Car Washers in Kolkata

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The Washmen

With a ratio of 124 people per taxi, metropolitan Kolkata roadways are home to almost 116,000 taxi cabs. India has 18 cars for every 1,000 people; and given the population, we are talking about a lot of cars here. The automobile market in the country is a Billion dollar industry, but there is a vehicle associated market which comes to play every morning before you wake up and ends by the time you leave for work. Enter ‘The Washmen’, the unsung players of an unappreciated trade with an unwitting intrinsic value of close to 2.8 crores; not yearly, not even monthly or weekly; but on a daily basis. Seems difficult to believe? Then read on.

There are approximately 23 lakh actively used four wheel vehicles in Kolkata. Now, making an undervalued assumption we can say at least 30 percent of these vehicles are washed on a daily basis. A regular car washer charges a minimum of Rs. 40 for a car wash. Now, simple mathematics justifies the above value. . And that’s the minimum implicit value.

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On the hindsight, while we are comfortably tucked in our beds, these para ‘Washmen’ are out braving the biting cold, fighting the freezing water and doing their job to earn their fair share. And what’s the best part? When you leave for work, these car washers leave for their regular jobs too. Confused? Well, your regular car washer shampoos’ and sponges’ your beloved automobile for an extra income apart from his standard monthly salary.

An average car washer takes about 15 to 20 minutes to rinse, swab, shampoo and wipe-dry a car. He washes a minimum of 4 cars every morning.  So, to put it bluntly, at Rs. 120 to 150 per day, your car washer he earns at the least 10 percent of your daily salary, before you even leave for work.

          Not just Eye Wash

  • Every car washer operates at 75% profit for service. The water for washing cars is taken from the government controlled taps. The cost of soaps and shampoo per car is at the maximum Rs. 5. And given Rs. 5 for other costs, at an average Rs. 30 can be considered as profit.
  • Salman Khan’s Dabangg made 100 crores, Aamir Khan’s PK made 300 crores and the car washers in just Kolkata itself, at a minimum generate 1000 crores in a year.23lakh cars, if at least 30p.c are washed everyday makes 6.9 lakh cars getting washed every day. Every car washer charges a minimum of Rs. 40 for a wash.
  • Every car wash requires at least 6 liters of water for a proper wash.
  • Most car washers work the job for extra earning as most have daily fixed jobs which they go to after their morning washing duty.
  • Some car washers even wash cars late in the evening after returning from their regular jobs.

Technically speaking, these not-so-well-to-do car washers with basic education execute what very often even MNCs employing management gurus fail to accomplish. Work discipline combined with minimal raw material costs and the most important of all, time management. It is interesting to note that this car washing service which generates revenues of the size of an SME has no trade unions, no legal authoritative body and is not under any governing authority.

However appalling the figures of the revenues may appear, the fact still remains that the average car washer is still very economically poor. He fights the forces of nature and fatigue everyday  to bring home the extra hard earned bit. So the next time our car washers comes for their payment, lets pass the heroes a knowing smile!


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