24 January 2020

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Specialized Footwear Care: A Lucrative Low Cost Enterprise

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Starting a service that didn’t even exist to standardizing and franchising it in India and overseas. Shoe Laundry was India’s first to create a market for footwear care. Started in 2003 with a seed capital of Rs.7000, they are worlds first in the type of shoes and type of repairs executed. Shoe Laundry is also India's first footwear care service to be accredited to SSIA (Shoe Service Institute of America). Not over, they’re the first international franchisor in this category of service.  Mr Sandeep Gajakas, founder Shoe Laundry, speaks about his humble beginning.  

The Concept

“I realized during college days and later on during my days in the corporate world that most of my friends and colleagues including myself use branded and expensive shoes but they weren’t maintained properly. This was due to the lack of a service provider who could offer the level of expertise required to clean and repair these shoes. The only option available irrespective of the type of shoes was the road side cobbler and their primitive tools and techniques” says Sandeep. So the concept of Shoe Laundry goes like this: There are thousands of stores in India selling the branded shoes, but there is an obvious absence of professional footwear care and maintenance service.

Sandeep confided his thoughts with whom he had faith to get an honest and sincere feedback about his idea and even washed and repaired the shoes of whose confidence he wanted to win. Shoe Laundry took shape in this way in 2003. “People have become more brand and hygiene conscious over the last 10 years and we are the knowledge centre for footwear hygiene and refurbishing” says Sandeep. They have researched and developed a standardized cleaning and repairing techniques through 10 years of practical experience and innovation.  What makes it more unique is that the results they achieved are absolutely phenomenal and beyond anybody would have expected. “It gets more unique by the kind of repairs we do. For the types that weren’t possible before, we invented and standardized our methods and techniques that only our franchisees are privy to” he continues.

When he started it, people haven’t even heard of it. So he decided to go slowly without much investment till the masses accept this service. As every shoe was a different case, a lot of learning was needed and new methods had to be developed every day. So he scaled up very slowly and the income from the service was sustaining the business.

Shoe Laundry now works like this: “In one phone call or sms, your foot wear will collected from the spot and will be returned in a good condition, with all necessary repairs and cleaning at a nominal price”.  

About Franchising
More and more people are realizing that there is a need for this service. Having proved its viabilities, they are willing to start the same in their respective cities. So they look out for a franchising mode of expansion. They are also the first to introduce a franchisee network in the segment through a systematic franchise program both in India and abroad. “Like everything about our business even our franchise model is also unique”.  Shoe Laundry gets lot of franchise inquiries from across India and overseas.

There are several challenges related to logistics, manpower, maintaining quality of service, advertising, execution, payments, revenue management...etc.   But a good franchisor ensures that he takes care of these things and ensures it does not occur over and over.

He quit his job to start a business that was unheard of at the time. To do complete justice to franchising he stopped his service in Mumbai and focused completely towards creating a franchisable model and imparting training to the new franchisee staff.  “I want to ensure the best set up and training for each franchisee and I personally did the training of every franchisee and his staff” says Sandeep. “We will resume our service in Mumbai by appointed franchisees for various territories in Mumbai. It was a very difficult decision to stop the service but being the knowledge centre of this trade I had to remove myself from the daily running of my business to reinvent my concept” he continues.

And here comes his piece of advice for all start ups: “Don't try to do too many things at once. Also don't launch a half cooked product. Manage your funds properly and avoid wasteful expense on non performing assets. Set your standards higher than your most demanding customer. Compete with yourself”.

Quick Facts:
The Business:
Cleaning of various types of shoes and repairs

Initial funding: 7000/-

Expected growth: 100%

Share in Indian market: 95 %

Wow factor: The first of its kind in India


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