This story begins in those days of 1992 when Indian youth were facing unemployment and getting a good job was a far-fetched team. Treading intelligently, Debtosh Chatterjee built the Chatterjee Cleaning Arts Services Pvt. Ltd (CCSPAL) from scratch and is now providing services across India. Through this journey there were times when getting the right product at the right cost had triggered the entrepreneur in him to make what is required to deliver quality services. This dream has come true with the establishment of Mrinmoyee Supply Pvt. Ltd, a full-fledged Make in India manufacturing facility of cleaning tools.
Soon after I left school, standing on my feet was probably one of the priorities. Even in those days we did have a vacuum cleaner lying at home, but sadly, it was rarely used. When I read this article which described about the people in Western countries renting cleaning machines for their use instead of buying them, I thought, why dont I rent out my vacuum cleaner? I tried my luck, and it worked. But the problem was people who rented the machine did not know how to use it. This led me to go to people’s homes and run the machine to clean their houses.
The scope of cleaning slowly extended to pest control services too. In fact, then I had no idea about pests but only what I noticed of my mother killing cockroaches with a drop of kerosene oil. I too sprinkled kerosene as part of pest control services until I met some dealers, who taught me the right methods of pest control.
My entry into corporate housekeeping, began with MNCs entering into Kolkata. The first one was a mobile company where the chief was very finicky about hygiene. Somehow, we got in touch with him and had to sell the concept of cleaning itself, and not just the brands we used to bag the contract.
All this business came to a standstill when I left for the post-graduation. When I returned to Kolkata, my cleaning business was no more. I joined a bank, but was very unhappy with my job. I restarted my business.
Fortunately, IT was coming up in Kolkata at that time, which was followed by the retail boom, and I ventured with my cleaning services into these sectors. Today, we are not working much with retail stores, but because of our past experience with retail, we have a presence in 700 pin codes. Today, we are touching a turnover of Rs100 crores because of these efforts.
Well contented with our success, there were no plans to expand outside Kolkata. Things changed when the first Pantaloons outlet came to Kolkata, and we helped set it up. As they expanded into Kanpur, we too went on to work with them. Thereafter, we moved to Delhi, Mumbai, Ghaziabad and so on.
Once the retail boom began losing steam, we started working with NBFCs, which opened 800 offices across India. We then took up work at 400 branches of DCB bank too.
All this, of course, required the right manpower. We rarely had or have difficulty in finding manpower. At most places, people come to our office for employment. But in difficult locations like Bangalore, we know where people ‘live to work, and we target those areas. Sometimes, we work with brokers, who work like an agency. In some places, we have to arrange the entire migration of employees to our locations, taking care of their transport, shelter and food. We are very particular about age limits, safety, and providing social benefits.
We are present in Tier-II and Tier-III cities, where we pay the same rates paid in Tier-I cities, so it is quite an attractive proposition for people to work in such places.
Since we have a large manpower (5,000-6,000 people), we understand the compliance part very well, in each location, and pay according to different State laws. I have created a company to use this knowledge to help others follow the same rules.
We work largely with Bandhan Bank, which has opened many branches, as well as with ITC. We also work with payroll management. It is a niche company.
Housekeeping to FM
I have done everything that a customer has wanted for his facility. Primarily, I believe I am more on the health and hygiene side, cleaning and maintenance, but there is so much that can be done. For example, when required, I also take care of pantry and mail-room services. But I do not enter properties where there is no cleaning component.
Except for pest control, I do not subcontract out anything. And I don’t work as a thirdparty contractor either.
I used to travel abroad to learn more about cleaning and hygiene; that’s my learning process. I was very keen in learning about manufacturing. Even after a hard-nosed bargain, the cost of an imported duster in India was very expensive. I found that I could get it made in China for a fraction of the cost. That’s when I decided to go to the source, and started a company to manufacture cleaning products, to avoid importing issues.
Mops were the most selling product, so we started making mops. Then mop handles, and so on. We invested in molds first. A third-party was given the mold, and started manufacturing, which drove up the price because they added their own markup. That’s when we decided to manufacture ourselves. Within months, we have bought our second manufacturing machine. In the meanwhile, we also entered into a contract for manufacturing for aluminium products with the Jindal group, and with cotton processing plants in South India. We are developing our supplier base in Ahmedabad, for sheet-metal products. We are now a full-scale mops and tools manufacturer. We have wipers, dusters, dustbins, wringers, buckets, many types of handles and brushes.
Once you make the investment in manufacturing equipment, it is worth almost a lifetime. We are now involving ladies’ self-help groups in the manufacture of mops.
Depends upon the number of properties, and how many people are actually engaged in the cleaning of each property, the requirement varies. A ballpark figure is that for every 5000sqft area, you need one person for cleaning, and hence one mop. But you may need more than one person too, and definitely more in toilets.
A normal floor has various possibilities, a toilet does not. A toilet mop usually has microfibers which may or may not be used on a normal floor. An industrial toilet is oily, where microfiber can’t be used. Cotton mops last for just 15 days, while a microfiber mop will last for years. But I am unable to manufacture microfiber here; I have to import it. The specific kind of polyester, poly-amide fiber is just not available here.
I’ve fought a long and solitary battle to remove phenyl from cleaning. Wherever we work, we don’t use phenyl. There are many clients who don’t want to invest in microfiber. Only some people understand that by using this, you don’t need any other chemical to be used, thus saving on costs. The first cut in the admin budget is always suffered by the cleaning budget.
In the next two years, I will be able to stop importing completely. I am helping India become self-sufficient in the hygiene sphere. Going forward, I see my business giving a hard time to cheap international manufacturers. Whoever is manufacturing in India is producing better quality than the Chinese people, and we can give them serious competition.
Last month, we sold 1,700 pieces, of which 1,000 went to Mumbai. I am denting markets where we didn’t have a presence earlier.
Many of the cleaning tools we supply to hospitals may not remain sterile by the time they are used. We are trying to find a way to ensure no contamination occurs.
There is little or no difference between the machines made 20 years ago and now. I want to get into research to see what changes I can bring about.
Disposal of plastic waste (from equipment) is a serious problem, and we are working on it. I may ask my distributors to form channels to collect used plastic products, and convert it into plastic chips locally, which can be used for various purposes. I may not be the active party, but I will find a way.”