Green Salute, an innovative concept by brother duo Ninad and Akshay Dhok was started with the aim of saving one of our much-needed natural resources: water.
Their waterless car cleaning concept is still new but within a short span of time has already got a lot of takers. Let’s read on to get to know their story better.
Tell us about yourselves / yourself
Ninad: I am an Engineer by qualification with a PG Degree in International Business. My brother and I started Green Salute in 2016, before that I had an exciting 14 year career in International Business Development, Market Development and Product Development.
Akshay: I am a Hotel Management Graduate. I co-own a lounge and couple of restaurants and am the first generations entrepreneur. I have an hands on experience in operations management and people management.
In fact this is one of the reasons my brother and I decided to join hands to start this venture. I have the relevant business expertise and have handled a staff of more than 154 people in the past, this helps when you are starting something of your own.
How (and why) did the idea of Green Salute come about?
Ninad: The idea first came about in 2011-12 during my stint in the Bay Area, USA. At the time, the Bay area was hit by drought.
Akshay is a first generation entrepreneur already and we used to talk about business a lot. In October 2015, Akshay’s lounge was undergoing renovation and he had some free time on hand. We started talking about a waterless car cleaning service keeping in mind that India has not yet welcomed an idea of this sort ever before.
We decided to float a small partnership and started a small exercise to see how the product gels in the market. It was in Feb this year that we held our first camp. We had a lot of questions on our mind related to business model, about whether people would open up to the idea of a waterless car cleaning service or not, whether the concept as a whole will be appreciated even if not welcomed.
However, after our first camp, we got 24 customers. We had no cleaners but we had customers!
That’s when we slowly started getting cleaners onboard and started subscription-based cleaning services. We streamlined the operations, started giving more onus to the processes. The first lot of customers were happy and started referring others and that’s when we decided to officially launch Green Salute.
When setting-up, what were the initial challenges you faced?
One of the major initial challenges was not related to operational aspects as much as convincing or changing the existing mindsets of people. When it comes to a new cleaning product like this the most common apprehensions revolve around whether it is a good product, a safe product, etc.
We had to prove to customers that we can offer a consistent- quality cleaning service. There were also a few operational challenges initially. Existing cleaners were resistant to be part of this initiative.
Nowadays though, people are open to the idea. People are conscious about the environment. They have seen droughts in Pune and other areas of Maharashtra. They know water is important. Once we give a service demonstration, we have a conversion rate of 56%.
As a (new) entrepreneur, what better way could public policy and initiatives work?
It might help if there are more start-up platforms that offer a space for new businesses to showcase their ideas. Otherwise, in terms of Government support; free incubation, mentoring, assistance when it comes to getting a start-up to an investment-ready stage, may help.
Do you think that India’s current start-up boom is here to stay; can you share your thoughts on this?
Yes, I believe the start-up ecosystem will stay. As of today, the Indian start-up stage is not as matured as in the Bay area. I feel that start-ups who really help the society grow and solve a real life problem for them will thrive more than those that only want work towards making profits and solve only virtual problems.
Do you plan to have any other ventures in the future?
Well, we hope to take Green Salute Pan-India in the next 3-5 years. In the beginning, both of us had our fears. In fact, when we started, we catered to only the Baner-Pashan area of Pune and now offer our services all across the city.
Our product or initiative can create a great social impact. It is a great way of generating employment too. We hope to capitalize on this.
What would you tell upcoming start-ups / entrepreneurs to bear in mind during the initial stage of their launch / set-up?
Always, always, always run a Product-market fit exercise. When you try to reach out to customers no one can tell you how they will behave. This is why an initial validation is important.
Can you tell us a little more about the product and running of the business?
Our waterless car cleaning liquid has to sprayed on the car and use microfiber towels to clean. It gives an instant shine to the car. Everytime the car is cleaned a fresh set of microfiber towel is used to clean the car. This process of cleaning also helps reduce micro scratching of the paint.
We have started on-call, on demand services now and customers can book both interior and exterior cleaning session at an affordable price at their doorstep.
How did you identify that this product could be useful in India.
When we saw the product, we realized it is a do-it-yourself product. Abroad, this DIY concept works better.
The situation in India is different. Here we want people to do things for us.
We knew the core object here was to save water.
Although we have to go every local society and aggregate that, over time, we hope to develop a micro-entrepreneurship system through Green Salute.
Right now , we are a small team of 6 people, including the 2 co-founders (my brother and I). We have started our first hub at westend mall in Aundh, Pune.
In another 6 months we hope to have 3 more hubs and in the next 18 months we hope to roll out the micro entrepreneur model.