Realising the need for specialised footwear laundry, repair and refurbishing service the unique service concept of The Shoe Laundry was conceptualised in Mumbai in 2003. In an interview Sandeep Gajakas, Founder and Owner, The Shoe Laundry shares the inception, growth and success of the unique concept.
Neha Gohil (NG): Share with us your entrepreneurial journey. Tell us something about the inception and success of The Shoe Laundry?
Sandeep Gajakas (SG): The need for such a service was born out of my obsession about hygiene and an obvious lack of a specialised footwear laundry, repair and refurbishing service when I needed it up to my standards of perfection. The concept was born, as I always wanted to do something different. To add to this is my educational background of being a firework engineer graduate and my interest in scientific activities.
The concept was altogether new and unique at the time of its inception but gained attention from the masses very quickly. People also realised the need and significance of the concept.
NG: How did you conceptualise this business idea?
SG: Previously, shoe polish was the one and only form of service available to enhance the superficial, exterior appearance of the shoes and nothing for the cleaning of the shoes from the inside. This too for leather shoes only… No service what so ever for the more commonly used and expensive sports shoes and sneakers was available except in repairs done with primitive tools and methods.
The Shoe Laundry follows a process like; one phone call or a message and your foot wear are collected from your home and even before you realise they have been collected, they are back looking as good as they possibly can, with all the repairs attended to and that too at a nominal price. It is difficult to even make out where the repairs are done as there are no tell tale sign of repairs.
NG: What is the USP of ‘The Shoe Laundry’?
SG: The Shoe Laundry, over the last eight years has worked very hard to develop and perfect processes and techniques for washing and repairing all kinds of shoes. Besides developing repairing techniques that have raised the standards compared of anything done previously, we have developed techniques using which we easily resolve problems that nobody else had done previously and was said to be impossible to repair.
NG: Why and when did you take the franchise route for expansion?
SG: The Shoe Laundry started its first franchise in Bhutan in February of 2011. In India the company opened its first franchise in Bangalore in August 2011 and soon one more was opened in Surat. The Shoe Laundry wants to make this service available in every city and town that has a population of more than one million having a vibrant economy.
Franchising is the best possible way for the successful expansion of our brand. The Shoe Laundry is more about our customers who wear shoes and secondly about the shoes itself. We have consciously decided the extent of repairs that we will agree to do on a pair of shoes and the kind of shoes we accept for service. We can launder almost any shoes and do all sorts of repairs and extend its life, but we do not want to encourage people to use shoes that have become redundant as that can be detrimental to their health.
NG: Kindly highlight the franchise model followed by the brand?
SG: Our franchise model is not based on the philosophy that, we need to make a partner to commit huge investments to lock him into a business venture and contractually bind him to do all the sourcing through us. Rather we look to keep the business simple, easy to operate, and profitable. Our main concentration is quality of process, service and customer satisfaction.
NG: What are the qualities you seek in prospective franchisees? How does ‘Shoe Laundry’ support and train franchisees?
SG: People who always wanted to start something different and would like to introduce and provide such a unique service with the same standards and quality that we are known for.
We will enable our partners to achieve the same quality by providing them the full range of our knowledge, training, inventory and support. The franchisee gets a business of a service with a potential of limitless demand, a systematic franchising program, personalised training for its staff, knowledge, systems, processes, techniques down to the smallest detail in a simplified format to follow, the equipment, tools and inventory list and direct supplier contact for the lowest rate, with no unreasonable demands on sourcing or commissions, an exclusive territory to operate, a reasonable royalty fee, low recurring cost with no unnecessary contractual obligations and expense on things that are not required. We provide our partners an easily scalable business with great profit margins for early break even and profitability.
NG: Why invest in The Shoe Laundry franchise?
SG: The Shoe Laundry is one of the most unique service and business today. Due to the overwhelming demand for our franchise across India, we have developed one of the best franchise opportunities available anywhere today. Low start-up investment compared to other businesses with similar returns.