How this township entrepreneur turned to tech to scale his car-washing startup across SA

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When Robert Mtshali first launched MobiWash in Gauteng’s Alexandra township in 2014, he used a bicycle to travel to clients to wash their cars. Yet uptake was slow.

“The market wasn’t ready for such a service. People in the township were still used to the old traditional way of going to the car wash, so we weren’t getting traction,” he told Disrupt Africa.

Having parked the idea for a few years to conduct further research and allow the market to develop, Mtshali relaunched MobiWash as a tech startup last year. The new platform allows customers to book or schedule a car wash through its mobile app. Users select their preferred date, time and location, and MobiWash sends a team.

The passage of time and the application of technology has had the desired effect, and the new service has taken off. MobiWash has more than 450 users, seven full-time employees, and is available in 11 different locations.

“We have sold a license to operate under brand in Cape Town, and we have already started piloting our grocery delivery feature where clients can ask us to bring them small grocery items on our way to wash their cars,” said Mtshali.

“Our expansion plan is to launch in Durban, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo before the end of the year. Hopefully we find the right people to grow the brand with.”

MobiWash has found an investor to help it with these scaling plans, with an individual investing last year and becoming part of the team. Mtshali said the startup, which makes money through car detailing and franchising, was succeeding because of the efficient and affordable service it was offering.

“A lot of people complain about going to the car wash and having to wait for hours to get their cars washed, so for me it was a matter of how I could solve the problem using technology,” he said. 

“I started using WhatsApp as a booking platform before building the actual app to test the market. People were receptive to the idea so we then went to more areas outside of the township.”

The startup has had its ups and downs, he said, not least over the course of the current health crisis.

“We had been getting clients, and just when people were starting to get used to the service, COVID-19 hit. We had to adjust to the “new normal”, but we are up and running again and we are slowly picking up,” said Mtshali.

About Author

Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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