On-demand laundry services are easy to build, but tough to sustain. Many have come, and many have failed.

Two days ago, e27 broke the news of Singapore-based smart laundry locker service My Laundry Box ceasing operations without so much of a peep, leaving many customers in the lurch.

But a Thailand-based startup, WashBox24, aims to fill that void in Singapore–and it believes it can pull things off more effectively than its predecessor, as well as many other on-demand laundry startups.

“Obviously, we have seen many startups coming into the scene but we think most players merely act as aggregators,” says Michelle Lee, Country Manager of WashBox24, in an interview with e27. “In other words, little value is added to the value chain, hence competing on price to nobody’s benefit.”

“We think laundry service in any shape or form, either digitised or not, is often plagued by two fundamental issues: convenience and transparency,” she adds.

On the first point, she highlights that many on-demand laundry services rely on house deliveries, which,  while convenient to users, incur a high cost in the logistics department. The collapse of India’s Doormint can be partly attributed to the high cash burn in this area.

WashBox24 tackles the logistical pain point by implementing a hybrid locker and delivery system.

“In Bangkok, which was where the concept started, we actually grew the locker network first and used the locker as a hub. The delivery man then picks up from the customer’s doorstep and drops the clothes off at the nearest locker, without having to travel to the central facilities. This increases the number of trips and reduces the response time” says Lee.

The self service lockers — which are accessible 24/7 — can also be operated by customers who are in the vicinity of the facilities. “The lockers yield greater unit economics, because of cheaper rent and no labour cost to operate,” she says.

And unlike My Laundry Box, which relies on third-party laundry cleaning contractors, the Singapore-based co-founder of WashBox24 actually owns the washing facility. So naturally, the cost of washing is priced more competitively.

With regard to transparency, it utilises a ‘Closest+’ system, which involves barcoding and photographing of the items, ensuring that every item is catalogued before being sent off to the cleaners.

Lee claims that WashBox24’s churn rate is 1.4 per cent, which is a testament to customers’ trust in the service.

In addition to the standard clothes cleaning/dry pressing/ironing services, WashBox24 also offers cleaning facilities for luxury bags, wallets, and shoes. Pricing for these premium cleaning services range from S$35 (US$25.50) to S$125 (US$95).

Customers can pay through three options: credits purchased through the Box24 app, credit or debit cards, or online payments on the WashBox24 website.

Currently, it has 55 lockers placed all over Bangkok, and five in Singapore, which were launched in 2016.

If you were one of the disgruntled Singapore-based customers stiffed by My Laundry Box or are just looking for an alternative laundry service. Here are the five locations:

  • Austville Residences – Block 13, Basement 1 Carpark (Beside the letter box)
  • Suntec City – Tower 5, Level 1 (Below NUSS Guild House)
  • Suntec City – Tower 2, Basement 1 (Opposite the Subway diner)
  • Sunhaven Condominium – Basement 1 Carpark (Outside lift lobby C)
  • Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) – Block 57, Level 1 (Beside the letterbox)

WashBox24 is not stopping at laundry delivery. In Bangkok, other business and delivery services such as Tesco and Kerry Express are partnering with the company to piggyback on its locker infrastructure, which, in turn, allows WashBox24 to earn extra revenue).

In December 2015, WashBox24 bagged seed funding from 500 Startups. It is currently in the midst of raising a new round.

It is too early to tell whether WashBox24 can succeed where My Laundry Box has failed, especially with media putting the spotlight on the company’s collapse. Would jaded customers put their trust in another laundry startup in Singapore?

Our fingers are tightly crossed.

Image Credit: WashBox24