Mobile apps have become everyday tools, with everything from banking to getting your car washed being just a tap away. Wherever they originate, apps can have a far-reaching, global impact. This is being demonstrated by a local car wash app (and business) that is making moves into franchising in SA and across borders.
Mowash, the winner of the ‘Best Breakthrough Developer’ category in the 2019 MTN Business App of the Year Awards, is fully booked. The company is cleaning up in the car wash market by taking professional car cleaning services to homes and businesses, while many conventional car washes struggle to attract customers during COVID-19.
What’s more, Mowash is just about ready to get cars in Kenya, Ghana and Namibia washed. Entrepreneurs there are waiting in line as founder, Ayanda Dladla, negotiates licensing agreements and franchise deals with them. Not to be ignored is the USA, a vast market, where interest in the Mowash app is also gaining traction.
“What has undoubtedly made the difference is being able to use the app’s status as an MTN Business App of the Year winner. This endorsement has added credibility to our business since it launched,” says Ayanda Dladla.
The young, former process engineer at a leading South Africa brewing company has come a long way since the day he sat at a Midrand car wash, getting frustrated waiting for his car. It was then that he told his brother he was going to develop a car wash app. A few short years down the line, and he sits on the edge of going national with Mowash franchises, and onto becoming a household name across the globe.
But, he says: “Becoming a Mowash franchisee requires more than a bucket, a pile of rags, some polish, and a will to succeed. Differentiation and attracting customers mean getting a full car wash experience delivered by someone who has undergone car-detailing training, is trustworthy, and can confidently be let into your home.”
“Ultimately, we are following the ‘Uber model’. Our operators are all screened and, although they drive their own vehicles, their cars or bakkies are identified by our logo. They all carry mobile point-of-sale machines so that payments can easily be made on-site. The app enables all transactions to be recorded. This data is used to pay the operators once a week.”
Initially, says Dladla, the Mowash service was restricted to Midrand, which ensured that he could reach customers quickly and maintain a workable timetable. That was in the early days when Mowash had a staff of one – the founder, who could only operate on weekends, and hired a car from the airport to overcome his lack of transport.
As the business grew, so did the realisation that his job in the corporate world had to give way for a commitment to washing cars.
“The most distressed was my mother, who still can’t get over the fact that her ‘engineer son’ now washes cars for a living. Whenever I try to explain what the app is, how I developed it, and what it does, she asks me when I am going to get a proper job,” says Dladla.
He admits that when he set out, he didn’t realise the full implications of what he had taken on. Individual customers began booking repeat appointments – something that was appreciated.
Shortly after that, car dealerships realised they were also onto a good thing. Instead of committing a driver to take a customer’s car to get cleaned before delivery, which meant losing the driver’s services for several hours, Mowash would come to the dealership and clean vehicles on site.
Then there was the expansion of his range of services, explains Dladla. “It’s one thing to be fully booked to wash cars, but this means that income is limited to how many cars you can do on an average day. Being able to do a full car valet, which could cost R500 or more, allows your income to expand.”
Having chemicals and specialised equipment on hand to shampoo car seats and carpets meant that you could also clean floor coverings in offices, or homes, and offer curtain treatments if needed.
Additionally, there were companies who wanted to reward their employees for their dedication, and help them save their precious personal hours for something better than a car wash. Having Mowash do a thorough job monthly on staff cars became a much-appreciated perk for these employees – and turned into another boost for Mowash’s profitability.
As Dladla continues to evaluate new opportunities, he thinks that a franchise model will be the most practical. Supplying a franchise-owner with the systems that enable centralised administration and billing, and allocate jobs to cleaners, allows an entrepreneur to build a sustainable business and expand as people sign on.
It seems that all is on track for this young entrepreneur to drive his business to greater heights.
Kholo Magagane, Head of Marketing at MTN Business, says the success of Mowash, and the opportunities that have opened up for this business, indicate how important small to medium-sized enterprises are to growing an economy.
“All it takes is an idea, and an entrepreneur who is determined to make a difference, and a new business is born. One of the greatest benefits that Mowash offers is employment for people, who become their own bosses. This, in turn, can create a circle of prosperity through a low-cost entry business. At a base level, if you have transport and a cellphone, you could begin building a new future.”
“This is what makes providing a platform like the MTN Business App of the Year Awards so rewarding for us. For eight years now, we have been able to see these success stories being written. And, now more than ever, we need some good news – we need to see our SME sector growing and prospering,” concludes Magagane.
This year marks the ninth edition of the MTN Business App of the Year Awards. It is aimed not only at encouraging the efforts of local developers, but on further building an industry that will contribute to rebuilding the South African economy.
To enter, app developers can submit their entries before 29 September 2020 by going to appoftheyear.co.za. The awards ceremony will be live-streamed on 29 October 2020.