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Lakaki shines on

Lakaki the first power laundry of Goa recently accomplished another milestone with usage of solar power technology in operations, reports Shoma PatnaikThe laundry and dry cleaning industry in Goa is changing for the better in terms of quality. But many old names of the past have downed shutters and new names have emerged. So it is great to hear of a veteran player continuing in the business and achieving something significant in the process.

Lakaki Dry Cleaners has been around for 53 years with many local residents swearing loyalty to it. Recently the laundry got recognition from the government for a great initiative that is eco-friendly and also advantageous to the owners. It is a green initiative that hopefully will be taken up by rest of industry in future.

The Margao based laundry, owned by Venkatesh Naik Dalal made the switch to renewable energy through a solar technology system to meet its steam requirements. Steam pressed clothes are the basic work in any laundry and the solar system says Dalal gives enough of steam for daily requirements. It also provides continuous hot water and is cut down costs considerably. It is pushed the laundry towards better profitability and aim for higher goals in future, he says.

Energized by solar generated steam future plans are to upgrade to better machinery. The laundry will buy new dry cleaning and stain removing machines. It may also go in for solar electricity to cut down on the power bills, he says.

The newly installed solar system is installed at a cost of about Rs 10 lakh. It was commissioned in February 2015 with the help of the Goa Energy Development Agency (GEDA). The system saves on diesel cost (to fuel the steam boiler). About six barrels of diesel a month was purchased previously but currently diesel is eliminated from day-to-day operations totally. Diesel is a costly fuel and environmentally unfriendly.

Buying large quantities of it was a huge drain on the income. It was pushing the laundry to lower profits, points out Naik. However monsoons are going to be a challenging period, says  Naik although he feels that days of sunshine may permit the solar system to work and ensure the flow of steam. During monsoons the electric boiler will be put to use, he adds.

Established in 1962, Lakaki continues its elderly owner was the first power laundry of Goa. His family he says was into trading but starting a laundry was his idea because he was always impressed by dazzling white, cotton, starched clothes. The laundry started just after Goa achieved freedom. The preparatory work for it was started about two-three years, around 1959 back when Portuguese still ruled Goa. Importing machinery or equipment those days was very easy and Dalal corresponded with a Danish company that supplied the machinery.

His role model was Garment Cleaning Works, Mumbai that ran 40 dry cleaning outlets in the city. When he started reputed names like Bandbox and Garment Cleaning Works (both in Mumbai) helped by way of guidance. In the early days the entire team of ironers and cleaners were from Mumbai because there was nobody available locally.

The laundry business continues Dalal works on prompt delivery and service which is why he survived while many local players failed and shut shop. Latest competition is from outside laundries but Dalal says that it is not affecting business.

Elderly and short of hearing Dalal these days is helped by son Vinit Dalal and daughter-in-law Shweta Dalal. The new generation is keen to incorporate latest technology are want to carry the business further, he says. His daughter-in-law is got a grip on the finances thanks to which they are better aware of cost saving and expenditure reduction.

Lakaki in the past had five branches, however the present network comprises three branches in Margao, Panaji and Vasco. Of these Margao is the flagship store which can give delivery in six hours because of being close to the factory. The factory is located in Dicarpale and it employs about 20 permanent employees and three daily staff. Fuel, electricity, water and labour are the main cost elements of a laundry, points out Dalal adding that fuel cost is under control thanks to usage of solar energy.

The factory premises was purchased in 1973 and it is pretty spacious with open land around it. Watching  the huge heaps of sarees, trousers, bridal dresses and other assorted ware getting cleaned, dried and iron is rather interesting. There are five tables for steam pressing, four tables for electric ironing and about two lengthy tables for the sarees. The factory handles about 1,000 clothes a day and in peak season the number is about 1,500 garments daily.

The dry-cleaning industry you discover is primarily manual. Human hands are needed for ironing and folding although washing is automated. Running a laundry says Vinit Dalal is full of hassles because you need to deal with customers all of whom who want the clothes immediately. It is a 24-hour job thanks to which the family can never plan vacations. However the hassle of operations is not dimmed enthusiasm for modernization, he says.

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