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Indian Cleaning Industry optimistic amid setback

It is true that the outbreak of Coronavirus elsewhere in the world did spur some FM companies in India to step up operations, even before we had our first positive case. Angad Rajain, Global Head – IFM, Tenon FM revealed, “Considering the COVID-19 transmission rate and the role that frequently touched surfaces played in spreading the virus in China, Italy, and UK, the demand for deep-cleaning and sanitization services spiked in India overnight at an unprecedented rate from January-end itself.”    

He added that more and more clients were requesting for regular/more frequent cleaning, sanitization and disinfection of their facilities to avoid local transmission by contact. The shortages of cleaning chemicals in the market is indicative of the unpreparedness of the cleaning industry. Learning from this, the FM and cleaning companies will have to source and adequately stock cleaning products to control such situations in the future. Needless to say, manufacturers of these products will also have to ramp up production in a concerted effort, well in advance. 

Debtosh Chatterjee, MD & CEO of Mrinmoyee Supply Pvt. Ltd claims that Covid-19 has created new fortunes for some industry players, and destroyed those of others. Manufacturers/importers of face-masks, hand sanitizers and liquid soap, as well as pest control companies, benefited greatly. “On the other hand, said Chatterjee, “It has destroyed the ecosystem of import-based Indian businesses. Initially, Indian manufacturers got a big boost since they were asked to fill in the vacuum caused by the import shortfall. They could also take advantage of the lower cost of raw materials like plastic chips. But soon, they too found themselves at the receiving end since the liquidity in the market dried up”. 

While this is the story of the manufacturers, the tale FM companies have to tell is somewhat different. “Although business operations have stopped because of lockdown”, said Amit Salunkhe. Director of Sumeet Facilities Pvt. Ltd. “Most of our clients have granted paid leave for the lockdown period”. With the latter recently getting extended by at least two more weeks, how far this bonhomie will continue remains to be seen.  

In Sunil Chari’s experience, the awareness about cleaning, hygiene and disinfection is the highest ever now. The Director of Rossari Biotech Ltd /Buzil Rossari Pvt. Ltd said: “We are now becoming used to higher usage of sanitiser and disinfection products, but we need to create awareness about how to use them. Indiscriminate use can cause harm”. Overall, business in March has been good, and he expects to see excellent sales in the coming months too.   

Vinay Deshmukh, COO of Forbes Facility Services Pvt. Ltd agrees that immediately after the outbreak of Covid-19, there was sudden awareness and sensitivity towards surface sanitization. But there is a flip side; the cleaning industry is B2B, and with many businesses shut, resulting in a migrant workforce moving across geographies, resource availability during the post-lockdown phase will be affected.

Change in client demands

Perhaps never before have clients been as particular about the level, type and frequency of cleaning they desire, as well as the chemicals, tools and machines used to achieve the same. Everyone has been obsessively reading about how the virus is transmitted and what is effective against it. In response, Salunkhe’s company has changed its business strategy and added Disinfection & Sanitization services to its portfolio, which it believes will be in major demand in the coming years. Rajain’s experience has been that “Corporates have become sensitive to premises cleaning and are asking for frequent routine cleaning. They are reaching out to janitorial service providers, specifically requesting for antiviral cleaning. Pradeep Lala, MD & CEO of Embassy Services Pvt. Ltd revealed that companies have realised the importance of the effectiveness of cleaning rather than being concerned only with look and shine. Every client’s focus is directed towards the cleaning of high-contact surfaces like door knobs, lift buttons, hand rails, etc.   

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