“When I turned 23, I clearly remember throwing a fit, crying to my Mum and saying – You made an absolute nerd out of me! Because of your strict discipline and watchful eye, I spent all my growing up years studying hard, while my peers were bunking classes, partying and dabbling with relationships! There is so much I have missed out on,” says Mallika Sharma, Founder, The Leather Laundry.
“Now as an adult, I stand diametrically opposite in my views. I realize that the traits and skill-sets of a ‘good student’ are indeed the driving force behind all the productive work that I do today. I am a stickler for details, follow up on pending agendas rigorously, take down notes of tasks that I am to finish each day, set achievable goals, timetable effectively, consciously create work for myself, and am punctual, sincere and focused,” says Mallika. She finally has no qualms about being a good student as she feels none of her efforts has gone in vain. And she acknowledges that the entire credit, goes to her mother.
Wondering what the Leather Laundry does? It is into professional cleaning, colouring, re-finishing, deodorizing and repairing services for leather apparel, accessories and shoes.
Entrepreneurship runs in the family
Mallika’s father is a self-made man. After roughing it out for 11 years, he finally set up his own business and has been running it successfully for the last 25 years. Mallika has learnt entrepreneurship from her dad. For Mallika, his sharp business acumen has always been the inspiration. Her mother had a very supportive role to play and from bringing up four children to being by her husband’s side when he was down, she has had a positive influence on all her children. Mallika has always looked up to her. Mallika’s two elder sisters are also entrepreneurs. In short, it is a family of entrepreneurs.
How the Leather Laundry came about
The idea of coming up with an exclusive laundry service for leather products was casually floated by Mallika’s sister Neha over evening coffee at work and before they realized, it started taking the shape of a full-blown venture.
Armed with post-graduate degrees in Finance and Economics from the UK, the Sharma sisters swear by their venture, constantly striving to innovate and improvise. Besides that, Mallika is also a certified professional leather care technician, who has trained with the globally reputed leather care company, LTT in the UK. It was there that she learnt everything, from adopting the best practices to cleaning and caring for all types of leather to colour mixing, repairing and leather restoration and re-colouring.
A lot of research and meticulous planning went into the starting up of The Leather Laundry. Also she had often heard people complaining that it takes months for them to have their branded leather possession repaired or restored. “This is because people approach the stores of these brands directly, who then have these products sent to their workshops in other Indian cities or countries, making the processing time naggingly tardy, not to mention that it also gets very expensive,
says this 26-year-old young entrepreneur Mallika, who started up her venture four months ago.
Reaching out to local service providers
Why not then reach out to local service providers, was the next obvious question. The Leather Laundry has partnered with two brands who have willingly offered to redirect all customers seeking leather laundry services to them. The idea of the founder is to tie-up with as many leather brands as possible and preferably with those headquartered in other metro cities so that they can facilitate door pick-up for the Leather Laundry. Mallika believes the tie-up helps them get traction and adds value to these brands, as they become a one-stop-shop for everything ‘leather’. The long-term plan would be to eventually foray into leather furniture cleaning too.
“I feel that the concept is still at a very nascent stage in India, and it may take a while for it to tick with the Indian consumer. But with rising disposable incomes and growing consumer awareness, I am sure it is going to pick up rapidly,” says Mallika. She admits that the idea is not entirely novel and there are already several players in the space in India. What is important is how differently Mallika does it from the others.
I never plan to under-cut existing competitors by indulging in a price-war of sorts. My only focus area is quality. I want to effectively package and sell excellent quality service that is polite, courteous and timely. My target customer segment is a niche market of discerning educated consumers, who seek quality, believe in reducing wastefulness and practice ethical consumerism,
says this Delhi-based entrepreneur. It feels great when the startup gets to work with people who approach them with treasured leather possessions from their grandparent’s time, seeking advise on how to restore and preserve them. With her feet firmly on the ground, this confident entrepreneur loves to read, travel and is a feminist.
Mallika plays tennis too and is currently pursuing a post-graduate diploma in Human Rights from IIHR in Delhi.