Started with 2 employees and Rs 2 lakh investment, this laundry startup now has OYO and Ford as clients

Chennai-based startup IsthriPetti is a professional steam ironing and laundry business, founded in 2017, which targets both B2B and B2C clients.
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In a world where the first impression is everything, appearance is just a passive way of ensuring that. And, neat and crisp clothes play a very important role.

Be it women, men, or kids, everyone prefers clean, ironed clothes. Every individual, at some point, would have fought with their dhobiwala on the quality of work they had done – removing stains, loss of cloth, or worse, damage.

To help curb the issue faced by the common man, Sandhya Nambiar founded IsthriPetti in 2017 to take care of clothes, which are ironed and washed with the utmost care and with special instructions from customers as per their requirement. 

Sandhya Nambiar; CEO and Founder of IsthriPetti

Isthri Petti’, which means an iron-box in Tamil, is a professional steam ironing and laundry business which caters to both B2B and B2C clients.

“We wanted to give each of our customers the joy of wearing fresh, crisp, and neatly packed clothes with our fragrance ironing so each cloth smells just as new. Laundry is a large unorganised sector in India. With IsthriPetti, we want to bring in the comfort of easing out chores, resulting in the customer’s happiness and satisfaction,” Sandhya says.

Based in Chennai, the startup intends to bring the ease and comfort of getting the laundry picked up and delivered to home, office, or anywhere. This means no more daily dhobiwala arguments on cloth stain, coal smell, cash transactions, or timing.

How it started

Laundry and ironing top the most hated domestic chore of every household. More so for Indians because of the variety and delicacy of the clothes we use. Sandhya says, “As a working professional, I hated it too. I had to run behind my dhobis for issues like heat stains or missing clothes.”

“This really got me thinking. This is a much-needed service in every household but still, it’s being managed the old fashioned way. Just how grocery delivery was available earlier by just calling the neighbourhood shops, the same has been modified and given a facelift in the form of apps. Similarly, the idea of doing the same with laundry struck me due to the unavailability and untapped services.”  

Sandhya, a former HR professional, while researching on the laundry sector realised how unorganised, unexplored and professionally untouched the sector is. Her friendly banters with like-minded folks were focussed on this idea. And thus, her brainchild, IsthriPetti was born.

The startup, which started as a micro-sized steam ironing unit at Nungambakkam, Chennai in January 2018, has now emerged into a small scale factory, set up at Pallikaranai in the city. It has both laundry and steam ironing services and caters to various clients in the hospitality sector and retail clients.

The turning point for IsthriPetti was when it started tying up with OYO and Compass. “We serve OYO across the city. We also get to serve MNCs like Ford and Shell through Compass. It is thoroughly a rich and reinforcing experience for startups like ours,” Sandhya says.

The challenges

IsthriPetti faced many hurdles while establishing its business, which includes awareness marketing on how steam ironing is different from the regular ironing, assurance on safety and quality of the clothes, and making the service affordable for middle-class families and working professionals. These were a few key factors that made her stabilise in the venture.

However, Sandhya says she is optimistic about the market. “We see a huge potential in the market, in both the B2B and B2C segments. As the hospitality and the accommodation industries have seen significant growth in the last couple of years, with an increase in IT parks, institutions, and medical facilities, it provides a huge potential for the laundry business in the B2B and B2C segments.”

According to Statista, the laundry care segment amounts to $3,963 million in 2019 and is expected to grow annually by 3.7 percent until 2023.

The startup competes with laundry and ironing startups such as PickMyLaundry, Urban Dhobi, Tooler, etc. However, Sandhya says, IsthriPetti’s quality of services, delivery time, and economic packages makes it different from others.

The number game

IsthriPetti started with just two employees in January 2018. At present, the startup is 15 employees strong.

The startup, which has over 350 customers currently, charges Rs 200 for 3 kg of washing, and Rs 300 for 3 kg washing and ironing. It also offers a family package of Rs 900 for 15 kg.

Talking about the investment, Sandhya says, “IsthriPetti started with an investment of Rs 2 lakh as initially, it was providing only steam ironing services. Later, additional services such as washing were added as we soon realised the demand for it. For the B2B and B2C clients, we managed to raise Rs 11 lakh for the washing equipment, with the help of an angel investor. We are looking for investors to expand the business within and outside the city.”

The startup had a turnover of Rs 4.2 lakh in 2017. Today, it generates an average of Rs 4 lakh per month and is targeting Rs 5 lakh as average per sale with its current facilities. 

Sandhya says, due to the overwhelming response to the concept, IsthriPetti plans to open a few more retail units in prime locations across the city by next year.

“As a long term vision, we also want to train and employ differently-abled people in the business and create franchisee for them. This will not only give them career opportunities but, would be a great initiative towards accepting them into our society,” Sandhya concludes.

(Edited by Suman Singh)


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