At BrilliantRead Media, our aim is to bring to our community some of the finest stories from the startup ecosystem. As part of this endeavour, we invited a passionate entrepreneur – Gaurav Agarwal for an exclusive interview with us. He is an entrepreneur, leader, strategist and mentor. Gaurav is the Co-Founder of Laundry King®. Let’s learn more about his exciting journey, his background and his advice for our growing community.
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Gaurav:
Talk us through your background and your journey as an entrepreneur, please;
I did my schooling from Don Bosco Park Circus, Kolkata and undergraduate in Bachelors of Commerce [B.Com (Hons)] from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.
My inclination toward Finance pushed me towards earning my Chartered Financial Analyst degree (CFA, USA) and then a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the Indian Institute of Management, Udaipur. Seeking international exposure, I went for an Exchange Program in Germany for 4 months during my master’s course.
But even before joining IIM Udaipur, I was clear about my path- pursuing entrepreneurship in Laundry Services but in a different sector. “
I researched, learned first-hand on the floor in our processing centre, tried and tested different ideas and started working towards my goal well before joining my master’s program.
During the final trimester of my MBA, I started developing the website for Laundry King and also worked on various other aspects of the business.
Once I graduated in March 2019, I joined the business Full-Time. We launched Laundry King® in March 2019 for B2B such as Caterers and 3 and 4-star Hotels. We eventually went on to launch Laundry King® for Retail customers in August of 2019 with 2 retail outlets in prominent residential locations in the city.
What attracts you towards entrepreneurship instead of a corporate career?
Every business, irrespective of the size, faces challenges but these get divided in a corporate environment. While for an Entrepreneur, no matter if the issue is with labour, materials, process, funding or technical know-how, she/he has to deal with it first-hand, come up with a solution and take that leap of faith.
The best part about being an entrepreneur is the fact that I have the privilege to build an organization, something that can impact hundreds and thousands of people in small and big ways.”
We employ more than 100 employees and that in turn means Laundry King® alone is supporting 100 families even in its nuptial stage as a startup. So, having the opportunity to build an organization from ground zero, that not only solves a major issue for all the households i.e lack of quality laundry and dry-cleaning service but also educates customers as to what we do and how we do and support so many families along the way is something that enriches me as a human being.
‘Laundry King®’ is such a unique name; talk us through more about it, please.
The idea of laundry services was clear from day zero. We wanted to come up with a name that was not only easy to remember but also made it clear what business we are into. All the credit for coining Laundry King® goes to my elder brother, Mr Sourav Agarwal, who is one of my strongest pillars and the Co-Founder of Laundry King®.
We are into laundry services, a very uncommon business to pursue in India. It is not considered to be an Industry even though the market for Laundry Services is estimated to be more than ~$12 billion in 2020 and expected to grow to more than ~$15 billion by 2025.”
And to add to the issue, only about 3-5% of the entire industry is organized. Not to accentuate the fact that even customers have hardly been educated about the processes or the technology. Customers still ask for “petrol wash” instead of Dry-clean. Manual steam ironing is still considered to be a premium service whereas, with the technology we have deployed, not one garment is ironed manually.
Laundry is a very complex, labour- and capital-intensive service industry. For example, a simple garment like a Shirt goes through four (4) different pressing (ironing) machines before being handed over to the valet who eventually checks for quality issues, folds and packs the shirt.
What does your company specialize in?
We have managed to grow exponentially from 2 outlets to 9 in a span of less than 3 years, even after the covid-19 crisis, with plans of many more in the pipeline. Our customer base has grown manifold with 12,000+ customers served already.
The secret recipe, you ask? Highly sophisticated new-gen machinery, coupled with the highest-grade premium chemicals from Johnson Diversey, a highly trained team and free doorstep pickup and delivery with a focus on the shortest possible turnaround timeline. To add to these, we only use RO water in our processing to increase the life of the garments.
We’re also adding more and more electric vehicles to our fleet to contribute to a greener environment. Making it easier for the customers to place an order, we have a dedicated app on both Google Play Store & Apple App Store.
Services for retail customers include:
> Dry Cleaning
> Ornamental Dry Cleaning
> Same-day and Next-day delivery
> Curtain Deep Cleaning
> Shoe Cleaning
> Professional Sofa and Upholstery cleaning
During this COVID-19 crisis, what are the measures you have undertaken to continue your business without disruption?
Fortunately, or unfortunately, we started Laundry King exactly a year before Covid-19 hit us. We were 6 months into the retail sector and had started working on our 3rd and 4th retail stores when Covid-19 came along and disrupted the entire business.
During the two months of lockdown, we discussed and planned a lot about the ways we could operate once the lockdown is lifted. One thing that we made sure of was to stay flexible because of the tremendous uncertainties surrounding us and to have faith in our enterprise.
We were the first laundry in Kolkata to start operations the day lockdown was lifted. We took every possible measure to sanitize our processing facility, our retail stores, maintaining physical distance, usage of PPE kits as and where it was mandatory. Obviously, our costs skyrocketed and revenues plummeted.”
There was no demand for hotels as travel was hit, marriages were a 50 people affair which impacted the catering business, people didn’t venture out for shopping or restaurants or family vacations which impacted our retail business.
But our confidence and optimism in the business made us continue our journey with an undying spirit. We started educating our customers about the safety of our processes like how we ensured disinfection of garments before any further processing. Eventually we did manage to launch our 3rd and 4th retail stores in July of 2020 but covid-19 was long from gone.
Who do you believe has been the biggest source of motivation in your daily life?
The biggest source of motivation has been my father, hands down. He’s 63, yet the most dedicated & hard-working man I know. He keeps pushing me to explore newer technologies, discusses current & future industry trends, brainstorms present issues, and motivates me for business and life in general. He has been the strongest pillar for me till date, be it for taking risks with my career or taking the leap of faith as an entrepreneur.
My entire family- Dad, mom, my elder brother and my wife have been extremely supportive and helpful during the 3 years of Laundry King®. They have guided me from the little issues to the big issues.
What are the business mantras you have embraced as you sought to establish your success story?
There are a few:
(1) Working hands-on with every aspect of the business – From Day 1, I have never considered any department of work to be trivial and tried out everything as and when needed. From being on the floor of the processing unit helping out the labor, to taking customers calls and addressing complaints personally, to handling the logistics, purchases, marketing, etc, I have gained first-hand experience in probably all of the departments.
(2) Core focus on Customer Satisfaction – The feedback for Laundry King has been great until now, with a very low attrition rate and consistently the highest ratings in the city ever since we started. Our team has been trained to put our customer’s needs before anything, so they go lengths to meet them. There have been times when our team picked up, processed and delivered a customer’s urgent order, all within a matter of 6 hours, and another incident where they delivered an order at 11:30 pm because the customer had an early flight to catch the next morning. To keep our customers happy, we go so far as to rewash the garments they’re not satisfied with, without any additional charge.
(3) Commitment to the highest quality standards – We stick by our tagline of ‘Finest Garment Care’ in all our processes. What’s making us stand out from our competitors is our vision of raising the quality standards of the entire laundry industry while still maintaining competitive rates, to make such service quality available to the masses.
(4) Belief – No matter what the situation is, if you do not believe in your idea and in yourself, you cannot possibly sell the idea to the customers. So, if the foundation of your business is strong, half the work is already done there.
Follow Laundry King® At:
Website – www.LaundryKing.co.in
Facebook – www.facebook.com/laundrykingkolkata
Instagram – www.instagram.com/laundrykingkolkata
Apple Appstore – https://apps.apple.com/in/app/laundry-king-kolkata/id1537051392
Google Playstore – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.laundryking.customer