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Is residential housekeeping the new commercial cleaning?

The pandemic has brought with it a strange dichotomy; the intensity and thoroughness of cleaning has been increased across the board, but the area that needs to be cleaned has shrunk. Many if not most employees still work from home, and offices are catering to a skeletal staff which occupies only a small area. Apart from hospitals and hotels, footfall in non-office facilities has been slow to pick up; consequently, the demand for commercial cleaning has dropped. However, this has been at least partially cushioned by an uptick in the residential cleaning segment. Office-workers are stuck at home, where caution against the virus takes precedence over everything else. Home-owners have realised the importance of professional housekeeping services, both inside the home and in housing communities as a whole. In the last issue of the Clean India Journal, FM heads of companies which service this segment spoke about the why and how of residential housekeeping; here, we feature four suppliers who make it all possible. Ashwin Suresh, Managing Director – CareClean Solutions and Megamorph Marketing Pvt Ltd, Debtosh Chatterjee, MD – Mrinmoyee Supply Pvt Ltd, Saurabh Chourasia, Sr. Manager – Business Development, Haylide and Saumil A.Shah, Director  – K&Z Facilities Management Pvt. Ltd told us about which products sell best in the residential cleaning sector, and more.

“Since most of the services are being provided by service providers, they are accustomed to using concentrated products.”
-Ashwin Suresh

Range of residential cleaning products in demand

Disinfectant surface cleaners, surface sanitiser sprays and hand sanitisers have been eagerly embraced by the residential segment. For floor cleaning and sanitization, quaternary ammonium compounds are in demand. All-purpose cleaners for floors, glass, granite and marble of common areas are popular. Hydrogen peroxide-based products for cleaning and sanitisation of common areas, elevators and staircases are in vogue. Chourasia mentioned a product which offers descaling and certified sanitization for taps, handles, mirrors and sinks. Speaking from the point of view of cost, Shah revealed that his economical range of chemicals starts from INR 300- 500 per jar, while eco smart chemicals are more costly at INR 800-1500 per litre. This covers chemicals, but what about tools? Chatterjee listed many types of dusters, dry mops and brooms, wet mop with bucket, cobweb cleaning brush, eater duster and hand scrubbing tools with pads, dust
pan and dust bins. The extent of uptake for these products varies widely in what is still a nascent but rapidly expanding market for manufacturers, from just 4-5 sites per manufacturer to 25-30 FM providers servicing 250- 300 sites across India.

Innovative solutions introduced for residential cleaning
Chatterjee has launched a new brand to cater to the residential segment in the tools category. Called C3 (Clean, Calm and Comfort), it includes brushes and mops. Shah’s company has brought in a selfstanding magnetic microfiber mop with separate waste water storage, easy to use in homes.

How are residential cleaning products different from institutional or commercial cleaning products?
Chatterjee explained: The basic difference between domestic and institutional ranges is the pack size and life. Chemicals are provided mostly in smaller pack size and in ready-to-use mode. Tools should be lightweight and easy to manoeuvre with shorter  handles. Colours should be beyond the traditional four options (red, blue,red and green); more of fluorescent glossy colour are preferred. Some people like to buy toilet brushes matching the colour of the tile. Black colour is strictly a no-no, not even in packaging.”

Chemical constitution and concentration is mostly the same for both segments. As an\ example. Shah said that pack size of institutional products is 5 litres, while that of products for residential use is 500 ml or 1 litre.

Debtosh Chatterjee

The similarity in concentration has not adversely affected usage. Said Suresh: “Since most of the services are being provided by service providers, they are accustomed to using concentrated products. At sites where we see understanding is an issue, we ensure our training teams give them on-site training in local languages and also place dilution and direction posters for their future reference.”

“In my estimation, the residential cleaning market is at least 200 times bigger than the size of the institutional market.”
— Debtosh Chatterjee

What is the average consumption of products in an average residential complex of 90 flats?
This is very subjective and depends on many variables such as frequency of cleaning, area to be cleaned, intensity of cleaning etc. A matrix can be created for each site based on a joint survey with the FM company to determine the above variables. Chourasia said, “We have developed an Excel-based tool in site audit format which helps to draw out exact requirements of chemicals needed at the site.”

According to Shah, 40-50 paise per square foot is average  for material, machine and manpower in city locations. Debtosh offers a more detailed breakdown: “A residential complex of 90 flats will invest in a few machines like one single-disk scrubber, one vacuum cleaner and one jet machine. The maximum budget for all cleaning cannot be more than Re 1/sq foot, including manpower, machines, chemicals and tools. Including cleaning of all common areas, terrace, community and recreation areas along with garbage removal and internal road cleaning, the total cost may be around Rs 90000 per month.

Saurabh Chourasia

“Assuming each flat is of 1000 sq ft”, he continued, “and a total common area of 30% or 27,000 sq ft (90 flats X 1000 sq ft X 30%), a team of four cleaners and a supervisor will be needed. Machine cost would be around Rs 3500 and Rs.6500 would be the budget for all tools and chemicals.”

“We have developed an Excelbased tool in site audit format which helps to draw out exact requirements of chemicals needed at the site.”
— Saurabh Chourasia

Will residential segment volumes show increase in this year too?
As people are now more aware and there is more focus on sanitisation and hygiene, demand should increase. But people are now slowly getting used to the idea of living with the virus. Suresh said: “The euphoria in the cleaning industry may be short-lived; although sales may not drop to the earlier pre-pandemic level, it will not remain at the current prevailing high levels either. There will be a correction going ahead.”

When asked whether switching to supplying residential cleaning products has helped many in the industry sustain their businesses during the pandemic, Chatterjee frankly said: “Residential cleaning products and institutional cleaning products are two different business models. For residential products, one needs to have a different retail marketing strategy. It is not easy to create a business for the residential segment overnight.”

“Residential cleaning has always been a lucrative business even before the pandemic”, he went on. Earlier, the players in the residential cleaning segment may not even have looked for products in the institutional segment. In my estimation, the residential cleaning market is at least 200 times bigger than the size of the institutional market.”

Saumil A.Shah

The others agreed. Suresh has seen an increase of around 150% in his retail range of products through channels, direct end-customers and online sales. By connecting an existing market (residential complexes) to an existing range of products (industrial/ commercial), the pandemic has hugely broadened the scope and reach of the cleaning industry.

“Pack size of institutional products is 5 litres, while that of products for residential use is 500 ml or 1 litre.”
— Saumil A.Shah

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