After the recent change in the Central Government in India, there have a major growth in the number of start-ups and entrepreneurs. Many of the entrepreneurs opted for the personal ownership of a company, and wanted to make a quick buck out of the opportunities by providing services. Yet, there were a few which saw a huge opportunity in disorganized industries such as laundry and handyman services. They took time to learn the tricks of the trade and are implementing out-of-the-box steps to streamline the process for the benefit of customers. In this article, we will focus on how start-ups are trying their best to streamline the disorganized laundry sector in India.
There are some chores which every Indian household has to handle or manage in a day or week. Laundry or washing clothes is a necessary evil chore done by housewives/bachelors/spinsters. The work will not stop even during war or recession. Laundry services are usually opted for, by housewives at the weekends. They spend half a day on the weekends to sort out clothes, apply powder or chemicals as per the clothes and stains etc. The time and money spent on washing, cleaning clothes are huge.
It is this 2,20,000 crores industry segment that many of the doorstep service start-ups want to break into, to become successful. As per a rough estimate, the laundry business across India has more than 8,00,000 establishments and many sub-vendors. Will you believe that only two to three percent of them are organized?
Since the news of the major business profits in laundry services went public, many businesses are joining the bandwagon to garner major profits. Many of the service provider companies focus on quality service, perfect logistics model and fast turnaround time. Estimates show that more than four million houses in India will need laundry services on monthly/weekly basis. The Indian population has shown an uncanny inclination to the smart/android phones and the downloading of apps. So, the trend shows an uphill of start-ups who will join the bandwagon for providing laundry services at the customer doorstep.
With stiff competition becoming the order of the day, new entrants are making a grand entry to the home laundry segment. It is the customers who stand to gain from better services and innovation.
Although many business books focus on Indian Laundry services as among the few unexplored profitable ideas, it is a fact that they mention none of the difficulties or uncertainties in the same market. Some challenges which the home laundry start-ups face are –
- Even in this era of online transactions, there are few age groups who prefer the old way and not the online process. So these laundry services can fulfill the demands of only the age group favorable with mobile apps, booking options and who can pay a little more than the traditional services. Old habits die hard. Even today, in this day of online transactions and bit coins, there are people who prefer to go to the old traditional shops to wait till the clothes get ironed and delivered back to them.
- So the start-ups involved in online laundry service are busy with building business models which can please the requirements of the customers as well give profits for them to sustain in the market. The idea is to bring professionalism to the otherwise disorganized sector and put a perfect e-commerce business model in place. But they are facing an uphill task because of the very different challenges.
- From the ancient ages, laundry has always been known and accepted as a traditional business. For the start-ups, to make a profit, a laundry start-up will have to bargain with the concerned professionals for cheaper work wages, take responsibility of clothes, maintain consistency in quality, face challenges in picking and delivery of clothes.
- Working professionals prefer early morning pick-up and late night delivery.
- Start-ups have to rely on technology to streamline the entire unorganized process.
- Then, there is also the challenge of people having washing machines. But rarely do they find time of ironing and pressing of clothes. This is where the home laundry services make a mark and difference.
- Many of the laundry start-up companies use only eco-friendly chemicals. The one factor which a start-up can rely on to attract more customers is the quality of service. So, the operations team of a laundry start-up always relies on chemicals and detergents which can be useful to the cloth. Yet, these chemicals and detergents are costly, and the start-ups have to pull in their resources to make profits.
- The logistics department which can put a dent in the profits and operations sector of a start-up. A start-up can wash 1000 clothes in a single day, iron and deliver them at the right time. But if one expensive cloth from a customer gets damaged or lost or misplaced, then they will have to make the payment. The profitable amount may be lost in these unfortunate circumstances. So it is mandatory that a proper model is designed to make the business a success.
Now shall we look at the older traditional method and recent online laundry model?
The customer goes to the traditional laundry shop, gives his/her clothes and the concerned vendor gives a stipulated time frame. The customer will again go to the shop on the specific day, collect the clothes and pay the amount. He/she will have no idea on the chemicals used, the method adopted etc. Every vendor in their own specific city or area will have their own method to cater to the customer needs. To be noted is the fact, that every vendor will have a limited customer base and repeated visitors.
If a person from another Indian state comes to the city, then he/she may not find the way to these shops. They may also have the fear of being over-charged. Also, there is no guarantee on quality service and transparent procedures are out of sight.
Although the system is based on trust, there are chances a cloth may be misplaced. In similar cases, only the concerned vendor will know the stage of the life cycle of the cloth. Yet, the process is not transparent and the customer will have to rely on the words of the laundry vendor.
Recent Online Method
The internet has brought a major change in the way the customers clean their clothes. Making a note of the challenges mentioned above, the laundry start-ups in India are making every effort to bring the utmost satisfaction to the customers.
The start-ups have made use of technology to keep track of an online laundry order. There will be a monitoring system to keep track of the life cycle right from the pick-up to the delivery stage. Cloth experts will first sort out the clothes and provide service treatment as specified by the client. They segregate clothes, check for faults/cuts/tears, separate clothes which can have color bleeding and tag the clothes. Once the process is completed, the clothes are ironed, pressed and delivered to the customer’s doorstep.
However, the companies have also sought to build a fool-proof security money transaction and identity safety plan for customers. There are some basic ground rules which every company follows to keep the confidential information of the customer safe and secure.
However, not every online laundry process can be automated. There are, in fact, many processes which need human interference and it is in this context, lack of skilled labor comes to the fore.
On the other hand, even a new entrant to any State can easily book the service. He/she need not possess a washing machine nor employ the services of a maid for cleaning clothes.
The concept of outsourcing has always been followed since ancient ages. People used to outsource painting their houses to painters, renovation to civil engineers etc. The main reasons are they do not have the experience to do the job perfectly or they were not interested to do the task. But only in recent times, people are outsourcing even simple jobs such as laundry to companies because of lack of time.
Five decades ago, people used to take longer periods of time to adapt to a new technology. But in the recent decade, technology is changing swiftly and the biggest advantage is that customers are whole-heartedly welcoming the new changes with open hands. The Indian start-ups involved in streamlining laundry sector in India will definitely have challenges, but it is only a matter of time before they put a perfect business model in place for the benefit of all citizens. And once the customers opt for the online laundry service, their clothes will be given the due requisite treatment, ironed and delivered back to them just as a gift.
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