Hard work pays off – Inspirational story of Dilip Param, Founder & CEO, Dhobiwala
A brief introductionHi, I am Dilip Param, Founder and CEO of Dhobiwala.com, India’s Eco-friendly garment care services, company. Your one stop solution for all your garment care. I thank Honeycomb for giving me this opportunity to showcase our journey so far to all of you.
A Snippet of your journey so far! The key driving force to your entrepreneurial spirit?
I have always been inculcated into this business environment from very young ages. It was my father V Parameshwaran who has been the guiding force behind my success in all the ventures that we have taken for so far. The inspiration that we get from him is that 30, 40 years before he got into the business at the age of 30, 40 with no business background. He gave us, and gave me particularly the freedom to try businesses and to fail businesses, and gave the courage and encouragement to learn from every mistake that we have made previous businesses. So for the last 21 years, I have ventured into 4, 5 businesses other than our core businesses and each one of them has really taught me certain lessons which I make sure that those mistakes are not taken forward into the other businesses that we get into. So the driving force behind me has been my father V Parameshwaran.
How did you know when you had the right idea and how was it derived?
From the year 2000, I have been in business and we have been predominantly in B2B business which is run by the family and the B2B business taught us a lot of things which helped us know how we can scale businesses. It was always my wish to start some B2C business and over the last 10,15 years, I did venture in a couple of B2C businesses and learned the nuances of how to tackle B2C businesses. In the year 2014 when I was shifting my residence from a particular place to another place is when I really had got the hardship of getting my garments ironed and when I try to understand why this problem is there and try to understand to get into the depth of it, I understood that this is really big problem for all of us living in metro cities to have your garments ironed get them back on time. And this gave me the idea to see and explore if we can get into the depth of this business opportunity. See what are the nuances that are there to understand this supply-side issues and demand and kind of find solutions for this particular problem so predominantly in 2014 -15 is when I got this idea and I started in a very small way to see how we can make a difference in this service of ironing clothes for customers. I ventured into a small space with just one or two people and I wanted to make a big difference in terms of quality and started using steam ironing as a service that always the normal people would use electric or cold steam boxes to iron the clothes. I did work on this for a couple of months to understand how we can scale business and took a break to find the loopholes between the supply sales system. It was in 2015, I decided that I didn’t have the confidence to run this business and was in search of a proper institution that could teach me this particular trade. Unfortunately, there was not much offered in India and there were very few places internationally that could teach me. So the decision I took was very firm to get first knowledge about what I was going to do, the scientific process behind what I was getting into and went to the United States of America invested quality time in learning the science behind the business of garment care. Once I came back from the US I understood that all that we learned may not be possible practically implemented in India. But nevertheless a lot of those things we have put in place over the last 4 to 5 years. The garment care industry is a huge industry. 2.2 lakhs cores as the business revenue of which only 2 to 3 percent currently is the organized sector. In this two to three percent of the organized sector, a very small part of it is laundry in which Dhobiwala.com is currently present.
Brainstorming behind the name of your company?
When I decided to get into this business I had two options to choose from one was whether I was going to cater to the niche segment or whether I was going to cater to the mass segment. This was one of the main decisions we needed to decide and I chose to go for the later. India is a land of opportunities and the population growth in all the metro cities was by itself a good reason for me to go with the masses. The brand name was very important and it took a lot of time for me to think about what could be the ideal brand name, which could directly imply what service is going to be offered to our customers without having to explain the same in detail. I went over 20 to 30 names for the brand before I could freeze on the name Dhobiwala.com and go ahead and also get the domain in the dot com domain. East or West from Kashmir to Kanyakumari most of us would know the name Dhobiwala means it’s got to do with something to do with the cleaning of clothes or the upkeep of garments so I thought this would be the best name that will suit the business philosophy that we are going to get into.
Considering the fierce competition in today’s world, how would you highlight your company’s competitive advantages?
