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When door-to-door collection and delivery in the retail laundry segment hit the Indian market, people were agog with the comfort it brought with it. It meant no carrying loads of clothes to the nearest outlet for dry cleaning, then again returning to collect it… and, also putting up with delay in delivery time. But, the recent development with the commencing of Quick Clean Laundromat in New Delhi couple of months back has begun the much-awaited revolution in the commercial laundry segment.

This Laundromat is turning into a blessing for many, especially students, office goers and even nearby residences. “In fact, people come by even from far off places to our Satya Niketan outlet. They sit by and enjoy music as their clothes get laundered,” Ankur Gupta, partner, told Clean India Journal. At present, besides Satya Niketan, they have another outlet at North Campus

The brainchild of Anshul Gupta, Ankur’s brother, the Laundromat system was launched last year. Inspired by the success of coin-laundry system in the US and the need in India, Anshul planned to replicate the system here after a careful study of the market. “Even though my family did not respond positively to my venture at the beginning, today, my parents too are getting the clothes laundered at Quick Clean,” said a proud Anshul.

As Brian Brunchkhorst, one of the international Laundromat experts who is dedicated to guiding entrepreneurs in this business, has stated in his article on the advantages of starting a coin-laundry business, the Laundromat is an all-cash business that can also be operated as part-time. Unlike other labour intensive business, the coin laundry system needs just one person to oversee the entire operation. What more, it is not affected by any market forces!

Quick Clean has procured 10 coin operated laundry machines from Primus, a Belgium-based leading commercial laundry machine manufacturers in Europe with a strong presence in North America, Asia and the Middle East. Primus machines are manufactured in its state-of-the-art production facility in the Czech Republic. Each of the machines at Quick Clean is of 6kg capacity and operates with the help of a token coin provided to the customers. Laundromat system does not require specialised fabric softener, agents/liquids or detergents. Currently, the two outlets in New Delhi are spread over an area of 500sqft each. “We have plans to open more outlets, even in Mumbai and Pune,” said Ankur. “With the past paced and structured living pattern in the cities, getting time to manage laundry is becoming difficult.”

Anshul described the expression of relief on a bunch of students’ faces when they walked into the Laundromat with a huge pile of clothes as an encouraging sight. “They sat through the day to get the clothes laundered.”

In the West, these outlets have gained popularity as these are attached to coffee bars with TV sets and other comforts. Anshul has already installed music systems at his outlets and is looking at providing his customers with more amenities to create the ambience of a home.

A young chartered accountant, the 24-year-old Anshul has set the pace. It’s now time for expansion and also to see other players enter the market. While, the Indian laundry sector, largely unorganised, is yet to take off, the introduction of Laundromat or coin-laundry system is a welcome development. According to KPMG, the retail laundry business in India is around र5,200 crore. Jyothy Laboratories-owned Fabric Spa aims to open 200 stores in India over the next three years. Pressto has around 11 stores in Delhi and Mumbai, and plans to open up around 20 stores by the end of March.

Virtual waterless washing machine!

Laundry systems have been subjected to constant innovation and with water scarecity catching up, washing machines that hit the market today use less water than the conventional ones. From green detergents to less water to green machines, the market will witness this year another development with machines using virtually no water for washing!

UK based Xeros Ltd has come up with a machine that uses less than two per cent of the water and energy of the conventional machines and is likely to be in the market in few months time. Bill Westwater, CEO of Xeros Ltd told Clean India Journal that field trials in actual laundry businesses will start only by April. A top-loading washing machine consumes more than 151 litres of water while the front-loading type uses up 37 to 90 litres of water in every wash cycle besides the electrical consumption which is usually on the higher side.

The Xeros process uses 3mm-long nylon polymer beads that can get into all the crevices and folds of clothing can also be re-used. The beads flood the machine’s drum once the clothes are wet and the humidity is at the right level. After the washing cycle is complete, the beads drain away in the same way as water in a conventional machine.

Since the washing process uses just one cup of water, the carbon footprint associated with water and electricity consumption as well as water run-off pollution will soon be provided with a solution.

The machine concept evolved when Professor Stephen Burkinshaw, textile chemistry professor at the University of Leeds, discovered that a certain type of nylon polymer bead had an inherent polarity that can extract dirt out of a fabric using a little amount of water. It is said to keep whatever dirt gathered locked-in at the beads’ nucleus.

Cambridge Consultants, one of the UK’s top developers of breakthrough innovations, was hired to prove the efficiency of the polymer beads. If the product is found efficient and commercially viable, their team will come up with a solution on how the beads could be removed to end the clothes washing cycle. In six months time, Cambridge Consultants came up with a prototype of the washing machine, which was initially called a “virtually waterless washing machine”. The results boasted of clothes that were cleaned with equal efficiency as those washed using the traditional methods.

Xeros Co was created to handle the production of the “virtually waterless washing machine”.

It is backed by £500,000 investment provided by the IP Group. Part of the company’s projections will include extending licenses to domestic manufacturers of washing machines.

Xeros Company has also partnered with the Kansas City-based GreenEarth Cleaning in line with its move to initially target commercial establishments like hotels, high-end washing outlets and care homes.

IL&FS invests in Jyothy

IL&FS Investment Managers Ltd has invested र100 crore in laundry services business of Jyothy Laboratories Limited. Jyothy Fabricare Services Limited (JFSL), which started its operations in Bangalore with an initial investment of र40 crore will be raising funds in two tranches.

JFSL has plans to set up a plant with a capacity of serving 40,000 garments a day. It would be operating under brands Fabricare and Snoways. Besides door-to-door services, the company would also target retail and institutional customers like airlines & hotels.

JFSL plans to expand to other cities like Hyderabad, Pune and Chennai.

HUL’s Strategy

Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) is working on a new growth strategy for its laundry business. It would be focussing on product innovation, new consumer and retail trends and aggressive marketing and promotions.

HUL believes the laundry segment is one of its key growth areas. In 2006, HUL’s soaps and detergents segment contributed around र5,596 crore to the company’s total sales of र12,103 crore. The laundry business is witnessing a surge in demand from cities and HUL is focusing on Tier I and II cities to tap that demand.

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