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Drycleaning the White Tiger way

Smita Tripathi | August 16, 2004

Padam Singhee confesses to being passionate about clothes. But unlike others whose fascination for clothes has led them to fashion designing or setting up their own haute couture stores, Singhee decided to concentrate on the maintenance of clothes. And so at the end of 2002, he set up White Tiger drycleaners.

Today, he has 10 branches in Delhi and NCR and a state-of-the-art washing plant in Noida.

In March this year, White Tiger posted a turnover of Rs 2.5 crore (Rs 25 million). By the end of the current financial year, Singhee is confident of a Rs 4.5 crore (Rs 45 million) to Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) turnover.

Clothes have always held a fascination for me. But their maintenance was always a problem. The drycleaning industry in India is totally unorganised and is generally run by families. There is no accountability and definitely no transparency.

Tackling the unorganised market is very challenging but the returns are worth it. It was keeping this in mind that I set up White Tiger drycleaners.

I undertook a lot of research to ensure that what I was offering to the customers was of a world-class standard. I travelled all over Europe and the US and met with leading drycleaning companies there to understand the use of machines and detergents.

The fashion industry in India has undergone a major change over the last decade. All sorts of materials are now being used and nearly every outfit has some embellishment or the other. You have clothes with embroidery, leather patches, sequins and a host of other things.

However, their maintenance is not simple. These can't be washed at home and most of them do not come with any washing instructions. If you ask a designer what you are supposed to do with the outfit, he would ask you to send it to the drycleaner.

But even most drycleaners are not equipped to handle such stuff for most of them haven't upgraded their machinery. Our plant in Noida is equipped with state-of-the-art machines. Our machines have 99 different programmes and you can pre-feed everything from the number of rinses to the kind and quantity of chemicals, the amount of water, additives, whiteners etc.

I have a textile engineer and chemical engineer as a part of the staff. Moreover, White Tiger is a member of the International Fabricare Institute, USA. We interact with them on the Internet and they give us suggestions on how to handle certain clothes.

In fact, if there is a particular problem with some material, say a stain, that we are unable to remove, we send the garment to them and they get it cleaned. The customer is not billed extra for this.

In order to create brand equity we are trying to educate the customer. We come out with a monthly newsletter, which gives tips on fabric care. All our store managers are trained and they examine the garments and advice the customer on whether it needs simple laundry services or drycleaning.

We also keep coming out with new promotions. For instance, we recently introduced a pre paid linen card, whereby for Rs 199 one can get seven bed sheets and 14 pillow covers dry cleaned.

We also clean carpets, curtains, upholstery, and car seat covers. For this, the customer is not required to lug the carpet to our store. We have on-site drycleaning machines and so we can come to your house and clean up your carpets.

I'm now looking at the franchise route and hope to have 25 more outlets in Delhi by the end of the year. These outlets will only be collection centres as all the cleaning will be done at the Noida plant.

I will look at expanding outside Delhi, but that will require huge investments, as we will have to set up new plants.

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