The coronavirus induced economic slowdown has not limited entrepreneurial ideas. In a major innovation in the laundry segment, Clean Cat is digitising laundry services – integrating online services with last mile offline networking. BE’s Saptarshi Deb spoke to Sayan Som, Co- Founder, Clean Cat.
Q) When you started off in 2019, why did you choose the laundry segment?
A) Laundry is an unorganised industry in India which historically carries a ‘mom & mop’ shop tag which doesn't necessarily spell opportunity when one is planning to start a new business. In addition, it is often perceived to be an expensive affair and standard operations offer pick-up and delivery services only.
When the three of us, Indranil, Subhadeep, and I were discussing ideas, we all agreed that this segment has been under-served and yet, it is integral to almost everyone's daily life. We decided to work on the basic premise of providing efficient and organised laundry services to every neighborhood including our own, at the click of an app. It allows us to plan for a future where laundry services are readily available to everyone. Clean Cat, as we came to be known, was founded in January 2020 by three people – Sayan Som, Indranil Marick and Subhadeep Chatterjee. All of us have been friends since school and decided to start our first business venture together. Our operations commenced from July 2020 with six employees. At present, we have served almost 700 customers.
Q) Can you elaborate on your business model?
A) Like every idea that takes shape when one is faced with an adversity or an opportunity to improve or change something, we saw an opportunity in the domestic laundry segment. This was one segment where clients were either bound by the closest laundry provider in their residential area who may or may not provide the desired services leading to damage of clothes or worse, entail wastage of time as well - leaving a general sense of unfulfillment and the need to look out for alternate providers, which is more often than not equally challenging.
We decided to take a structured approach based on the needs of our customers, which helped us narrow it down to four types of services. The first category that came to be known as Clean Cat Neighbourhood provided affordable laundry services at shops in your neighborhood. Clean Cat has a strong network of 17 partner laundry shops (pick up & drop points) in north Kolkata, Rajarhat and Saltlake city. The customers have the option to book services through our mobile application or directly book the service at the shop. The second category is known as Clean Cat Premium which entails laundry services at your doorstep with complimentary pick up and drop services - with a guaranteed 48 hours delivery. The third category is the Clean Cat Housing where we provide laundry services at luxury housing complexes. We set up our laundry kiosk inside the housing complex to cater to the laundry needs of the residents. Presently, we are operational at South City, PS Panache and Rosedale. The fourth category is the Clean Cat Corporate. We have the unique distinction of offering laundry pickup and delivery services at offices for customers who are busy trying to achieve work life balance. This is an industry first as well. The customers book their services through the app and drop clothes in exclusive Clean Cat lockers placed in the recreational areas of their offices. Presently, we are operational at SmartWorks and AWIFS Kolkata.
Q) You have integrated both online and offline features into your value chain. Can you share the experience?
A) Our customers today have both preferences, to shop online and offline as well, which is very similar to how they buy online as well as walk into retail stores to make purchases. Like any business that needs to be accessible by everyone, our model incorporates both channels. For example, our customers using Clean Cat Neighbourhood (local shops in the neighborhoods) and Clean Cat Housing (residents of housing complexes) are using offline channels to book services and all our customers who use the Clean Cat Corporate services book through our mobile application. While we are currently available on Google play store, we are also in the process to launch our application in the Apple store in the next few months and in addition, planning to create a partner app for our partner networks as well.
Q) What kind of government support did you receive for the project?
A) The government has been extremely encouraging with their ‘Stand Up India’ Forum. We are proudly listed under the same. The criteria required to be enlisted required the proposal/project to be unique in nature when defining the services, impact and overall vision. We were able to successfully meet the criteria and our business model was approved by Indian Overseas Bank and the Indian government.
Q) Can you please elaborate your services? Is there anything new in the pipeline?
A) Bearing in mind the basics that are required, we provide wash and iron, dry cleaning, steam press of clothes and household linen. In addition, with the ever-growing tastes of our customers, we also provide ‘Upholstery Refresh’ (carpet & sofa cleaning) options and footwear (shoes) laundry services. We will be starting our commercial laundry wing from the first week of December and will accordingly expand our team.
Q) How are you planning to expand in the near future? Are there any plans of exploring other metropolitan cities or the tier I and tier II cities in West Bengal?
A) Since July, we have received a fantastic response from our partner network who signed up with us to support us and then subsequently, we received great feedback from our customers as well. This has helped us with increased interest from potential shops to join our partner network - mostly in south Kolkata at the moment. We will be adding five new luxury housing societies in the next two months. Our expansion will also help us to hire three more employees for our retail laundry wing. We have plans to set up our operations at Siliguri, Bhubaneswar, Delhi and Mumbai in the next two years. It will be a mix of tier and metro cities and not restricted to any type. Our project report to set up operations in Dubai is currently under review with potential investors and banks.