In Conversation with Nalin Agarwal, Co-founder & CEO, The Laundry Bag
Started by three youngsters in Pune, Nalin Agarwal, Shourya Jain and Honey Jain, The Laundry Bag is a new startup that is redefining the way laundry has been done till now. Operating on a price-by-weight concept, it is something entirely new for the people in India. It’s an on-demand-laundry model that enables customers to go online and order a pickup. The cloths are picked up, washed and delivered to you within 36 hours. No two laundries are mixed, and are washed separately, thus ensuring high levels of hygiene.
It has had immense success in Raipur. Their presence has spread to Pune and Goa as well. Offering a world-class washing facility along with high-tech machines, The Laundry Bag promises quality and satisfaction. While doing so, it is well on its way to creating a niche for itself by tapping into this unorganized market.
We recently got a chance to have a Q & A session with Nalin Agarwal, Co-founder and CEO. Here is what he had to say.
Ques. How did the very idea of The Laundry Bag struck you?
Ans. I was visiting my old college, Symbiosis, in Pune when it came to me. The students have to divide their time carefully between studies and other college activities. In such a scenario, taking out time for doing laundry becomes very distracting. Because I could also relate to this problem, the idea of a specialized laundry service came. When I discussed this idea with my two close friends from the same college, they seemed excited about it. We set up our first laundromat facility at the campus. Students would come and drop off their laundry and we would get it ready within 36 hours. It was an instant success. This motivated us to set up two more laundromat facilities at two other Symbiosis campuses in Pune.
Ques. Could you briefly recount to us those initial days of setting up?
Ans. We were really excited about the entire process. When the college green lit our on-campus facilities, it was all a rush of joy. When the new machines came in, it was like an adrenaline rush; we just wanted to get down and get started. For the first few weeks, all three of us were doing the laundry ourselves. It was a slow process in the beginning but then the people started coming to work for us. But thanks to that entire experience, we now have an excellent hands-on knowledge about machines and operations.
Ques. What was your next step towards growth?
Ans. We were doing good with the on-campus laundromat but then we noticed that the technology was changing and we had to do something more, something new. We knew about the laundromat model that the foreign countries like the U.S. have. But no such service had come to India by then. This prompted us to come up with ‘laundry-on-demand’ model. Shourya, who hails from Riapur, wanted to test this model there first. So we proceeded to set up our own plant in Raipur in 2015 and simultaneously began working on the required tech.The website was up and ready soon. (Try it out here http://thelaundrybag.co.in/) With this service, we wanted to give people what they hadn’t experienced before in terms of ease of access and quality. This was a first-of-its-kind laundry service in a smaller city like Raipur and it became our USP. We were just a call away and since the washing plants were not outsourced, we could micro-manage everything ourselves and thus, ensure proper care and top quality.
Ques. What marketing strategy did you choose to attract customers?
Ans. Well, there was a lot of BTL and ATL marketing involved. Plus, digital marketing was there. Also, we had our pickup vans branded with company name and logo. People all over the city started seeing those vans and noticed us. Apart from the laundry service, we were also offering dry-cleaning and washing services for shoes and bags. Since we were marketing the company as the first on-demand laundry service in Raipur, everyone started becoming curious. Positive word-of-mouth was another major factor that we benefited from.
Ques. How hard was it to convince the people in a smaller city like Raipur to use your services?
Ans. We understood that our price-by-weight costing will be something new for the customers and could make them apprehensive. Even the students were a bit concerned about it at the college. But once they used the service, they understood how cost-effective this was. Same thing happened in Raipur too. After the initial hitch, the numbers started coming in. And we had never expected such good numbers from Raipur. The Laundry Bag was an instant success, thanks to our customers.
Ques. Tell us about the kind of success The Laundry Bag has had till now- in terms of numbers and customer response.
Ans. The customer response has been very encouraging till now. On an average, we get 50 orders/day from Raipur, which is more than 300 kg, and 60 orders/day in Pune. We also have a tie-up with BITS Pilani, Goa where we see around 40 orders/day coming in.On weekends, these numbers multiply.
Ques. Where did the initial seed funding come from?
Ans. The investment in terms of seed capital was put in by Shourya. In those terms, we have had been quite self-sufficient.
Ques. Any plans of going into the second round of funding?
Ans. We understand that funding is essential for further growth. But at the same time, we have plans of going in for a franchisee-based model in other cities. Now that we have perfected our business model in Raipur, we are looking to set up franchisees with other like-minded collaborators in different cities.
Ques. What is your current staff strength and do you outsource any of your services?
Ans. We have a staff of 30 people, inclusive of all three cities, who manage the pickup, washing and delivery operations. In addition to them, we have 10 more people in our admin section. We do not outsource any of our operations or services to third-parties. We do it all in-house. That way, we are in a better position to deliver on our promise of quality.
Ques. Now that you are operating a business successfully, do you think this entire experience has shattered any preconceived notions, which you might have had earlier?
Ans. One such notion that I had was that I will be able to handle everything myself. This is not at all practically true. When you venture out to do something, you cannot handle a hundred things in a day. You need people to help you out. And this is true at life’s every stage. Another false notion that I had was that it’s easy to get work done from people. It is not! I now realize how tough it must have been for my boss from previous company to manage a team. It takes human skills and a lot of perseverance to get work done from people.
Ques. Being a young startup, how do you manage competition?
Ans. We acknowledge the fact that when you start something new, competitors or imitators will start mushrooming up. In our particular line of service, it is not that difficult to get a washing plant and start laundry. But in the longer run, only those will survive who really care for the customers. Discounts and offers are not the only things that would help a business in long run.Many businesses fail when they stop acknowledging the mantra, “A customer is always right!”
Ques. One most important lesson that you wish you knew as a younger person.
Ans. I should have started much earlier. This is one thing that I wish I knew and acted upon as a younger person.
Ques. A few words of inspiration for people dreaming of becoming entrepreneurs.
Ans. One book that has inspired me a lot is Dream with Your Eyes Open, written by Ronnie Screwvala. So that is one advise right there in the book’s title. The other thing I would like to tell young entrepreneurs is to keep running and chasing your dreams. It doesn’t matter if you are failing again and again right now. But by disregarding those failures, if you keep running forward, you will definitely realize your goals.
The Laundry Bag has just launched its app for both iOS and Android. Try it out and order a pick up now.
Nalin Agarwal- Co-founder– With diverse experience in film production, ads and marketing, he has been:
- Co-founder- Turnkey Marketing
- Assistant, production and direction- Ravi Udyawar Films, Mumbai
- Executive Manager, Symbiosis Studios
Honey Jain, Co-founder- Along with a tremendous operational hold on retail market and her customer relationship skills, she has experience in venture startups like:
- CG Soy a Products Pvt Ltd Amritmaya Foods Pvt Ltd,
- Shourya Infraventure
- Shourya Consumer Services
Shourya Jain , Co-founder and Investor- Equipped with a natural knack for business, and his sharp entrepreneurial skills, he is also the founder of :
- Amritmaya Foods Pvt Ltd (2012) – A milk processing unit
- Shourya Infraventure (2012) – A real estate company
Do you have more questions for The Laundry Bag? Share them in our comment section.
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