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Quality with Quantity: Telangana laundries striving to strike a balance

In an industry as competitive as the laundry sector, it is highly unusual for owners to share their trade secrets. The members of the Telangana Launderers’ and Dry-Cleaners’ Association (TLDA) feel otherwise; they believe that sharing domain knowledge and having a healthy and open discussion are the only ways for existing and new players to find their space in the burgeoning laundry market without cutting into each other’s profits, and delivering quality services.

The TLDA will be present in full force at the Laundrex India Expo
2020, scheduled from February 13-15 at Mumbai. As a prelude to the
many conversations they intend to have there, they let Clean India
Journal have a sneak peek at their informed thoughts and opinions
about the status of the laundry sector at present.

Evolution of the laundry industry

Until as recently as a decade ago, people would do their own laundry at their own homes; the demand for outside laundries was quite niche. But increasing population, higher percapita incomes and better purchasing power have come together to create demand in the Indian laundry market, which is on a high growth trajectory. Outsourcing of services is a timehonoured tradition in India; combined with young and middle-aged people using a variety of fabrics that need special care, the laundry sector has boomed in the last decade.

When Abhilash Reddy, MD – Express Fabricare commenced operations in 2011, healthcare providers had already realised that the first point of contact of a patient with the hospital was bed linen, but they still didn’t consider laundry services a priority. “We had to struggle to reach out to them and create the need for an industry-specific linen/laundry management system”, Reddy said. “Bringing in hygienic standards close to the NABH recommendations, daily linen audits and international quality solvents were our basic priorities. The results were visibly tremendous – in linen life, reduced discards, and it created more time for the management to concentrate on patient handling”.

How to set up a business

Location, location, location! Among the many factors that need to be assessed before investing in a laundry, Abdul Khadeer, Founder – Ironers said that the site of the facility depended on the type of laundry. For retail laundries, it should be near gated communities or apartments (at least the pick-up point should be nearby) while commercial laundries which serve hotels, hospitals or the railways can have workshops on the outskirts of the city.

“Apart from location,” says Adarsh Kumar Moogala, Founder – Smart Wash Solutions, “selection of the right machinery, manpower and the availability of water also need to be assessed.”

Shiv Shanker Agrawal, CEO – Washonn points out that no there have not been professional companies or consultants to educate investors on laundry startup challenges, and institutions dedicated to the training of skilled manpower. He advice to new entrants is to “begin with complete dedication and wait at least 12 months for results to come your way. Follow standard operating processes with quality as the vital factor”.

Moogala has devised a set of initial steps for new entrants, starting with mapping the entire value chain of the industry, from plant set-up and operations, pickup and delivery logistics, software, on-boarding of new customers to the incremental services that can be offered as one develops one’s network. Discussing viability models with current market players and finding service gaps in what they offer will help one position one’s service uniquely.

“‘Why should the customer come to you?’ This should be the question answered by every new player”, says Moogala. “A logical and convincing answer, if executed well, will drive your business forward”. One can start off with a B2B model but first it is important to figure out how customers will meet at least 30% of your plant capacity before investing, and to consider B2C only after B2B meets 50-60% of the capacity, since the gestation period in B2C is longer.

Special cleaning

Abdul Khadeer’s company is involved in cleaning footwear and leather articles. Unfortunately, he says, customers still think that all laundries do is wash the product and hand it over. They do not realise how complicated the process can be. Leather goods and toys, in particular, require gentle processing as they are very susceptible to damage, while the temperature, duration, machinery, chemicals and drying process used in shoe cleaning are critical.

Moogala says that every week, he gets an average of 25 orders from customers who have experimented with cleaning footwear at home or from an unprofessional team. “No branded cleaning agents or skilled support is available for such cleaning. People largely clean canvas and sports shoes, and damage leather articles by experimenting on them”, he says.

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