In an increasingly crowded d2c laundry market, Fabricspa stands tall. With processing facilities in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad and Chennai (and a railway laundry in Ahmedabad), this organisation has weathered numerous ups and a few downs, and is thriving because of it. What is the secret sauce to longevity in the laundry business? Is it secret at all?
Sagar Sodha, National Head, Laundry Services, Jyothy Labs Ltd (Fabricspa) met Mrigank Warrier, Associate Editor, Clean India Journal at the company’s Bengaluru laundry facility to answer this, and many other questions.
Ours is a hub-and-spoke model. We have a central processing facility at Doddaballapur, with 90+ stores across Karnataka.” Garments from franchisee stores in Bengaluru are collected daily by a fleet of the company’s own trucks. Other than a few stores in Bangalore that are designated as quick service stations for delivery within 2-4 hours, no other store has laundry equipment – a conscious decision that lowers the entry barrier for franchisees.
On average, 8000+ garments are laundered daily, with a capacity to process a total of 20,000 over three shifts. Shirts and trousers, saris, and blazers more or less account for equal parts of the pie.
Since the franchisee doesn’t have to procure expensive laundry equipment and consumables themself, the initial investment required is relatively low, compared to other d2c laundry chains; return on investment is also achieved within a shorter period of time.
So does this mean Fabricspa allows anyone who approaches them to become a franchisee? Not at all. “A franchisee owner cannot be an absentee partner; he or she needs to sit in the store every day, interact with customers and keep communicating with them. Many of our stores are owned by women entrepreneurs, who are ideal for the job. In some cases, store delivery personnel have invested in becoming franchisees and multiplied their income.”
Meanwhile, Fabricspa provides extensive support, including with marketing, to help the franchisee recover their investment and turn a profit as soon as possible. Zonal in-charges are in constant touch with franchisee partners; this, along with strong internal controls and timely sales reporting, establishes a relationship of trust.
As a longstanding player in the laundry market, Fabricspa enjoys the first mover advantage. While the market is growing at a modest pace and a fraction of customers may switch from one brand to another, most customers tend to remain loyal to a company for years, even if a cheaper alternative is on offer.
Fabricspa positions itself between the ultra-premium and mass laundry segments. Choosing to charge customers per garment as opposed to per kg is one of the ways it has cracked the code to profitability, without succumbing to unsustainable undercutting.
“Our growth has been organic, consistent, sustainable and profitable. We have learnt how to stay the course. The laundry market is driven by bottom-up growth; correspondingly, we have focussed on store-by-store expansion with an emphasis on achieving profitability.”
One of the notable consequences of this is the company’s geographical penetration; rather than open untenable stores in every city and town, it has committed itself to building capacity before spreading itself out.
Situated appropriately enough in an apparel park, across 2.5 acres with a 60,000 sq ft built-up area, the central processing facility is the nerve centre of Fabricspa’s Karnataka operations. Every evening, employees receive laundry bags full of soiled garments, each bag accompanied by a transfer order from a particular store, and each garment tagged with details, including customer name, garment characteristics, order number and date, store ID and a bar code, along with customer requests like starching.
Each garment is screened, scanned into the MSS and examined for stains or damage. Then, they are segregated into various categories and sub-categories such as type of garment, type of fabric and colour. Uniquely, it is not the customer but Fabricspa which decides how the garment should be processed. “Experienced personnel determine whether a particular garment should be sent for wet wash, delicate wash or dry cleaning. In case of doubts, the shift head is called for confirmation. Irrespective of the laundering process, the price for the customer remains the same.”
Another quality check is done between washing and drying, and approval from customers to further process garments is taken over a call or through an app. Stain removal is also performed, if necessary. A tailoring station offers minor repairs as a value-added service. After passing through finishing equipment and a final quality check, each garment is packaged, scanned to generate a sticker with details, segregated into store-wise shelves and dispatched. At the store, a final scan returns a garment to its rightful owner.
Choice of equipment
‘International brands only’ is the principle of procurement here. Washer-extractors with capacities ranging between 15-120 kg allow laundry loads of widely differing weights to be processed without wasting water, power or chemicals. Similarly, tumble dryers have a capacity of between 40-120 kg and dry cleaning machines between 10-35 kg.
The finishing area is a sight to behold. Flatwork ironers work alongside double buck machines – among the few in India. Nearby are a cuff and collar press, and mushroom presses for trousers.
For delicate garments, a hydro wash machine extracts water without damaging the fabric.
70-80% of post-process water is recycled in the effluent treatment plant. “Our ETP was kept running even during the lockdown. Other businesses have visited us to see how it works; it is a model unit.”
A two-stage RO system allows reuse of water, and eco-friendly briquettes are used in the boiler as fuel.
The last word
During my visit, three things stood out for me. First, Fabricspa believes in doing groundwork and working towards profitability rather than relying on flashy marketing and burning cash to grow its customer base. Second, it values and stands by its employees; the words ‘motivation’ and ‘family’ cropped up quite often. And third, it is confident about its choices, and does not need to resort to secrecy to safeguard its market position.
“Anyone can come and see what we do and how we do it. But will they be able to copy it? No. We have built this venture over time, and our experience and values is what will keep us ahead.”