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For us, quality matters more than quantity: Mallika Sharma

Targeting a hugely unorganized sector, The Leather Laundry has surely made a significant place for itself.

Tags: retailer, entrepreneur

BY Akshay Kumar  |  November 03, 2016  |  comments ( 0 )  | 

Mallika Sharma

How The Leather Laundry came about?

What propelled us to take up this venture was an enviable experience of two and a half decades in the leather industry. We already have all the technical know-how, expertise and synergies in place (TLL is an offshoot of a family-run parent company that is one of India's leading manufacturers and exporters of leather apparel and accessories). Also a genuine dearth of professional leather care technicians in India, prompted us to jump in and fill the gap. Being an environmentalist at heart, I also took immediate liking to the concept of a laundry service for leather. Reason being, that by offering to clean, repair and care for leather, we are dissuading people from discarding their leather gear. This reduces wastefulness and conserves the environment (as leather processing entails a lot of water consumption and air pollution). Thus, TLL is also a socially responsible initiative that tacitly reduces the impact of growing consumerism and fast fashion.       

 Why you think TLL is unique?

We are pioneers in the space of leather cleaning and repair and can safely conclude that we are India's first one-stop-shop for all your leather care and repair needs. The uniqueness of TLL not only lies in the specialized services that we provide, but also in the fact that we are an owner driven venture. I personally answer all the calls and emails. We are more focused on quality than volumes. My target customer segment is a niche market of educated and discerning consumers, who seek quality, believe in reducing wastefulness and practice ethical consumerism. In keeping with this positioning, I have no choice but to cherry-pick my customers. My ideal customers would always place quality over price. They also have to be intelligent enough to understand that we are not a traditional laundry service. The time and skill levels involved in restoring each leather item are very high. It is more like art restoration, where the technician has to work on several elements like stains, loose thread, dirt lining, etc. Our services are analogous to that of a surgeon’s ­­‑‑ both in terms of time expended and expertise involved. Our prices are thus reflective of the same. I have had people coming to me with precious leather gear (of high sentimental value) from their grandparent’s times, seeking advice on preservation and restoration techniques.

The challenges you faced initially…

We faced a lot of teething troubles at every stage. Even to this day, we are learning and are facing unexpected challenges from all quarters. It is like playing a sport. But I love every bit of it. Hiring and retaining the right team was and still is one of our biggest challenges.

Shed some light on the investment front…

We are a self-funded venture for now. Possibilities of future funding are totally contingent on how I plan to diversify and grow over time. I am playing it by ear.

What are your expansion plans?

The key milestones for the next one year would only be to focus on excellent quality and timely deliveries. We will try to get as much traction as we can in the Delhi/NCR region and in other metro cities through our brand partners. I have tied up with brands from Hyderabad, Delhi and Bangalore. I am in dialogue with few other brands too, and the idea now would be to tie up with, as many brands as possible, so that they can direct all the leather care needs of their customers to us. We would also like to foray into other product verticals in a more organized and targeted way (like upholstery and leather car interiors cleaning).

Share anything about TLL that our readers would love to know.

For TLL, competition has never been a deterrent, or a motivator. Honestly, we have never worried about competition much. We want to effectively package and sell stellar quality service that is timely, courteous and durable. We will not claim that the concept is entirely unique, or novel. There are several Indian players dabbling with the concept already. We do not want to under-cut competition by indulging in a price war of sorts. The focus area will only and always be immaculate quality. Since our focus area is narrow and caters to a niche market, it will take us a while to get volumes and break into the market. But it will be totally worth its while. Profit, is not the motive at the moment, but building up on a culture of leather-care in India is. TLL is blessed to have a set of wonderful patrons amongst whom we have Padma Bhushan awardees, Ted talk speakers, country heads of top banks, editors of popular fashion magazines, CEOs of top multi-national companies, actors, authors, Olympic athletes, politicians and news anchors. 

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