Kathak Mehta knew that she had to start an innovative product-based business, having studied and worked in the area of technology and innovation. And yes, she has a master’s degree in tech management from Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT), Ahmedabad.
Coen Vermeer, a Dutch national, had come to India after completing his post-graduation at Erasmus University in Rotterdam to start a venture and was very sure he wanted to work with a physical product for his business.
And as luck would have it, Kathak and Coen met over a cup of chai and ideas began to brew. Their common vision to build products (of the physical kind – as opposed to apps and digital products – saw them join hands and start their venture, Monono, in 2014.
Their first product from Monono, developed by the founders themselves, is the Gentlewasher, a laundry device for delicate, expensive clothes. “We researched the market, studied user behaviour and realised that people still grapple with the problem of how to wash and care for their most delicate, most expensive clothes,” says Kathak.
As most of us know, washing machines, dhobis, professional laundry services, and trusted maids are not dependable every time. Even the most trusted dry cleaner can have an off day, not to mention that dry cleaning is an expensive option to preserve their luxurious look and feel. Sometimes, the fabric itself is hardy but the embellishments need to be treated with care.
We met a lot of women to understand this problem. And we found that this was a concern for most of them. Using a washing machine damages delicate clothes, as does using a brush if you’re using a brush to get rid of stains. All in all, it becomes a really cumbersome process, explains Kathak.
“That is where the Gentlewasher comes in. Instead of brushing the delicate clothes piece by piece, the Gentlewasher takes care of 8 kurtas/shirts in less than five minutes. It is extremely easy to use, durable and requires zero maintenance. It is a washing device specifically designed for delicate clothes that need personal attention. Its patented drum profile is designed to preserve fabrics, so that those delicate clothes will stay intact wash after wash,” says Kathak
Gentlewasher was launched in Ahmedabad on 23 October 2016 and is priced at Rs.11,000.
While a slew of online on-demand laundry services hit the market in the past few years, the going hasn’t been easy despite the fact that growing urbanisation means there is a genuine, large-scale need to be addressed. [Read: 10 challenges in the on-demand laundry sector]. However, these have been services companies, while Gentlewasher is a new product. In that sense, it competes with the makers of regular washing machines. However, the device is manually operated (no guilt about using electricity), portable, and promises to clean eight pieces in just a few minutes, with a bit of an upper-body workout thrown in. So it can’t be compared with white goods manufacturers either. If Gentlewasher takes off, it could well create a new product segment in the market.
Watch: How it works – Gentlewasher