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  •   24 Jun 2020
  •   10:54 AM

YeLaundry – Enabling the Laundry Community weather Covid-19

Background

A few centuries ago, there was an event that created two timelines – BC and AD. The Year 2020, likewise has created a similar timeline – BC and AC – Before Covid19 and After Covid19.

In the BC period, we had envisaged a platform called “YeLaundry “that would act as an aggregator platform for laundries, with premium laundry services being provided. The idea behind this was to supplement the existing ecosystem of laundries rather than replace them with a new system. The whole system follows the call of ‘Make In India’ – with all equipment and material being sourced from local manufacturers.

The idea was, to also create opportunities for the lesser abled and homemakers to work from home and earn a decent living. The Laundry ecosystem is typically made up of laundries operated as small businesses, which form a bulk of the overall system. The challenges that laundries face include having a limited reach, self-pickup, and delivery system and importantly the high cost of digitalization.  This was inspired again by ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’ where we are trying to create a platform that brings the community together, allows the development of the weakest, and is transparent through the entire process.

This is a largely unorganized sector pegged at worth being close to 2,20,000 crores annually and though they are under the purview of GST this is a loss to the exchequer. Also being unorganized limits access to the latest in terms of technologies and products which will make the overall process friendlier to the environment and improve efficiency.  Laundries are expensive to set up. A central laundry with collection centers across the city will mean multiple small setups; similarly, a distributed laundry setup with multiple laundries following the standard practice will lead to high real estate and personnel expenses. This challenge is overcome by using existing laundries to work with standard practices which act as the enabler for them to access technology.

From a customer perspective, YeLaundry solves multiple problems. In families that have working members, it is generally true that the weekend is used for laundry chores. This means in most cases two trips to the laundry to drop and pick the clothes each week. Key challenges that we saw were traffic issues, parking problems & work timing issues. All of this led to dependence upon laundries which may or may not be able to fulfil the orders as expected.

In the era of BC (Before Covid19)

In the BC version of YeLaundry, the system was designed to accept orders from all customers and then route them to the appropriate laundry which is on our platform. The orders are logistically managed by the YeLaundry team including state of the art tracking for every item. From zero-plastic packaging, to using electric vehicles for delivery the whole system is designed to be able to use sustainable, renewable resources. This is in line with government initiatives such as FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles), Plastic Free India, Digital India, and 3R initiative.

Also, at the very initiation of the process, we decided that the delivery team, esp. the field team should be ‘employees’ and not contractors (as other delivery-based companies have). We wanted to ensure that they feel like a part of the organization which gives them job security. While this was a pressure on the system from a cost perspective, the projected volume of orders should compensate for the cost of employment.

YeLaundry was Beta - launched at the end of February 2020 in Kharadi, Pune. The location was chosen due to multiple reasons, primary of which was the presence of a large working population. The Beta was supposed to get over in March – and it did. However, just as we were expanding across the city, with about 170 laundries on the platform, we entered the Covid19 lockdown phase.

The Period: Lockdown from 24th March 2020 to 3rd May 2020

During this phase, being a self-funded start-up, we were faced with the dilemma of epic proportions – primarily of acceleration and growth. However, this time was used by the team to further fine-tune our processes, develop new methods of dealing with the situation and training of the team.

The lockdown period has made us think through how this entire framework needs to be managed if the new normal “is to work from home”. How we can use our solution to better support local laundry vendors and the entire ecosystem – and help them support the government guidelines to operate safely. 

Most importantly to ensure the operations for small and medium laundry businesses continue to run as they were, to improve their livelihood.

The strategy has changed (as described below), the mindset has changed, the focus is changed from premium support to support the nation and contribute to run the ecosystem successfully under the new norms.

With the mindset change, a conscious decision was made, the team has worked hard to ensure that all employees, including the delivery team, received their salaries on time and were safe at home. The Riders, who had joined us just a week before the lockdown was also paid full salaries as this would support them during a tough phase. Additionally, we delivered more than 400 ration kits to the families of migrant laborers and daily wage earners till now and will continue to do so at our capacity. We are also in touch with our laundry partners to see if any assistance is required by them or their employees, who are typically daily wage earners during this period.

In Sanskrit it is said that ‘’Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu’ – meaning may the whole world be happy – This period has taught us that and we are doing our small bit to support this.

In the era of AC (After Covid19)

In preparation for the AC period – the Post Lockdown period, we at YeLaundry have further decided to introduce budget contactless laundry. This will ensure that even the smallest of orders can be placed by the customer and managed by us. This will reduce the human-human contact that can happen when a customer visits the laundry and help to ensure social distancing. Also, we are opening the vendor partner role to homemakers & the lesser abled to allow them to earn a decent living by processing orders such as ironing by working from home. This is in line with the concepts of ‘Divyangjan Swavalamban Yojana’ to allow these citizens to earn an honourable living with adequate social protection.

The AC era will be driven by the requirements of Hygiene and sanitation. Clothes can also be carriers of germs, bacteria, and viruses. Studies have shown that appropriate laundry procedures including the use of Ironing are very effective in destroying most bacteria and infection-causing media. We at YeLaundry have prepared our team by providing training on appropriate personal protection and cleanliness while picking up and delivering the material. Our partners are also being trained on proper handling of material to ensure they, the delivery team, and the customer is safe!

In the BC era, we had pioneered the ability to sign up our partners through contactless media – this ability is now being expanded. During the lockdown, our team has been able to sign up partners over the phone while ensuring the highest levels of safety both physical and electronic are maintained.

The YeLaundry system from the outset was designed with the aspect of ‘Adaptability’ in mind – a single platform to allow contactless process from signup, payment, processing both for customer and vendor. The system accepts the large laundries as well as the smaller laundries. We will be the business continuity plan for all these unorganized small laundries in the ‘low contact’ era that we are facing.

As it is said, homes are now turning into the new offices – ‘Efficiency’ is the new keyword, for us however it was always the primary focus. We are efficient for the customer, who doesn’t need to worry about timings, traffic, and parking issues. We are efficient for the vendor who doesn’t need to worry about how to get customers and processing issues.

In terms of ‘Inclusivity’, YeLaundry will now have homemakers and the differently-abled as a part of its platform, providing basic laundry services. This ensures care for the most vulnerable in our society and communities.

The largest ‘Opportunity’ that this era presents us, is in terms of ensuring that we are able to provide Hygiene – by ensuring contactless systems from order to delivery, reduction in pollution – two fewer trips per week per customer, Efficient use of time and excellent quality.

Importantly, YeLaundry is ‘Universal’.

YeLaundry is designed to be a scalable solution and can be easily deployed across geographies. The world community at large can benefit from this – as it is rightly said by our Hon. PM Narendra Modi – ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam’. We are one family! Everyone, well almost, wears clothes. We need clean linen in our homes, hotels and hospitals.

YeLaundry is a ready solution to the Hygiene problem when it comes to clothes. YeLaundry is ready to scale quickly, efficiently, and sustainably.

The Beta was done in Kharadi, Pune. Already, we are ready to start the Pune operations as the lockdown ends. We need support from the government to continue building this across other cities and support the Laundry community, drivers, and local businesses.

We would like to dedicate ‘YeLaundry’ as a support function to all government initiatives from zero plastic to Digital India. We can be the no contact support for over 5000 laundries in the twin cities of Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad. We want to organize the unorganized sector – get them a voice to help in changing the landscape of the nation. This is our answer to what our Dear PM Hon. Narendra Modiji asked the youth of the nation to do. We are inspired by his vision to be socially responsible and make ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshta Bharat’ a reality. Thank you, sir, for this opportunity to give our ideas to you.