Ashutosh Khadria, Proprietor, SSK White Collar, says that he started the company in 2008 when there was hardly any modern laundry in Bangalore. He wanted to create a “Branded” laundry service offerings “Branded Care for Branded Wear”. Though the first five years saw rapid growth, Khadria feels that the demand has slowed down over the past four years with influx of startups and labor & regulatory issues. “But we are truly committed to our promise of delivering value with each order we deliver. In the end we believe only companies providing true value to customers will survive.”
India is one of the fastest growing laundry and dry-cleaning markets in the world. According to Euromonitor International, the laundry service market in India is expected to grow to $76.5 billion. The rise in demand for professional laundry and dry cleaning has been rapid but comes with its own set of problems.
Low barriers to entry – In the past few years due to high demand for professional laundry, a lot of players jumped into the laundry industry. Never to realize that it is equally challenging to sustain, given the demands of modern customers in terms of labor issues, quality, timely delivery, home pickup and delivery service, etc.
With the influx of startups jumping into the laundry industry, a race for acquiring customer has taken over the quality of service. With an entry of every new startups, laundries have to offer more discounts in order to acquire or retain a customer.
The SSK White Collar story and growth path
What do we need?
1. Industry recognition: We need the government to put laundry under an industry so that young people wanting to enter this industry can find it easier with a formal infrastructure in place.
2. A recognized training and certification program: We need some good institutes or training school that can teach laundry and dry-cleaning skills.
3. Better Infrastructure: We need better Power supply, water supply and drainage systems to encourage more laundromats to be opened across cities.
I have been in the laundry and dry-cleaning business in Bengaluru, from the last 10 years having over 30 stores across the city. We started with catering to hotel Laundry and linen but gradually moved towards retail and household laundry and now we are mostly catering to households, managing their monthly laundry loads. It has been a very a great learning experience as we had to cater to lot of difficult situations as customers have been very unique over a period of 10 years. Customers in Bengaluru are quite demanding as they want their laundry to be dealt with very carefully price not being a very important up until last two years.
There is this constant price war in the Bangalore market with companies offering to do a piece of laundry for as low as Rs 4. According to me, the minimum a firm should charge to make a net profit of 20% on their cost in Bangalore should not be less than Rs 30 a piece (wash and iron for laundry). Any company claiming to do your laundry below that price is either living in a fool’s paradise or wants to offer discounts just to acquire customer and gain temporary market share.
Dry cleaning on other hand is very subjective and price range is very vast here as the price commanded is all about how much the customers trust your brand. Pricing is not that big factor, as customer wants safety of his or her garments and a good job to be done on their expensive suits and sarees. Some dry cleaners claim to do dry cleaning but 90% of dry cleaners don’t even have a dry-cleaning machine in their units. Its either water washed or outsourced to bigger laundries having dry cleaning machines.