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Startup stories, startup sorrows

Rajat Kumar, CEO & Vishant Kumar Singh, COO, Suvidha Now and Mohammad Ibrahim, Founder, AZ Services share the trials of tribulations of launching a housekeeping startup.

Choosing equipment

Not everyone who floats their own housekeeping venture has prior industry experience. Consequently, many entrepreneurs are at sea when it comes to assessing, choosing and acquiring the machines, tools and chemicals they need to start work. Ibrahim said, “It’s a bit difficult to choose cleaning products, since we need something that delivers the best results but is also economical, not to forget durable”.

No guide exists to handhold the founders through reading the equipment menu, so to speak. Many try to bring their experience of home cleaning to the professional cleaning market; but does this work? “The cleaning materials used in homes and offices are not the same, they are of different qualities, concentrations and applications”, said Kumar.

Customers who sign up with startups too tend to squeeze them when it comes to the final price; while larger companies may be able to absorb this, startups cannot. “Customers demand high quality at a low price, and it becomes difficult for us to meet their requirements within the given budget”, said Singh. When it comes to machines, he prefers high-pressure motors with low weight, as transporting machines from site to site is cumbersome.

Financial constraints

Startups have the dual challenge of having to operate within a straitened budget, but also be able to demonstrate to potential clients that they are adequately equipped with the necessary resources. They may not acquire a machine without having the work order in their hands, but to get that work order, they may need to demonstrate that they have the required machine – a chicken and egg situation.

Startups have small teams that may have to work at multiple, geographically distant sites. If the work at a site is basic, the revenue will not even meet the logistics costs.

Considering the fact that a startup is also more likely to rely on manual cleaning compared to more established players, paying salaries of ground staff can also be a challenge.

Manpower challenges

Janitors need time to understand how to use cleaning equipment correctly rather than just for show, and to understand how to implement cleaning SOPs correctly. Apart from lack of documents available with ground staff, the Suvidha duo has an exhaustive list of challenges in this department:

  • Training: Reskilling & upskilling for a digital workplace, using complex enterprise software, adapting to remote learning, ineffective and outdated training methods, developing leaders from within, finding time for training in the midst of work.
  • Retention: Dissatisfaction with salary, better job opportunities in the market, hiring wrong candidates, lack of appreciation, unrealistic expectations of employees.
  • Supervision: Managing performance and accountability, delegating and micromanaging, managing conflict, doing more with less.

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