The car wash business is booming in Bhutan, according to the country only paper. Kuensel reports that since car wash businesses began popping up along a new major expressway about three years ago, competing businesses have arrived en masse, tapping into the new market. And as new businesses begin cleaning vehicles, environmental health has become a growing concern.
ST Auto Car Spa was one of the first businesses to open along the expressway, which spans a little less than four miles. The business opened at a time when the only place to get your vehicle washed was at a busy mechanic. Drivers often had to wait in long lines and trust that the vehicle was being properly cared for, owner Sangay Tshering told Kuensel.
So Tshering had the idea to open a place that only washed vehicles, cutting down on wait times and building trust with customers who wouldn’t have to worry about their cars being damaged in the process. Since he opened three years ago, Tshering said competition among car wash owners has doubled. Now drivers have more options for car wash services and the expressway is packed with the small roadside businesses.
“I remember how we had to wait for four to five hours to wash car in a workshop. We had to stand right next to it so that the guy will do a good job,” Tshering said. “So, I wanted to open a car-washing facility, which not only provides quick but also efficient service. I wanted to open a place where one can simply relax and not have to worry about their vehicle.”
With so many businesses popping up, Tshering worries about growing environmental concerns. Water run off and car wash chemicals are not regulated in Bhutan, he said. “We also use vehicle detergent and shampoo with no phosphate content. No one seems to care, even so,” he said. “It’s high time that relevant agencies checked whether car-washing facilities are following environmentally-friendly measures.”