'The shoe laundry' has been the case-study topic for many management students. Sandeep is also the guest faculty at Emerge (Entrepreneurs Management Forum) where he delivers motivational lectures for unique business ideas. Five years into business, he is doing extremely well and his clientele is ever increasing.
How did you get this exclusive idea of starting a shoe laundry?
I was planning to do something of my own as office routine wasn't my cup of tea. Though I studied fire engineering, I didn't want to make a living out of it. The idea of a shoe laundry was with me since my college days, I was uncannily good at maintaining my shoes and always got complimented for my clean shoes. I would say my penchant for cleanliness and eight years of boarding school plus five years of NCC, prepared me well for this kind of a profession. Also right from childhood I was good at repairing things and working with needle.
When the time came to decide on a business, nothing seemed as exciting as The Shoe Laundry. I started alone from my bathroom and really slogged scrubbing each pair. I started with cleaning friends’ shoes and my business took off.
How has the business grown?
Thriving on a new idea, with no workers and no major financial backing, I had faith that the idea was fantastic and if a service is good then people will come for it. By word of mouth publicity my business flourished. Also, media coverage of my unique business helped me a lot. The service now covers almost the entire Mumbai and we work with more than 150 stores of all major sports brands. We assist them to address after-sales services, cleaning and repairs.
What goes in delivering a sparkling pair of shoes?
I have a team of around 14 people and offer cleaning and repair service for shoes, pick up and delivery through out Mumbai. A thorough inside-out cleaning process comprising 10 to 15 steps depending on the shoes is what I offer. Every shoe goes through a stitch-by-stitch inspection followed by a hand wash, assisted with a motorized scrubber using a variety of solvents, solutions and mild detergents, which are safe and suitable for cleaning shoes. We specialise in cleaning sports shoes though occasionally we do formal shoes also. When it comes to repair, we repair foam, cushion, stitching, change shoelaces and sole for shoe that come for cleaning.
Tell us something about your clientele.
People from all walks of life and of all age groups, politicians, filmstars, television personalities, models, sportsmen and corporate leaders, are my clients and we don't discriminate. We charge Rs 140 per pair, for cleaning, pick up and drop in. Repair charges are extra. Anyone who wears shoes, for whatever activities, is my client.
What were the challenges of this profession?
The whole idea was a challenge - to introduce a non-existent service into the market and getting people to accept it, learning every aspect of the trade and managing everything by one man show. It took a lot to understand different kinds of materials used for footwear and developing techniques to tackle all problems. Training employees, meeting deadlines, market penetration, etc is what I learnt on the job.
What message would you like to give to aspirants who wish to pursue an offbeat career?
All I want to say is make your critics your best friends but don't let them discourage you. Research well, don't burden yourself with financial liabilities without ensuring that your venture has market acceptance. There is no fear of saturation if you are the best, no matter what you do. Success is not assured but don't judge yourself by failures. Off beat careers are not for those who accept defeat easily.