Monday December 26, 2016
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Former Petronas engineer R. Darshillan left his high-paying job to start the 1L Car Wash and empower the marginalised. — Picture by Yusof Mat IsaFormer Petronas engineer R. Darshillan left his high-paying job to start the 1L Car Wash and empower the marginalised. — Picture by Yusof Mat IsaKUALA LUMPUR, Dec 26 — When was the last time you got your car washed… and saved water? Or even better, helped a young person become more confident at the same time?

You’re thinking: that’s a lot to ask of a simple car wash. But here’s more. This car wash will come to you if you work in Putrajaya or Cyberjaya.

Yes, 1L Car Wash only uses one litre of water to wash your car, but with a result that rivals that at more expensive car cleaning centres. And it employs underprivileged teenagers.

The brains behind this two month-old social enterprise initiative is young engineer R. Darshillan who used to work with Petronas.

"What got me into this is a pain point. I used to live in a condo where there used to be a guy who does car washing. A year after that, I bought my own condo where there was no one who came to wash the cars.”

Also, there was no car wash service where he parked at work. “So this got me thinking that there is a huge gap for this service in commercial sites," he told Malay Mail Online.

Empowering the marginalised

For manpower and staffing, Darshillan's social enterprise focuses on hiring underprivileged youths from a government-endorsed institution — MySkills Foundation — which trains problem youths and school dropouts who are predominantly poor Indians.

He partnered with the institution which has a proven 70 per cent job retention rate owing to the type of vocational training offered; the idea is to help create more skilled entrepreneurs.

"At the moment, we are very small team. We are considered a social enterprise because we hire youths from MySkills Foundation. These teenagers go through a two-year transformational training in the foundation.

R. Darshillan (3rd from left) with his staff R. Jegathes, 16 (2nd from left) and 1L Car Wash's interns from UniKL who are currently devising marketing campaigns for the new business venture. — Picture by Yusof Mat IsaR. Darshillan (3rd from left) with his staff R. Jegathes, 16 (2nd from left) and 1L Car Wash's interns from UniKL who are currently devising marketing campaigns for the new business venture. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa"However, these youths do not have any criminal records and are just in need of guidance and assistance to help them become independent," he said.

Darshillan pays his two teenage staff aged 16 a monthly salary of RM1,200, well above the RM900 minimum wage, and also provides them with housing.

He is currently renting a two-bedroom flat in Sungai Besi for them and spends RM600 monthly on rent and utility bills.

"Under the law, teenagers can work but only for seven hours a day. I also train them to save and not splurge in excitement. They also send money back home to their families.

"I also allow them to be involved in our business activities. They sit with me in meetings. We aspire to teach them to become entrepreneurs because at the age of 18, if they go out seeking employment, they are still going to be exploited... as mainstream employers will say they have no SPM qualification, and they may be worse off than foreign workers," he added.

R. Jegathes, 16, said he has learned a lot about responsibility and the importance of being independent since he started work at 1L Car Wash.

The teenager, whose mechanic father suffers from epilepsy, added, “I just couldn't study and was sent to MySkills Foundation in Port Klang for vocational training where I chose the electrical wiring course.

“I want to be my own boss… want to earn better and care for my family,” Jegathes said.

Darshillan said that he would be hiring more trainees from MySkills foundation as his business grows.

1 litre, really? How does it work?

It's called the two-bucket system. A hassle-free water-saving technique “created” by the 27-year-old Penang native.

Educated in Sydney, R. Darshillan devised the two-bucket system for his novel car-wash enterprise to help reduce water wastage. — Picture by Yusof Mat IsaEducated in Sydney, R. Darshillan devised the two-bucket system for his novel car-wash enterprise to help reduce water wastage. — Picture by Yusof Mat IsaDarshillan uses one bucket of water and another bucket filled with high-grade car shampoo and special equipment imported from the United States, called the grit-guard.

"We have a device called the grit-guard that's placed inside the bucket that allows us to clean the towel as we wipe each panel of the car. After we wipe a door, for example, we will then rub the towel against the grit-guard.

"When we rub the towel against it, all the dirt and grease accumulated from wiping one part of the vehicle will come out and stay at the bottom of the pail," he explained.

The grit-guard is a two-piece net-like plastic equipment with grooves, that helps guide water motion. It helps to prevent the dirt-filled water at the bottom of the pail from mixing with the clean water at the top.

"So even if the top of the water moves, the water below stays calm, preventing the dirt from mixing.

"This is how as a whole, we can wash the car with one litre of water because we only change the water after say, every 10 cars. We will fill the bucket with 10 litres of water, and then after 10 cars, we change the water and that's how we average it out to 1 litre per car," he added.

Darshillan said that the technique allows them to still keep within the 1 litre limit even when washing bigger cars, but the focus of the wash is only the body of the car.

Why the focus on commercial sites

Darshillan is currently focusing on expanding his business to commercial sites.

His three-member team, including him, currently operates at selected areas in Putrajaya and Cyberjaya.

The areas include; Putrajaya Sentral Park&Ride, multi-level car park at Lingkaran Gemilang 1, Putrajaya, Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (Magic), Cyberjaya, Skytech Tower 1, MKN Embassy Cyberjaya and the multi-level car park at the MKN Embassy in Cyberjaya.

"I chose these areas because I surveyed this place about four months ago and I see a market here but I am also planning to expand into the Klang Valley and am currently in talks with some malls near KLCC and KLCC itself," he said referring to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre.

1L Car Wash only operates during regular business hours.

Interested customers just have to log on to 1lcarwash.com/ to book their preferred car wash session, by registering their car details, preferred days and location.

There are three choices; weekly, fortnightly and on-demand.

The on-demand choice is to basically book your car wash at any preferred time, but Darshillan says that due to the lack of manpower he is unable to cater to high volume on-demand washes for now.

R. Jegathes hard at work. He said he learned a lot about responsibility and saving since starting work at 1L Car Wash. — Picture by Yusof Mat IsaR. Jegathes hard at work. He said he learned a lot about responsibility and saving since starting work at 1L Car Wash. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa"But we are working on that because we can't just leave out customers who need a car wash at the 11th hour. It's there for our future business prospects," he said.

The website also has a schedule on where and when the 1L Car Wash team will be at the selected locations, to enable customers to make an informed choice.

But rescheduling is also allowed.

"If customers who have booked a certain day with us are forced to reschedule, all they need to do is just contact the number shown on the website and inform us. We will then offer an alternative day and we will then reschedule.

"However, if the customers are not there when we arrive then their booking is burnt," he added.

How to know if your car has already been cleaned? The team will send you an SMS to notify.

"We will SMS our clients to inform them once we have cleaned their vehicles. It's really that hassle-free," Darshillan added.

He also hopes to offer more services, such as cushion and carpet vacuuming and tyre polishing once business picks up.

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