- Offers customers the convenience of picking up and delivering their laundry
- Plans to expand to a second city, increase the number of cleaning facilities
TODAY’S connected consumer has access to a wide variety of on-demand services that come right to their doorstep such as ride-sharing, food and even grocery deliveries. Now, Malaysian laundry startup Mama Wosh (pronounced ‘Mama Wash’) wants to add laundry to the growing number of on-demand services available at a click of a button.
Mama Wosh’s story started in 2016 when serial entrepreneur Anh Tu Sam and co-founder Holm Schimanski embarked on a journey to address a pain point plaguing residents in the Klang Valley. Dirty laundry.
Sam, who is of Vietnamese descent but has spent most of his life in Germany, explained that there are close to 2,000 laundromats in the Klang Valley alone. However, the majority of them are your traditional brick-and-mortar variety that still use a pen-and-paper method to this day, resulting in many inefficiencies.
The 39-year-old who has a background in business computing sees technology as the solution to bringing the laundry industry into the 21st Century.
Billing itself as a full-service cleaning company, Mama Wosh takes away the need for customers to find the time to deliver and collect their laundry. Instead, they need only place a booking either online or via their app, choose a pickup location and a rider will pick up their clothes within the next hour.
Once a rider picks up the clothes, they would be taken to one of four cleaning facilities located around the Klang Valley where they will be washed, dried and even folded. According to Sam, the typical turnaround time for each wash load is typically three days for clothing.
Mama Wosh also offers dry cleaning services and even cleans heavier items like curtains, carpets and bed linen. These items are said to typically have a turnaround time of five to seven days.
When Mama Wosh first started, Sam had the idea to build a solution that was purely digital. In fact, it would just be an app that would connect customers to riders who delivered their laundry.
But having witnessed the failure and closure of US-based laundry startup Washio, he realised that serving laundry customers was not as simple as he thought it would be. “Unlike Grab and Go-Jek which are marketplaces that connect customers with drivers, to run an on-demand laundry service, one needed to control more than just the app and the technology layer,” he said.
“We had to implement quality control in the cleaning of the clothes and define the procedure across the entire value chain. It is an end-to-end process,” said Sam as he walked us through the cleaning facility located just beneath their office in Petaling Jaya.
Each facility holds several commercial grade washing machines and dryers to handle the large volume of clothes that pass through their doors.
He said one of the early challenges Mama Wosh faced was having to build and maintain four different apps. Why so many? Apart from the main app that its customers use to schedule a pick up, Sam explained that they maintain separate apps for their riders, customer care operators and cleaning facilities.
Data flows through the operation via the different apps as workers in the cleaning facility often refer to the app for the list of incoming and upcoming jobs, so they know which need to be completed by a certain time. Clothing sent for dry cleaning are also itemised so as to ensure that none get misplaced or mixed up.
Going beyond the Klang Valley
At present, Mama Wosh serves a few thousand households in the Klang Valley alone. While Sam deems that Mama Wosh has been successful so far, he admits that the challenge he faces is maintaining a healthy balance of customers while sustaining a high level of quality.
“We have been operating for almost three years now and in that time we have minimally spent on marketing. It is not because we don’t have the money but it is because we can’t grow too fast or we risk overtaxing our capacity and need to revise our procedures,” he said.
While that may be the case, Sam sees the positive in the situation as it proves their business model is difficult to copy. “It is not possible to copy a business like ours easily. Even if you get another team and fund them with a few million dollars, they still won’t be able to replicate the business,” he said confidently.
Earlier in 2018, the company received a seed round of funding from an investor that Sam declined to name. The fresh round of funds would eventually help Mama Wosh expand its operations to either Penang or Johor Bahru and increase its number of cleaning facilities to 10 by next year.
“It is not going to be a sprint but rather a marathon. Now that we are operating in our third year, it is easily going to take another five years before we break even and become profitable,” said Sam though he is optimistic that Mama Wosh can win at this game.
“We are confident that laundry is going to the next big vertical that companies like Grab and Go-Jek will be battling out for once the food, transportation and grocery verticals have matured,” he said.
It may take two, four or even five years before laundry services become mainstream but he strongly believes that Mama Wosh will be ready when that day comes.
He explained that their end goal was simple. One was to build Southeast Asia’s largest laundry company and be the go-to brand for locals and travellers. The second would be to build a solution so valuable that it can be plugged into Grab or Go-Jek’s app to serve their customers.
“There are only so many meals that customers can eat in one day and a limited number of taxi rides you can take in a day. But laundry is an essential service that everybody needs,” he said.