The concept of ‘leather care’ is still at a very nascent stage in India. With a few Indian players operating in this space already, it is not completely unique/novel per say! However The Leather Laundry, a startup from Delhi is looking to do it differently. “Our target customer segment is a niche market of educated and discerning consumers who seek quality, believe in reducing wastefulness and practice ethical consumerism”- says the Founder, Mallika Sharma. The Leather Laundry is positioning itself as a one-stop-shop for all your leather, suede and fur care needs! They offer professional cleaning, coloring, repairing and restoration services for everything leather, be it shoes, bags or garments!
Besides laundry services, the startup also provides customization services (like embossing of names, initials, one-liners etc). They are also experimenting with bespoke/made-to-order leather apparel!
The founders of the venture have been in the leather industry for 30 solid years. Based out of New Delhi, the parent company (a family enterprise) is one of India’s leading manufacturers and exporters of leather apparel and accessories. Having worked with some of the most coveted brands spanning over several continents, they take pride in claiming to have the finest technical know-how of leather in the country. TLL is a second-generation initiative that is resolutely committed towards boosting the existing foundation and exploring newer horizons through focus, innovation and creativity.
“I feel no idea is unique per say! How you package and sell the end product/service to the consumer is what really matters! Competition for me has neither been a deterrent, nor a motivator. I do not want to under-cut existing competitors by indulging in a price war of sorts! Our only focus area is “quality”, and we intend to provide good quality service that is timely, efficient, durable and courteous,” says Mallika.
“Since our focus area is narrow and caters to a niche market, it will take us a while to get volumes and break into the market! But it will be totally worth its while! Profit, is not the motive at the moment, building up on a culture of leather-care in India, is,” she adds.
Mallika is a postgraduate masters of science in Finance and Investment from the UK. Besides managing affairs at The Leather Laundry, she also chairs her family-run export house as the president of the garments division and is currently pursuing a post-graduate diploma in Human Rights from IIHR, Delhi.
Besides having all the synergies and technical know-how/expertise in place, another factor that propelled Mallika to start this unique service was the gaping dearth of professional leather care technicians in India.
“Also I had often heard people complaining that it takes months for them to have their branded leather possession repaired or restored. This is because people approach the stores of these brands directly, who then have these products sent to their workshops in other Indian cities or countries, making the processing time naggingly tardy and uneconomical! Many dry cleaners claim that they also “do leather”, It is anything but true! They do not do it and cannot do it because leather requires a different kind of expertise, technical knowledge, chemicals/cleansers and craftsmanship altogether!” says the Founder.
Being an environmentalist at heart, Mallika also took immediate liking to the concept of a laundry service for leather. Reason being, that by offering to clean, repair and care for leather, they are dissuading people from discarding their leather gear. This reduces wastefulness and conserves the environment (as leather processing entails a lot of water consumption and air pollution). “Thus TLL, is also a socially responsible initiative that tacitly reduces the impact of growing consumerism and fast fashion!”, says the proud founder.
The startup has faced a lot of teething troubles at every stage. Even to this day, the team is learning everyday and is faced with unexpected challenges from all quarters! It is like playing a sport and we love every bit of it!
“Too early to be able to make any kind of projections! We are taking my own sweet time, and want the venture to grow organically! We are learning every day and are playing it by ear! Of-course we have certain dreams, goals and milestones for the venture, but I would like to keep them to myself for now!”, says Mallika.
The Leather Laundry is not a traditional laundry service. The time and skill levels involved in restoring each leather item are very high! It is more like art restoration, where the technician has to work on several elements like stains, loose thread, dirt lining etc. The services are analogous to that of a surgeon’s, both in terms of time expended and expertise involved. Our prices are thus reflective of the same.
For the start-up, the key milestones for the next one-year would only be to focus on excellent quality and timely deliveries. They have devised innovative marketing strategies to gain traction and attain greater visibility! Being completely self-funded for now, possibilities of future funding are totally contingent on how they plan to diversify and grow over time! They are playing it by ear!