Wash Buddy: Rejuvenating Clothes, Shoes and Bags!!
Incepted in 2013, as a small laundry service venture,Wash Buddy is the brainchild of the two technocrats, HariharanJeeva and Visalakshi Natraj. Wash Buddy is popularly known for its end-to-end laundry solutions ranging from washing, ironing, and dry cleaning to shoes and bags refurbishment. Spinning around the western Laundromat model, the company now command a presence all over Bengaluru with 14 stores (both company-owned and franchisee), all equipped with the latest technology of the laundry market.
Armed with exceptional techniques in keeping the clothes, shoes and handbags absolutely spick and span, Wash Buddy was developed to cater to Indian needs. With increased urbanization, upward mobility and a fast-paced lifestyle of India, inevitably there is a premium placed on convenience and laundry services, which has been an integral part of the business ecosystem since ancient times; it is a necessary evil and it’s a recession-proof business. “The business is not new to any part of the country, only the way of doing it changes with the time. Unlike western culture, people in India do not have the cultural habit of doing their own laundry at a store plus the climatic conditions and multiple types of garments that we wear also does not allow the people to do their wash by themselves. Therefore, the company made it a mix of western Laundromat style but as a staff assisted service,” states the duo.
Numerous laundries have popped up across the country over the past few years, yet they have barely scratched the surface in terms of the addressable market.Within a year from launch, Wash buddy’s changing strategies and approach of the business model received huge appreciation from its potential customers which helped the duo gain confidence to work without any intervention.Despite facing hardships during the fledgling period, the fervent zeal of the duo made them taste the ingredients of success. They bootstrapped the company while working in IT sector for close to two years before becoming a full-time entrepreneur.
“Every household is our ideal customer, says Hariharan Jeeva and Visalakshi Natraj, the co-founders of Wash Buddy
“The concept of setting up laundromats in the bachelor areas or floating crowd is an old concept,” asserts the duo. They believe and understand laundry as a traditional business which is done in every street of our country. Wash Buddy laundromats thus, ascertain the best treatment to even the most fragile clothing that is handed over to it by its customers with an utmost trust.
Unlike the neighborhood dhobi who visits home regularly, online laundry players had to put a lot of effort to create the trust to the customer. This is not a business based solely on logistics and delivery at the doorstep. The customer has to put a lot of trustswhich requires a good and sound understanding of the backend. Wash Buddy with its hybrid model of both an online presence and offline stores, bring in the confidence of the people through personal touch and care to outsource their valuable garments. They wash the garments separately using environment-friendly washing agents. On the other hand, dry cleaning plus bags & shoes refurbishment is an important service that marks the presence of the company in every nook and corner of the city.
The laundry market has seen many start-ups in the recent years whose Laundry franchise models have only set up the store, put up their brand and leaves the operations to the franchisee. These start-ups have failed to make a robust business model and shut the doors in less than two years from their inception.Wash Buddy is in fact quite opposite; they train the staff and fill the gap wherever and whenever needed by having a pool of additional staff. The company makes the operating model very strong so that the franchisee has the little hassle in operating the store and at the same time pass on the maximum margin to the franchisee.
With processing units, in-house logistics, and technology, the Bengaluru-based Wash Buddy claims they can pick up garments within few hours of the order and return them within 24 hours.
Meant for commitment towards quality and time, Wash Buddy is the first one to introduce wash plus iron as a package in this kind of business model. It serves customers with the best technology and latest washing, ironing and stain-removal techniques and also provides them with pick-up and delivery deftness so that their life gets easier by just handing over and getting back their prized possessions at their doorsteps.
No big banners, no big offers, the business of Wash Buddy is naturally being brought by word of mouth and this is the best advertising mode ever. This speaks a lot about the company’s commitment to the customers.
In a country like India where competition is intense and geographical expanse is huge, a newly build company definitely need expansion capital for scaling, operations and branding. In addition, mentoring from investors and incubators and the presence of a supportive eco system helps startups focus on unit economics despite the high initial costs. Wash Buddy, therefore, has built a strategic tie-up with the Malaysian based Company, CLEC, who are into this laundry business for the past 18 years.
In quest of partnering with an Indian company in order to extend their business reach in the country, CLEC brings to the table years of operating experience that will help develop the Wash Buddy brand in a big way. Nathan Pillai, Group CEO of CLEC is very optimistic about this Strategic tie-up in terms of the experience and expertise of CLEC and the entrepreneurial spirit and energy of the founders of Wash Buddy.
Team effort and a clear alignment of core values between the staff, the shareholders and the management build the culture in Wash Buddy. The organization lays emphasis on training its employees and also hires a differently-abled workforce to provide them a chance for proper vocation.
The Journey Ahead
With a clear differentiation in terms of the offering, Wash Buddy strives to become one of India’s largest and profitable Laundromat groups. “We already have franchise enquiries for multiple cities like Chennai, Pune, Mumbai and Kolkata. Within a period of 2-3 months, we will on board in these cities.And, within the next five years, CLCE and Wash Buddy have targeted to spread across pan India with a minimum of 500 stores”, says Hariharan Jeeva.
Wash Buddy is looking forward to mitigating the risks and challenges such as employee scarcity, lack of knowledge that which will allow business continuity in the future. The company is also working towards a long-term model wherein they can hire and train people who can be placed in the company stores and other laundries as well.
Opportunities and Challenges
Due to the failure of a few laundry startups in the past years, all Laundromats are perceived as unsound investments. However, the expansion program of Wash Buddyalong with the success of its franchisees and years of successful operational existence and information dissemination has helped the company position correctly.
Two years of experience handling the blue-collar staff and operations havemade the founders move forward in setting up more stores in a little different way, i.e., the franchise model.It took around eight months to achieve operational breakeven. Today, Wash Buddy is known to be one of the trusted laundry service providers.
There are abundant opportunities and any player having better technology and operation with a strong focus on customer satisfaction will emerge the leader.
Milestones and Accolade for the company
- Bootstrapped and started in Dec 2013 as BubbleZpoint
- January 2015 – Second store
- July 2015 – Third store
- Nov 2015 – Fourth store (Wash Buddy was Born and existing stores rebranded)
- March 2017 – Wash Buddy acquires Sleeves and Collars
- Aug 2017 – Received award from Silicon India Magazine as 10 most promising housekeeping services providers
- November 2017 – Strategic tie-up with Malaysian based CLE-COIN company
- Present – 14 stores spread across Bangalore and growing