The reason for this post is simple. Society looks up to higher education institutions to their future. Universities in particular, should, as public institutions in most cases (although there are numerous private universities and alternative providers of higher education) and predominantly registered charities in most parts of the developed world, demonstrate local impact to their host communities.
Following two recent conference presentations taking this reality on board (reality/ realism being an operative word here), on barbershops and/ or hairdressers, my explorations have now moved on to other equally important services provided by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) such as the car wash business.
In the case of the UK for instance, the Carwash business has experienced precarious times despite the unsung role that they play in raising the aesthetics of our four-wheel friends.
Indeed, even car dealerships and car rental companies rely extensively on the services of these MSMEs to enhance their value propositions.
Who would be happy to rent or purchase a dirty looking car? The same goes for car owners.
Would you be comfortable driving a car covered in mud and bird poo?
Talking about cleanliness and its therapeutic effects, the current pandemic has highlighted the need to use a face covering and wash our hands. So why not our cars?
This takes me back to the realism I mentioned previously. This conceptual study takes, as its methodological stance, the concept of critical realism and pragmatism following in the tradition of seminal studies by Roy Bhaskar and Andrew Sayer especially.
“Critical realism first of all makes the ontological assumption that there is a reality but that it is usually difficult to apprehend. It distinguishes between the real world, the actual events that are created by the real world and the empirical events which we can actually capture and record.” (Easton, 2010).
In their exploration of ritualistic behaviour, Rook and Levy in a 1983 study discussed the term as a mote of conceptualizing and analysing consumer behaviour. With specific focus on personal grooming rituals, thematic stories were collected from a cross section of young adults, using projective techniques and relying on theories of psychosocial development and ritualization of behaviour, to illustrate variations in grooming product symbolisms at different social class levels.
“A major factor discouraging the symbolic interpretation of products, brands, and companies is the widespread reluctance to teal with the less tangible realms of explanation of human behaviour […] Such inhibition has tended toward narrowly-conceived, static, and ultimately unrealistic portrayals of human behaviour and motivation.”
Reference to the phrase “un(realistic) portrayals” warrants highlighting especially in the framing of any study based on realism – not the least barbershops and independent car wash businesses.
Now to the BIG question – what do barbershops and the Carwash have in common? My contention is not far fetched – they are both rituals in consumer behaviour parlance. In the case of the former, keeping trim and looking crisp is all part of the person branding proposition. As for the latter, a clean ride is first of all judged by its outward look – shiny, polished and devoid of the lingering stale smell.
Moreover, both businesses present a source of income for those engaged in their provision. For example, a 2019 TVC News briefing highlighted, “Car wash business as a legitimate source of income for Nigerians.” Indeed, there seems to be a price for every market segment as a range of price points are available depending on the type of wash required, size of vehicle and perhaps even location and sophistication of the finishing.
However, there are challenges ranging from finding the right location to securing funding to scale up operations for a business that has the potential to create jobs for the country’s teeming youth population. My research in this area is still in its embryonic phase, so more from me at a later stage, as I seek to draw upon other African communities and contexts.