The Laundry Bag is redefining the way ‘traditional’ laundry was perceived in our country, one city at a time. Conceptualized by three friends – Nalin Agarwal, Shourya Jain and Honey Jain, this company took its first baby steps in Pune, and eventually branched out to Goa and Raipur. Working on a price-by-weight notion,it’s an on-demand-laundry prototype, that allows customers to order a pick-up with just one click. Co-founder and CEO of The Laundry Bag, Nalin Agarwal shares his story with us.
How did you start this company?
After completing my post-graduation in filmmaking, I was in Mumbai, struggling to find a job. It was during my struggling days that I started watching The Big Bang Theory. In one of the episodes Sheldon is explaining Penny about how to use a Laundromat machine in their building basement. That was the eureka moment for me! The first thing that came to my mind was that ‘this could work in my college’. That marked the start of the endless research for the project. After completing research, I discussed the idea with my friend, Shourya and we started with our venture’s first Laundromat in Symbiosis International University, Pune on June 3, 2014.
Tell us about your USP.
All the traditional local laundries, drycleaners, new-age laundry aggregators or on-demand service providers mix garments of one particular customer with others in order to meet the capacity of machines. This has been an age old method of working where garments are sorted according to colour and fabric, and stored till the time there is enough quantity of a particular type. That is why your drycleaners take time to deliver them back.
Our USP is ‘we donot mix clothes’;clothes of a particular customer will not be cleaned with anybody else’s. Thus making the process and finished garments totally hygenic. Also, we are a one-stop-shop for all your wardrobe – apparels, shoes, luggage, home décor, and etc.
The operations have been designed in a way that customers’ clothes are processed in the same way that they are processed at home. In fact, we promote our clientele to replace their household laundry with The Laundry Bag wardrobe management services.
What marketing hacks have you employed so far to scale up your business?
The laundry services have been archaic and orthodox. Even till now, people have no other option besides their traditional local dhobi. Also, laundry is always seen as a ‘task’;a daily chore that people hate. No matter you have a washing machine, a maid for that washing machine, your family dhobi or your dry-cleaner, the entire process has always felt tedious. We changed the rules by making laundry an ‘experience’ – easy, fast and on-demand.
The Laundry Bag started our first laundromat in Symbiosis; our market survey naturally pointed us to the fact that students didn’t want to spend their time doing laundry. They would rather spend that time going to the gym, going to a local pub, hanging out with friends or simply chilling. That is how our first campaign was designed –‘We take care of your clothes, while you take care of your dreams’. The same campaign was used, when we started our laundromat in BITS Pilani, Goa Campus.
When we entered the on-demand laundry scene in Raipur, our market survey made us understand, families in the state capital of Chhattisgarh were dependent on their traditional family dhobis. They had no other option. Thus came our next campaign –‘Laundry. That’s not how it’s done’. The powerful image of a dhobi beating the clothes with an effective tagline caught a lot of eyeballs and got us a decent response. Our early customers found it really convenient to get laundry and dry-cleaning done, and that worked in our favour. The first experience of our service did the trick. From there word-of-mouth publicity got us tremendous response.
Besides everything, customers found our concept very unique and top of that no mixing of garments while processing and ‘Per KG’ pricing (defying the traditional ‘Per Piece’) model attracted the customers. The satisfaction of hygienic cleaning and easy to remember pricing also worked wonders.
Who are your competitors?
In all our cities of operation namely – Pune, Raipur and Goa we have worked in different models and learnt a lot from them. A lot of players have mushroomed up since we started. There are a lot of laundromats but they have a short shelf-life because the market has evolved into a technology driven, on-demand laundry service. The reason being, customers demand convenience and they want it at their doorstep. Imagine the thought of not moving for your laundry, not even the pain of walking upto your nearest laundromat. Just a tap on your phone and a person at your doorstep to free you from all the troubles of doing laundry. That is what we do at The Laundry Bag.
In the on-demand laundry sector, we have been working in Raipur for more than 12 months now, improving our service domain, optimizing our operations and polishing our technology and back-end capabilities for seamlessly operations while scaling up.
We are scaling up and we understand, unlike Raipur we will have to face the music in other cities but we never said we don’t like good music. We believe healthy competition keeps everyone on their toes, thus improving the entire industry.
During the initial setting-up stage, what challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?
The first challenge was to convince parents. When I first discussed the idea with my father his first words were – ‘Ab tum kapdedhone ka kaamkaroge’. Then I got my ‘BaniyaBuddhi’ to use and convinced him after showing the numbers of my business plan.
In the initial stage, research was a big challenge. In India, laundry is a huge unorganized sector valuing upto a tune of Rs 2,00,000 crore & more, and because of its very unorganized nature relevant data is unavailable. Looking for right equipment, technology, vendors, and etc. was very important as it was necessary for a good foundation.
After a detailed business plan(which I made while working during my struggling days in Mumbai), the next step was to find an investor and convince them. People think, the toughest part is getting an investor; but in my case I was lucky to find an investor in my friend. Shourya did the initial investment in the business, but it wasn’t easy to convince him.
But the biggest challenge is to convince yourself to take that leap of faith. To convince yourself in your idea.
Who are your partners in crime?
Honey and Shourya Jain are my fellow conspirators. Actually, we three are college friends from Symbiosis, Pune; we studied BBA together. Honey was a year junior to us in college and was dating Shourya. The love story led to a fairytale wedding. It was during their wedding when I discussed the idea with Shourya and that is where the seed got its roots.
Tell us about your future plans of growing your business.
The Laundry Bag is working on expanding into different verticals. We want to expand in all verticals like hotel laundry, hospital laundry, railways and other government works. You name it and we want to mark a presence there.
Besides, we are working on two very interesting ideas: –
Linen Management – Providing linen besides the regular laundry facility to our commercial clientele.
IoT (Internet of Things) – domain we envision to connect the dots between laundry, its allied components and Internet to gain insight on customer behavior.
Like any startup our future goals are to expand our verticals in various other cities either in franchise model or self-run units. Self-run units will require funding. But we are looking for far more than just an ‘investment’. We are looking for a ‘collaboration’ that will help us in converting this unorganized sector into an organized industry.