I am quite fortunate to have been in this business in the last three years. Competition is really not stiff in this business as of now because the demand is way higher than the supply. Having said this the unorganized sector predominantly 98% of the service is done by the unorganized sector and hardly 2% is there in the organized sector. Competition is always healthy because it brings new avenues and opportunities. As far as Dhobiwala.com is concerned our forte has been environment-friendly services provided. Our strength is in the way we process our clothes without using harsh chemicals and try to save as much water and other natural gases and electricity in the process of doing our garment care services. This has been something that we have innovated over the period of time and competition has not really been able to keep up to match with the environmental friendliness we are able to deliver to our customers.
What best motivates you? How have your entrepreneurial motivation changed since you first started and how has it turned you into a better person?
For many success motivates but for me challenges motivates me. When we have more challenges we think deeper to find solutions for these problems. That’s exactly what Dhobiwala.com has taught me. Ever since the first day we only faced problems and problems. Every day we brainstorm to find solutions for these problems and also look at ways and methods, which we will be able to scale the service by solving problems. So the more the problems we have, we brainstorm more we ideally bring better solutions, provide better service for the customers. This has really helped in my personal life as well because we are prepared to face any consequence and handle any situations by trying to not get agitated or disturbed by the problems that come in front of us but be calm, composed, do some research and experiment with certain solutions and be sure that those experiments are bringing fruitful results before they can be implemented and scaled them up to serve the customers.
Tell us about the eco-friendly laundry you carry out.
In the business of laundry, the most important raw material is water along with water are the detergents or the chemical agents that are used to clean our clothes. When I did a lot of research on the existing practices I was alarmed to find that none of the people had knowledge about the amount of water that has been consumed to wash their clothes nor they were concerned about the chemical compositions of the detergents that were being used. This was very important information that I got and I started researching more on this. To find and develop processes that can save water and Dhobiwala is proud to have introduced systems where we were able to save 50 to 60 %of water consumption in the entire process that we get for. As far as the detergents and chemicals are concerned we are also again proud to actually manufacture our own ingredient chemicals that are eco-friendly and don’t harm the natural environment as much as other chemicals that are available in the market. So this is a very important factor in the entire process of laundry and dry cleaning. We also adopted international standards in the dry cleaning process where we don’t use harsh chemicals or solvents in the process. What we do is remove stains using specific agents and then process the entire garment in a very very environment-friendly process that is used internationally. This is one of its first if its kind implemented in India through Dhobiwala.com.
What is non- negotiable for you? Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
To me sticking to our core values to which we have started our organization is something that is non-negotiable. Every organization is built with certain ideas and those ideas and those ideas there would be some core philosophy based on which the organization of the business has been started. And Dhobiwala.com we take great importance and care to the environment to ensure that whatever we do in the processes as environment-friendly as possible and this is something that is non- negotiable in dhobiwala.com. The second thing that is non – negotiable is customer service, being in the service business customer is the king and we are here to serve the customers. So this happiness of the customer is of most importance that is again non-negotiable. There is no one single formula to be a successful entrepreneur but the most important quality to be a successful entrepreneur is to believe in the ideology that you have started the particular business, to face the problems that would come to be persistent enough to find solutions to never lose hope and heart and consistently work and build team of people along with you to solve the problems you have to have a successful business venture.
Are there any missed opportunities that you wished to have leveraged?
I will firmly believe that opportunities are coming and going every other day. I don’t have any regrets of missing out on any opportunities because when we get to know that we are lost on an opportunity it is completely on us to decide whether you want to revisit that opportunity and try and we do that opportunity and make it a success. There are several opportunities that keep coming by our way and we also need to know which are the opportunities that are worth investing our time and energy on. Many entrepreneurs have this issue where they start looking at the opportunities and start investing a lot of time and then fail to convert the opportunity into practical businesses. So it is quite important to take up these opportunities but also evaluate these opportunities before a lot of time is spent and wasted. I always believe that a lost opportunity will always give you another occasion to give you to ensure that you can capitalize on that in a better way. So there is no regret for my side or there has been no opportunity that has not been left unattempted at least once again.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
For all of you who are just starting out on your first business venture I am sure by now you have enough advice from various people. My one point of advice I would like to share with you is to be firm with your idea in which you want to start your business. Be prepared to face hardships, success doesn’t come easily, work hard to make sure that your business is successful and keep innovating at new ideas to solve the problems that the particular business service or industry faces. Innovation is very important and hard work has no substitute.