Hyderabad

From Hyderabad to Pakistani Punjab: Washing linen builds ties across borders

Winning idea: Shifa Anwer’s WashHub launched in Faisalabad took cues from the Hyderabad firm.

Winning idea: Shifa Anwer’s WashHub launched in Faisalabad took cues from the Hyderabad firm.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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Hyderabadi start-up founder helps Pakistani entrepreneur set up an online laundry.

It is a story of training without borders. An entrepreneur in Hyderabad has mentored a businesswoman in Pakistan, helping her set up a business. In June 2018, Shifa Anwer (23) from Faisalabad in Pakistan’s Punjab province reached out to Dheeraj Balusani (27), in Hyderabad. Ms. Anwer had been on the lookout for business ideas when she came across WashApp, a laundry service start-up founded by Mr. Balusani.

He launched WashApp in 2016 to make the daily chore easy for IT employees and students. His enterprise serves mainly the IT corridor, with an order book of over 50,000 clothes a month. Ms. Anwer’s WashHub, launched in February 2019 and the winner of start-up competitions in Pakistan, averages 10,000 pieces a month.

As they connected, an impressed Ms. Anwer benefited from Mr. Balusani’s business strategies. He helped her seek investments through the tough first phase of launching a new business. Ms. Anwer told The Hindu, “My start-up, WashHub, the first online laundry in Faisalabad, is now a full-fledged business, and it’s all thanks to Dheeraj.”

Amir Mahmood, one of her three brothers, has also joined her. “When he came to Faisalabad on a break, he was so impressed by my work that he decided to take it further by quitting his job in Bahrain,” she said.

Family sceptical

Initially, it was difficult to persuade her parents, who asked, “Abb tu dhobi banti kya?” (Will you become a washerwoman now?). Her flourishing business has silenced the ribbing she received initially from her friends and relatives. “I somehow convinced them.”

“Laundry is very different when compared with [other] online services. Maintaining quality and delivering on time are the two big concerns,” she said. Ms. Anwer’s enterprise has tied up with several college hostels, hotels and hospitals. It turned out that even local washermen used WashHub’s services to lessen their load.

Mr. Balusani, who had a hard time with laundry when he was away from home during his school and college, said, “Even when I was working with Maruti Suzuki at Bengaluru, I hated doing laundry and this led me to start the online service with my friend Vinil Chandra Ranga,” he said.

Mr. Balusani, who hails from Godavarikhani in Peddapalli district and is a graduate of the National Institute of Technology, Warangal, said he was initially unsure about a woman entrepreneur from the neighbouring country. “But after verifying her profile, I started providing inputs,” he said. Customers book the laundry service on an app or website a delivery boy collects the clothes, which are then sent to a facility where they are washed, ironed and packed, to be returned at a time preferred by the customer. The revenue models of the two enterprises are at a slight variance — Ms. Anwer charges on a per piece basis, while Mr. Balusani has opted for a rate of ₹89 per kilo of clothes.

Having communicated only via WhatsApp messages and calls, and on email, Ms. Anwer said, “I have always wanted to meet Dheeraj and thank him for his unwavering support.”

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 5:02:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/from-hyderabad-to-pakistani-punjab-washing-linen-builds-ties-across-borders/article30314159.ece

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