Wassup: disrupting the laundry market with its on-demand service

On-demand is the future of businesses for delivering goods and services. We already get video streaming on demand (Netflix), cabs are available on-demand (Uber & Ola), even our grocery is on-demand (BigBasket). I haven’t used the service but am told there is an astrology on-demand service as well. What about on-demand laundry for our clothes then?

Wassup-Laundry YourStory

The Wassup Laundry genesis

YourStory had a chat with Balachandar R. about wassuplaundry.com, the new friendly neighborhood laundry and dry cleaning services he co-founded. Balachandar has worked in Hidesign and has a background in fashion outsourcing. In 2011, the entrepreneurship bug bit him. In order to ease the itch he started brainstorming ideas with Durga Das, Managing Partner of Das Star Ventures. They brainstormed on multiple ideas from retail fashion to dotcom ideas, finally arriving at an on-demand laundry service, because washing is a daily need just like eating. Das Star Ventures put in the seed investment of Rs. 4 crore in Laundry Project Pvt.Ltd, an entity that owns Wassup brand.  Later, they raised institutional funding from Canara Bank for another Rs. 4 crore.

Here is how it works:

Wassup sends someone to your house to pick up garments to be washed. They inspect, tag clothes accordingly because every fabric has its own washing instruction which we don’t pay attention to usually. (Even when we buy expensive clothes from Zara and the likes, most of the injustice happens to the clothes during washing time.) They wash, iron and deliver.  Regular delivery in 4 days and express in 24 hours.  Each of their facility has a capacity to wash 5 tones of garments a day.

Wassup - India's first community based laundry service. Aspiring to become India's best known consumer brand in laundry

Wassup – India’s first community based laundry service. Aspiring to become India’s best known consumer brand in laundry sectory

Target demography

Their aim is to create an affordable destination for all garment washing. They are targeting working professionals in cities who don’t have a support system. Wassup will take care of all their washing needs. For 40 garmetns a month, the company charges Rs. 1,299 — which includes two home visits, ironing and delivering back at home.

One of the flyers of the company says, “Weekends are meant for family outings and having fun, not for accumulated clothes that need washing.” One way to look at the potential of the laundry market growth is that any consumer can sign up for it. For example, eating is a very personal experience — many people crave their mother’s cooking or their wife’s — but washing isn’t. As long as the clothes are perfectly clean it doesn’t matter who washes them.

Since the price is cheap at Wassup, people can use it regularly; not as some cool hotel you go to once in a while but like a tiffin center you dine at daily. The service comes in handy for the pressed for time youngsters as well as busy families where both husband and wife are working. Even for those who use washing machine, it eradicates a lot of hassle from washing to drying to ironing.

Balachandar says, “Every garment has washing instructions, we follow that. We also treat the water at Wassup.”

Their current list of customers in B2B sector include, Taj Vivanta, Raddison, The Oberoi, IIT Mardras, VIT, Indian Navy and Mahindra WorldCity to mention a few.

Balachandar Wassup Laundry YourStory

Wassup is doing what Printo did for unorganized printing industry by organizing it and adding a flavor of consumer focused service.   According to a report by consulting firm KPMG, the organized laundry market in India is currently around Rs 5,000 crore.  The unorganized market is estimated to be around Rs 2,00,000 crore. Though there were a few old players in the laundry business in India like Jyothy Fabricare Services, Wassup is the first one which has fine-tuned its operation for nationwide scale. Wassup is trying to push the limits and become the category creator in its field. Going forward we wouldn’t be surprised if the corporates start giving Wassup subscriptions as perks for their employees — like how they do if for food with Sodexo card.

For the first time in the India, Wassup is collaborating with ITI of Karnataka to start a  ‘Wassup Academy for Laundry’, to offer a certification course for workers in the laundry industry. This will help ease their major pain point which is hiring the right talent groomed for their industry.

By the way, do you know there is a PhD in dry cleaning? One of their staff members Babu S. is doing his PhD in dry clearing.

Investment & expansion plans

They have an annual turnover of Rs. 3.2 crore, and their projected turnover next year is around Rs. 8 crore.  They aspire to be Rs. 100 crore turnover company by the year 2017.

However, to fuel that growth, the company is looking at raising a Series A funding of  4 – 5 million USD this year. They’ve already signed an agreement with Unitus Capital as their investment partner to take them through this process.

The company has chosen a franchise model to achieve its ambition to scaling nationwide. With investment of Rs. 6 lakh per franchises anyone could be up and running on 100sqft shop. The company provides a week-long induction program for new franchises to get them started. So far women are 70% of franchise business owners. In two cities (Chennai & Bangalore) they have 11 stores already, and 6 are franchise stores. Wassup is expanding to Delhi & Pune in the next 3-4 months.

Socially responsible

Embrace them while disrupting them? One of the impressive things the company has achieved is that while bringing efficiency to the market, they have embraced the existing dhobi-wallas, whose job was ironing clothes for the neighborhood.

Wassup Laundry improves the standard of the dhobis by providing them steam ironing machine instead of their regular/heavy arm killing device. The company has a partnership program to bring the dhobi- wallas in its network and use them as an interface for the last mile collection.  They will be provided corporate IDs that will elevate their status in the society.

CEO Balachandar says that one dhobi joined them merely to get an ID.  They later found out that he used his corporate ID and salary certificate to win over his prospective bride’s family.

Since we are on the subject of marriage, the CEO himself has his own story. Initially, when he started the venture his mother would wonder who would give their daughter in marriage to a dhobi; referring to him as one!

As part of the dhobi partnership, the company offers a scholarship to their children. There are already 3 children who are enrolled in school.  Apart from the scholarship, they provide them life Insurance too. As of now, there are 12 dhobis in the program and the number is fast growing.

Our take

The age-old barber industry has evolved to reach its current state — now the profession is not just that of a barber, but it has been elevated to a well-paying ‘hair stylist’ job. Abroad Toni & Guy, and in India Jawid Habib have shown the potential of traditional industry with a modern touch. There is no reason the same cannot happen to the laundry industry as it continues to evolve.

As of now you can only place your orders on Wassup site. But in 2014 that is not enough, maybe it is ok  for the B2B sector. Consumers require a dedicated mobile app that lets its users schedule laundry pickup and delivery from their phones, providing the convenience of wash-dry clean-fold-deliver with only a few taps on their smartphones, as well as integrating the  payment aspect in the background.

Emmanuel Amberber

Inhales & exhale everything startups, tech, entrepreneurship, and the intersection of India & Africa. You can reach him via emmanuel[at]yourstory.com