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Would you swap your regular car cleaner with an app-based service?

An app-based high-tech car cleaning service, or your regular car cleaner? It’s time for a face off!

brunch Updated: Apr 23, 2017 13:29 IST
Anil Sadarangani
Anil Sadarangani
Hindustan Times
car cleaning,express cleaning,Refreshed
Refreshed is cleaning start-up that provides process-driven, professional car cleaning services (Aalok Soni)

Somewhere at the back of your head as you read this, dear human being, you are wondering – when will technology and Artificial Intelligence take over my job? Or at the very least, my car cleaner’s job? Time to find out. We pitted car cleaning start-up from Mumbai – Refreshed – with its Korean technology and process-driven, professional services, against your building car cleaner in the ultimate face-off: Human vs Technology.

Two HT Brunch readers served up their cars for the challenge. Altaf Halde, managing director - South Asia, Kaspersky, handed over his 2007 Honda Accord to the entrepreneurs, and Prasad Joshi, partner, Kaizen Elevators, put his 2015 Volkswagen Vento in the seasoned hands of housing society cleaner Ashok. Whose car would get cleaned better? Would smart technology put an end to the dirty-water-in-a-bucket-and-filthy-bacteria-infested-rag regimen their cars had grown to love? Halde and Joshi would be the judges.

At the dawn of the duel, Karan, a trained, senior cleaner with the company shows up. Wait, no transformer robot? Nope, just this human, packing many micro-fibre cloths, a car vacuum, sponges and several spray bottles containing different eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning solutions in his backpack…and muscles. Ashok arrives with his filthy rag and pail of water. And the car-cleaning games begin.

The Honda

The hi-tech wash

Altaf Halde, managing director - South Asia, Kaspersky, handed over his 2007 Honda Accord to the entrepreneurs ( Aalok Soni )

Karan folds a micro-fibre cloth four times over to ensure he doesn’t re-use dirty parts of the cloth. Spraying different solutions (the ‘tech’ of this process) on different surfaces such as dashboard, upholstery and plastic, he covers every nook and cranny of the interiors. As he huffs, puffs and sweats under the harsh morning sun, he places the floor mats on a plastic sheet outside the car and cleans them by hand, using cloth and solution. Next, he connects the vacuum to the car charging port to sweep the interiors and boot.

On the metallic exterior, he uses a new cloth and different solution. The micro-fibres ensure the car is not scratched. Sponges are used to reach tough parts. Windows require a different cloth and solution. A thicker solution is employed to clean the tyres, topped off with a tyre polish. As an added service, he uses a tyre pressure gauge, so Altaf knows if he has to fill air. An hour later, before handing back the keys, Karan places four paper mats on the floor and a pack of wet wipes on the dashboard. Not a drop of water, except what was in the solutions, was used.

Charges: ₹ 399 for one express cleaning

The Volkswagen

A dirty rag and a bucket

Prasad Joshi, partner, Kaizen Elevators, put his 2015 Volkswagen Vento in the seasoned hands of housing society cleaner Ashok ( Aalok Soni )

Ashok lifts his dripping rag from the clean bucket water, smacks it on the roof of the Volkswagen Vento, and wipes furiously. Water cascades around the body of the car as he moves around, dipping and wiping. The water gradually turns muddy brown as Ashok wipes the windows. After he douses the car with water, he wipes off the excess water still cohered on the surface of the car and squeezes the rag repeatedly. Joshi forbids Ashok from cleaning the interiors. Before he finishes, Ashok throws the remaining muddy water on the tyres. It takes all of 10 minutes.

Charges: ₹ 400 per month

Judgement time

Halde: “The detailing in the cleaning was quite nice. I saw that small corners were taken care of, which, under usual circumstances, are neglected. I liked that the technician was actually involved in the job and not doing it for the heck of it. The biggest takeaway for me was the absence of water. I was expecting a lot more technology but I’m happy with the results. This goes to show technology is not everything. You need humans to optimise the technology.”

Joshi: “Rag and cloth cause scratches and paint to peel off in the long run and the dust is not really cleaned. I want the professional cleaning service too!” Joshi rolls up the window of his car – water that has seeped into the window cavity sticks on the window, which will create water stains eventually.

The winner: Human, since it was a human who put the technology to good use to clean the Honda, which, let’s face it, sparkled brighter than the other one.

From HT Brunch, April 23, 2017

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First Published: Apr 23, 2017 13:29 IST