In India, the fuel stations are rather static. Some stations are now being tweaked to serve as recreational centres. In a recent development, one of the country’s largest oil companies, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL), has successfully turned its nineacre petrol station on Delhi-Mathura highway into a retail cum recreation plaza. The multifunctional fuel station not only offers car washes and convenient stores, but also many other recreational facilities. Riding on the success, the company is now planning to bring 8-10 similar fuel stations across national highways. However, the count is limited.
Being one of the highest traffic areas, fuel stations can be assimilated into small retail-cum-recreational centres. To start with, offering car wash care services could be the best option. It takes minutes to fill up a fuel tank and count the change received in return. The same amount of time could be attributed for car wash also.
Santhosh Kumar, Speed Car Wash-Tamil Nadu, says “Fuel stations are typically located at prime locations with limited land availability. This makes the entire service costlier. Also, people coming to the fuel stations are usually in a hurry and hesitate to get their cars cleaned. Hence, even if the fuel stations are in high traffic areas, the same do not get converted into the car wash business.”
Pushp Dedhia, Owner- Auto Pushp, Mumbai, affirms, “We are having car wash services at our fuel station. However, it is manual and in-house. The sinking demand does not allow us to upgrade the facility to automatic. This will escalate the pricing. The car wash pricing at fuel stations are usually higher, as one has to get the permission from oil companies first. The worst is, people compare the price with roadside cleaners who simply throw water over the car body and then wipe it.”
While change in attitude will not happen all of a sudden, Bhojraj, Partner-Park Garage adds, “Yes, we are having a car wash facility at our fuel station. Even though the facility is manual, we are using high-end quality high pressure jet machine and dispenser machines and best-in-class lift. As far as challenges are concerned, cost reduction, water consumption reduction and service-marketing are major issues that we are facing.
“Automatic car wash cannot be installed in Mumbai. See the City’s climate. The cars coming to the washing facility are usually very filthy that cannot be cleaned by automatic wash facility. Further, people bring their cars to wash facility only when there is excess of mud and soil entrenched.”
“The Automatic Car wash comes with limited customizations while we have to clean not only bikes & cars but trucks and buses too. This limits the choice to manual cleaning. Also, manual cleaning quality is better than that of automatic,” explains Ashit Gupta, Partner-Sakinaka Petroleum Services.Suprita Anupam