the product,” says Niraj.

 In terms of its stores, EBW chose to go with a franchise model instead of company-owned stores for building its extensive network. This brings down the cost of having to buy or rent land making the business capital-light.

Till date, EBW has sold over 50 franchises, providing machines and related materials to the franchisees. Additionally, it helps franchisees in running the business, with operational marketing support, apart from an online helpline.

In terms of revenue, EBW charges its franchisees a royalty, which differs from case to case. In some cases, franchisees work under a profit-sharing mechanism, and in some it’s a fixed percentage of the revenue.

In growing the business, Niraj says, the focus has always been on profitability rather than scalability. “We ensured we had a good revenue model and unit economics in place and turned profitable at a store level and then focus on scale,” he says, adding that they never focused too much on capturing more customers. Once profit is in place, scalability is easy, he says.

EBW has also kept its charges optimal. It prices itself according to the area in which the store is set up, charging slightly less than the market rate there. For example, a standard bike-wash service in Mumbai is priced at around Rs 150, while EBW charges between Rs 80-120 per bike wash. This not only makes its service faster, but also cheaper.

Having started EBW in January 2014 with an investment of Rs 10 lakh, Niraj and his team managed to break even in mid-2015. The company says that it is growing 100% year-on-year with a footfall of 1200-1500 bikes per store per month.

Racing ahead

EBW aims to reach a total of 100 stores in India by the end of this fiscal. It is also looking at entering another 12 countries with emerging economies being the target audience. EBW is currently exploring options in the Gulf nations, South America, and South East Asian countries like Malaysia and Philippines.

Over and above this, EBW is continuously looking to capture a wider customer base, to increase the volume of the machines it’s selling. It hopes to leverage the offshore presence of Indian two-wheeler manufacturers to be able to sell its machines overseas.

Global two-wheeler manufacturers are also on EBW’s radar. However, it wants to establish a relationship with them within India before striking a deal with them on foreign shores.

“The reason we are looking at emerging economies is that two-wheelers are the primary mode of transport in emerging economies. Developed countries see more of four-wheelers. So emerging economies make more sense for our business and unit economics,” Niraj says.  

In the next three years, EBW is looking at 1000 touch points. This will be a mix of both branded stores and machines.

However, EBW has no plans of expanding beyond two-wheeler service. Niraj says that the volumes are large enough in India itself with just two-wheelers. “Diverting to four wheelers won’t make sense for us. Our plan for the next three to four years is to standardise this industry and establish EBW as the only source of motorcycle care. There are no plans of diverging from this in the near future,” he adds.

Generating profits already, EBW has no current plans of raising any funds for its expansion. And, as a franchise business, it is not capital intensive.

“If they are profitable, we are profitable. We don’t need any additional funds. However, if we plan more service additions and if that requires us to infuse more funds, we will then definitely look at it,” Niraj says.

With a robust business model in place, and an aggressive expansion plan charted out, the 35-member company aims to be a Rs-500-crore company by 2020.