The laundry industry is poised to witness exponential growth with many brands establishing themselves in the next 5-10 years. Sukanth Srivastav, Founder, Turns; Arunabh Sinha, Founder and CEO, UClean India Pvt. Ltd and Akash Dharamsey, Director, ADD Laundry Concepts Pvt. Ltd dwelled on the changes and developments that will drive the future of the laundry industry and its impact on all stakeholders. Here’s a synopsis of the discussion held during the LaundrexNet Conference last year
The laundry industry even though, took a beating, it has shown a lot of resilience and grit to weather the rough storm of the past years.
Dharamsey, who has over 25 years of experience in the laundry industry, said he had never seen such a dramatic setback in this industry as that which was brought about by the pandemic. He added that the laundry businesses that are still operating are nothing less than survivors.
However, Srivastav who manages a global technology platform for launderettes, says that the likelihood of running a profitable laundry is high. He added that the laundry business requires one to build an X amount of laundry capacity and then stay the course for the next two years.
Long haul investments
People who get into the laundry business and stay for long, usually tend to become very successful. This is one of the few businesses that can span generations. Those who started off embracing technology as early adopters will – in the long-run – benefit from their decision to go with the flow of time. Many laundry chains are emerging and embracing the adoption of technology.
According to Dharamsey, working together is the key to the future of the industry. Collaboration with people from within the fraternity will help businesses move forward.
Sinha, who has created what he terms a microformat laundry, said that businesses catering to customers who live within a two-kilometer radius and can find themselves using the service of a laundromat in the neighborhood, can function in an area as small as 200 to 250 sq ft, with a laundry machine and a steam iron table. He felt that consolidation and collaboration ought to be the key theme of this sector.
He also believes that the stigma of being labelled a ‘Dhobi’ is still prevalent. In his experience, nearly 30-35% of his franchisees do not actively participate, and enter this business with just an investor’s mindset. They only put money into the store, while simultaneously running other businesses. They might even be professionally employed elsewhere, and fall back on the store team to run the show.
In the coming years, the government is bound to take the environmentally toxic nature of laundry effluents seriously. Launderers today would do well to invest in changes like eco-friendly detergents, in order to be on the right side of the law.
The industry has reached a tipping point where new machinery and new technologies to save money can save electricity costs; these benefits can then be passed on to customers.
If the customer cares and believes in what the launderer is trying to accomplish, if the latter can project that they are working towards a zero-carbon operation, then the customer will be more impressed. If these features are marketed well to the customer, they would prefer to use the services of a sustainable laundry business.
Today’s customers are very conscientious. They are environment conscious, and want to understand laundry systems and processes. If they know how an outlet processes linen and how it affects the environment, these customers will be the ones to drive market growth in the future.
As a result, consumers will ask more questions, and brands will have to respond. Whether a chain or a standalone laundromat, business will have to answer a lot of these questions that will keep coming up. The nature of this industry will be influenced by the answers it comes up with.
The Golden Hour
People with experience who are already in the business should capitalise on this momentum as soon as possible. The next five to 10 years are ideal for setting up a well-established brand.
This is a generational business; all current customers will most likely refer their children to the next-gen of the business. There are very few businesses of this size that can be passed on to the next generation, and still have enough momentum to continue growing. Laundry is one of those businesses, where people should grow with the mindset that growth is possible, indeed even probable, in the long term.