A quiet revolution is brewing. Pioneered and perfected in the Middle East, a sustainability-first model of linen management for the hospitality sector is taking root in India. Combining sustainably manufactured bed and bath linen and sustainable linen washing processes with the rental linen model, Narayanan Raghavan, CEO and Ram Mohan, COO of Rent-A-Towel told Mrigank Warrier, Assistant Editor, Clean India Journal about how they are bringing their affordable, environment-friendly idea to hotels in India.
Even the most high-end Indian hotels still procure and process their own guest linen. While this model has worked well enough since the birth of the hospitality sector, it is becoming increasingly unaffordable and unsustainable for them to continue to do so.
The UK-based Sustainable Hospitality Alliance has calculated that ‘The hotel sector accounts for around 1% of global carbon emissions, and this is set to increase’. Food preparation and linen processing are the two main factors responsible; the environmental impact of repeatedly procuring water-intensive cotton-based linen, and washing and drying that linen using copious amounts of power, chemicals and water, is massive.
More and more hospitality chains have a sustainability mandate. In answer to their needs, Austria-based Lenzing Group and UAE-based Rent-A-Towel joined hands to supply Dr Linen – bed, bath and F&B linen spun from TENCELTM fibres (made from the bark of eucalyptus trees), which combines the qualities of durability, comfort, hygiene, sustainability and affordability in a single product.
From UAE to India
Said Raghavan: “The Indian market is as vast as the country, and its hunger for sustainability is growing. We want to take the holistic service of rental linen to the large hospitality players, who are trying to explore how this model can lighten their current burden of cumbersome linen management, help them save on costs and improve their bottom line.”
The new model
Bedsheets, pillow covers, duvet covers, pool towels, hand towels, face towels and more made of Dr Linen’s unique blended fibres, all with a better look and feel than currently used products, will be made available in hotels in the three ways:
- Rent-A-Towel will provide end-to-end rental linen services to the hotel, by tying up with commercial laundry operators who will process the rented Dr Linen items.
- It will offer Dr Linen items for sale to those who want to rent linen to hotels.
- It will directly sell these items to hotels, whose responsibility it will be to process the linen.
In the first instance, the company will work directly with hotels, while the commercial laundry will become its subcontractor. It will be responsible for linen management as a whole.
Meeting brand standards
All starred hotel chains have their own internal specifications for the quality of their linen. Can Dr Linen compete with age-old cotton or poly-cotton? Yes, and more.
Ram said: “Our TENCEL-cotton blend in Dr Linen matches the weight, size and GSM specifications of hotel brands; we can fine-tune our product according to their needs.”
Hotels can permanently do away with polyester, that offered durability but was uncomfortable against skin and interfered with a good night’s sleep. TENCEL fibres are blended with cotton, to take care of the cost factor.
For a premium, hotels can opt for embellishments on the linen. Ram added: “If hotel clients sign up for a minimum of 1-2 years, we can supply them with customised linen that will be used only by that client.”
Quality linen processing
While TENCEL fibres may be sustainably produced, Dr Linen needs to be sustainably processed to meet overall sustainability goals. Raghavan said, “Sustainable linen management is part of our SOPs, which we will bring from UAE to India. Linen processing dossiers will be given to all our laundry partners; we will decide the mechanical, chemical and thermal parameters according to which Dr Linen items must be processed.”
The company will ensure these processes are consistently adhered to by first having its laundry partners certified by the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA). From the collection of soiled linen and its segregation, to how it is put in the washer and what wash program is chosen, everything will be documented in the TRSA quality manual.
Those hotels which will process the procured Dr Linen items in their in-house laundries will be trained to follow better processes, and their laundry managers will also be certified.
Market and pilot project
The duo is currently in talks with multiple hotel chains in India (hospitals will be a later focus area). Two reputed clients have agreed to let them roll out proof-of-concept pilots in two of their hotels.
What will this pilot study assess? In order for hotels to compare their traditional linen management models with the new model, they will have to define operational and financial Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in consultation with Rent-A-Towel.
“This will be the first level of discussion”, said Narayanan. “We will need to have benchmarks for comparison, such as the percentage of re-wash that comes from laundry, availability of linen during peak and non-peak hours, stain control mechanism…we will have to agree on certain parameters, deliver and then compare.”
“On the commercial side”, he continued, “Hotels will have to tell us their current cost per room for linen management; we as a service provider will then charge a certain amount per occupied room and compare it with what they have been spending. The results of this study will be extrapolated to all of that hotel’s properties across India, to help them understand how much they can save with our Dr Linen-based rental linen model.”
The UAE-based company has registered itself in Bangalore, and will use that city as a base to offer its services to nearby areas, including Chennai. Southern India will be the first focus area for sales.
More bang for the buck
When Dr Linen was launched six months ago, the cost of TENCEL fibres was 35% greater than that of cotton. As cotton prices skyrocket, this difference has come down to 15-18%. Soon, both prices will be at par, and for the same cost, the customer can avail of a more comfortable, durable and sustainable fabric which survives many more washes but demands less water and chemicals during the washing process.
As per UAE calculations, the cost of processing linen could drop by as much as 18%.
The company has a composite linen manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu, and can offer the same fabric that is very expensive on the open market at a fraction of the price. Make-in-India also makes it affordable in India.
The last two years have made hotel chains acutely aware of the need to refocus on sustainability and to minimise costs by outsourcing certain services to reputable service providers. A year or two from now, on your next vacation, you may just find yourself sleeping on a Dr Linen sheet or drying off with a Dr Linen towel. The possibilities are endless.