Big Idea

Squeaky clean

Gurugram-based start-up UClean facilitates cleaning one’s dirty linen in public

First goes a toy, followed by a doormat, then comes a lampshade and 10 minutes later, the items that emerge from the washing machine look nothing like the actual objects. Alas! If only, Mr Bean’s character, from the hit 90’s TV series, had been warned that not everything can we washed at a Laundromat. Turns out there is one Indian start-up that strives to provide all kinds of cleaning services at its laundrette. UClean's first step in this direction is introducing the self-service laundry model in India. 

IIT-Bombay graduate Arunabh Sinha was heading the north operations of budget hotel chain, Treebo, when he came across this business proposition. Unreliable laundry services proved to be quite a hassle for hotels without an in-house service. This experience coupled with a visit to Jakarta and Kuala Lampur, where he witnessed the growing popularity of laundrettes led to the launch of UClean in November 2016. So, the next time your laundry basket is tipped over by the weight of it contents, you simply have to locate the nearest UClean store. You can opt for a Do-It-Yourself service or have the start-up pick-up and deliver your clothes. You can even sign up for their Home Services package wherein, its cleaning experts take care of dirty carpets, rugs, sofas, upholstery and even car interiors. 

Launched with an initial investment of Rs.50 lakh and available across eight stores in Pune, Delhi and Hyderabad, every UClean store is equipped with enough machines to wash a load of 30kg or 200 pieces of clothes at a given point of time. The start-up inked a deal with US-based commercial washing equipment provider, Alliance Laundry Systems to source machinery worth Rs.35 crore over the next three years. Sinha explains how this service would be more economical for a customer, “In some cities like Mumbai and Pune, we are cheaper than the local dhobis. In Mumbai, a dhobi charges Rs 20-25 per piece for a wash-dry-iron routine. We offer ‘laundry by kg’ which is priced at Rs.50 per kg of clothes. Typically 1 kg is about five pieces of clothes, so it is around Rs.10 per piece.”

Getting the average Indian who is used to being served by the laundryman at his doorstep to now come to a shop and do it himself will be a challenge. Sinha acknowledges this when he says, “On an average laundromats presently contribute only 5% of the business, but if you look at specific locations such as DLF Cyber City in Gurugram where the bachelor and student population is high, the percentage of those using the laundromat is as high as 20.” He also claims that for those wanting to stick to their old ways, UClean's delivery service is 15% cheaper than existing players.

The enterprise received a seed funding of $1 million from Franchise India. The laundry service, which clocked Rs.20 lakh in revenue so far receives 40-45% from the pick-up and delivery services, 35% from dry cleaning and 15-20% from the home services. It has hired celebrity couple, Soha Ali Khan and Kunal Khemu as brand ambassadors and plans to expand to 350 stores across top tier-1 cities by 2020.