For many, owning a car is often touted to be one of the more expensive expenses one has when living in Singapore.
In a report by Channel NewsAsia last year, it was estimated that “running and paying for a $100,000 car in Singapore can cost up to S$2,000 a month – excluding the $30,000 down payment”.
And logically, when you spend so much on something, you’d want to make sure that it’s well taken care of.
For cars, it’s not just going for regular servicing – it’s also ensuring that the exterior looks clean and shiny.
While you can definitely DIY the whole procedure, many just don’t have the time and energy to lug pails of water, or scrub every visible inch of the car’s exterior.
Thus, car owners turn to car washing services at petrol stations to get the job done.
An express wash for a sedan car averages at $9, and while the price isn’t steep, heading to the petrol station at peak periods entails an agonising wait for your turn.
Clement Goh (28), founder of on-demand car wash service Shiokr, is a Singaporean who understands this pain very well.
“My girlfriend and I are very particular about the cleanliness of the vehicle and we go to the car wash station every week like clockwork!”
“However, it’s always a hassle when there’s a long queue and you sometimes need to wait for 20-30 minutes. To make things worse, you realise that the cloth they use to clean the vehicle is dirty, and no proper grooming techniques are used.”
Over the last 20 years, almost every industry in Singapore has changed or evolved due to technological advances. The one industry that has stagnated is the car wash industry.
Wanting to make a difference for Singapore car owners and himself, Clement teamed up with KC (24), a programmer by education, to create Shiokr, an app that lets you book car washes anytime, anywhere.
3 Working Singaporeans With A Desire To Start Up
Prior to starting up, Clement was actually at the Singapore Police Force for 7 years, working as a Ground Response Officer for the first 2 years, and as a Community Operations Officer after.
Co-founder KC’s expertise lies in programming and coding, having developed various programmes and apps for 7 years now. Having successfully coded apps for “two of the more prominent governmental bodies in Singapore”, his knowhow also came in handy when creating the Shiokr app.
While holding stable jobs in fields they excelled in, both still harboured the ambition of being entrepreneurs.
Shared Clement, “Like many, we sought to create a company that we can call our own, and it was this ambition that led us to each other.”
“When I was looking for business opportunities that I could dip my toes into, […] I stumbled upon the idea of on-demand car washes,” he added.
It was then I asked myself why there’s no convenient way for people to wash their cars when we have apps for food, transport, and almost everything else.
After successfully convincing KC to join his venture, they got to work immediately, eventually getting their 3rd co-founder Leroy (29) on board just prior to launch.
Leroy brought with him years of experience in sales, business development, and acquisitions, having worked in big names like Citibank, Lazada, and Samsung.
Currently, the trio are focused on the business full-time, because they believe that “half-hearted commitment will be detrimental to a project [they] have poured so much heart and soul into”.
Shiokr was launched on the first day of Chinese New Year this year, a day that Clement still remembers vividly.
He laughed, “I will never forget when Shiokr was launched – I remember Leroy and myself going around Sengkang cleaning vehicles when everyone else was out there collecting angbaos!”
Letting Your Neighbours Wash Your Car To Keep Prices Affordable
But why the additional step of creating an app, as compared to simply setting up a phone line or website that people could submit their bookings to?
They realised that while there were other firms offering on-demand car wash services, there was none that let drivers book them via an app.
“Their payment and booking process is [also] usually very clunky and a hassle to fill out,” Clement added.
In comparison to petrol stations and the underground (illegal) practice of hiring foreign workers, on-demand car wash services were also relatively more expensive.
If Shiokr went [down the] traditional route and hired full-timers to wash cars at different locations, we will have to double our current price.
As they searched for ways to drive their price down without compromising on quality, they stumbled upon a seemingly unrelated statistic – that over 80% of people in Singapore live in HDB estates.
He reasoned, “It means that our population is clustered, and that in turn means that the car population is clustered together too, causing mini concentrations of vehicles littered around the country.”
Using the rise of the gig economy to their advantage, they wanted Shiokr to create a situation where “your neighbours will be able to wash your vehicle for you – as long as they are registered with and trained by us”.
“This structure eradicates expensive travel costs as groomers can now cycle from place to place, cleaning vehicles within their region. This eventually allowed us to price our service at $14.90.”
Leaving Stable Jobs To Start Up, Investing $100K In The Venture
As with most startups, the Shiokr journey wasn’t entirely a smooth ride – pun intended.
“It was difficult for KC and I because we were leaving very stable jobs for an unknown,” Clement sighed.
We also know that most startups fail due to a multitude of reasons.
“But in the end, the desire to create something we could call our own was too strong, and we decided to take a leap of faith.”
Funding also proved to be a struggle for the team, as they had to bootstrap the entire operation with their savings and “a small investment from a family member”.
Looking to break even and making our first dollar before funding runs out is constantly on our mind.
They have invested around $100k so far, with most costs coming from sustaining the team during the pre-launch period, buying supplies, and marketing the app.
A ‘Waterless’ Method That Saves 200 Litres Of Water Per Wash
Wanting to use products that were “validated positively by consumers”, they settled on using Aero Cosmetics products, which are said to be used on “the Air Force One, military and corporate planes around the world”.
In the process, the team also found a shifu in their supplier, Mr. David Salazar.
“More than just being our supplier, [he] gave us insights on how the on-demand car wash industry worked in his country, and we learned so much during our email exchanges,” recalled Clement.
Coincidentally, Aero Cosmetics’ Waterless Wash Wax also aligned with the Shiokr team’s decision to do ‘waterless’ washes.
“Clean water is a precious resource for any country and our people know that better than anybody else in the world,” he explained. “We save 200 litres of water compared to [other places]!”
And it’s not just about being eco-friendly, using significantly less water is also practical for Shiokr’s groomers.
“It’s not feasible for them to carry large volume of water when they are cycling. […] HDB also does not allow us to wet the floor in their carparks due to safety concerns.”
Hitting Over 2,500 Customers In 3 Months
Currently, there are more than 20 staff in the Shiokr team, with new partners joining on a “daily basis”.
Another interesting tidbit? All of their staff are Singaporean.
We only hire locals to be Shiokr Partners because the company believes firmly in giving back to the community.
Since inception, their customer base has grown steadily to over 2,500 users over the last 3 months, washing an average of 10 cars on weekdays and double that amount on the weekends.
“We are confident that the customer base will grow faster when we launch better marketing plans. We are also very grateful that we have high percentile of recurring customers that return after they tried the service,” he said.
From their 4.8 star average on Facebook, it seems like their washes have definitely struck a chord with car owners.
Accelerating Into The Future
Shiokr is just 3-months-old, but Clement already has big plans for the startup.
In the short term, they are looking to expand their service offerings to include interior cleaning, and expand their coverage to the whole of Singapore.
“In the longer term, we would love to work on the B2B part of the business by selling commercial products and grooming vehicles for car dealers.”
For the super long term plans, we are looking at creating partnerships in the different aspects of the car industry, and creating a catalogue of their services within the app for consumers to browse through.
I’d like to thank Clement for his time!