Most of us hate washing or folding our clothes even though we want to look great all the time. Doing rounds to the dry cleaners is also time wasting especially for most hard-working professionals who spend over 60-80 hours per week at the office.
Washr.co.za, an on-demand laundry & dry cleaning pick-up and delivery web app that charges a premium price to have your clothes picked up and delivered back within 24 hours has launched in South Africa and is expanding across the emerging markets to help you have enough time at the office, with the family and some more for leisure.
Founded this year by Alvaro Burgos, formerly doing marketing and bussiness intelligence in South east Asia and South Africa for Rocket Internet’s sites like Zalora.com, Lazada.com, Style36.co.za, 5rooms.com Kinderelo.co.za and Flavio Bezzeccheri also previously of Rocket Internet South East Asia and Africa Internet Accelerator (South Africa) as a developer and in product management for Zalora.com, Lazada.com, style36.co.za, 5rooms.com, kinderelo.co.za and David Shleifman previously Poker Star & Marketing At Cape Town Technology University, Washr wants to help everyone have their launndry done as they continue with their day-to-day duties.
“There is a laundromat / dry cleaning at every corner as nobody wants to travel too far to drop/pick their clothes. Even worst, many laundromats/dry cleaners are just a store front sending the clothes to be washed somewhere else… why would you do this, when you can do it online?” he asks. “We are aiming to radically alter this structure by exploiting technology maturity and by defining our own value proposition departing from the traditional brick-and-mortar. We don’t know how big the market is, but it is big enough to make some noise.”
At the moment, Washr has washed and folded over 5000 kg of clothes and handled over 400 dry cleaning items. Burgos says Washr is somewhere in the 3 digits monthly orders and growing at a double digit pace with around 35% of their customers using them on a laundry-regular basis.
He adds that what really make Washr different is not the website or their effeciency but the human relationship that they’ve build and grow with their customers.
“If you think about it you buy a shoe maybe 2 to 5 times a year if you are a male, a bit more often if you are a female (specially with a boyfriend) :D, but you wash your clothes once per week at least. Building a human relationship first, a cutting edge convenience app with it, was key for our customers to trust us and use us over and over,” Burgos tells TechMoran.
With its powerful mix of expertise in-house, Washr says it was profitable within months and has had some offers from a number of investors but they feel they want to wait for the right investor who can pour some expertise into the group rather than big bucks. Burgos says there is a big opportunity in this sector and there are still a lot of things they want to improve about the product before taking it to the next level.
The greatest challenge is however, none of the founding team ever worked in the laundry industry before so the hardest part was fixing prices.
“There is not an academic winning pricing out there and there are many ways you can be charged from a cleaning service whether is a hotel laundromat, an street laundromat or a coin operated laundromat. We chose to go with the most customer oriented pricing based on the data we got from customers,” he says.
Though things are going right and fast for Washr, Burgos says Cape town is the Silicon Valley of South Africa and the home for many great start ups and founders, he says the lack of funding and international exposure together with the small market size at the moment is stopping great startups from growing as fast as they should.
“Many mobile app-based startups are struggling because of the current South African mobile ecosystem,” says Burgos. “Whether in other countries, iOS and Android dominate the mobile market, here Blackberry OS smartphones still account for a great part of the population. Making it costly and inefficient for startups to maintain and develop native apps which have to run in the 3 or 4 OS. Many choose not to go with blackberry but they loose literally 50% of the market. This’s why Washr is a web application which can run in any device, built using Ruby on Rails.”
Washr doesn’t want to eliminate traditional laundromats and is not in their business plan and is something he says won’t happen at least within the next decade. At the moment nearly 80 percent of Washr customers do not use a laundromat but just want to have free time and convenience and are therefore paying a premium for it.
Regular laundromats are driven by low prices and poor customer service. However as operations, logistics get optimised and the opportunity that online offers of centralising costs, if the traditional laundromats don’t evolve with the times they will get eaten by companies like Washr, he says adding that that is what happened with Netflix and Blockbuster.
Washr is only serving Cape Town at the moment, and launching in Johannesburg anytime soon this year. CTO Flavio Bezzeccheri is looking into opening Washr Seychelles very soon. The firm is also considering expansion into Nigeria and Brazil, and of course Europe but South Africa is still its huge priority.
This year, the firm aims to revolutionise the way clothes are washed as via its data, the firm says once somebody try them they are not going to turn on their noisy and annoying washing machines again.
“Who would really want to wash and fold the clothes when with the tap of button you get your dirty clothes back in a nice bag ready to go into the wardrobe? No one,” quips Burgos.
Washr is now hiring social media and customer relations managers and aims to improve loyalty programs, better payment solutions and a better order management system.