Bader Al Kalooti, the founder of Laundrybo, with his automated locker system, which lets tenants drop off and pick up their laundry at their convenience.  Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Bader Al Kalooti, the founder of Laundrybo, with his automated locker system, which lets tenants drop off and pick up their laundry at their convenience. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Former banker makes a clean break with Dubai laundry service



It was while working as an investment banker that Bader Al Kalooti had his most memorable dry cleaning disaster. He learnt at short notice of a meeting in Amman, Jordan, the next day so rushed his suit to the dry cleaners to be freshened up.

“You have to deliver it at 3pm because I’m going to the airport at 3.15pm,” Mr Al Kalooti told his laundry assistant.

The assistant turned up on time – but with the wrong suit, and the jacket and trousers didn’t even match.

“I didn’t have time to do anything about it so I grabbed the suit,” Mr Al Kalooti recalls. “It was so tight I looked like a breakdancer.”

His boss made him buy a new suit in duty free.

A few years down the line Mr Al Kalooti, a native of Kuwait, was casting around for a entrepreneurial venture when he realised there had been little improvement in the laundry business since his dry cleaning debacle.

“It hasn’t caught up with the 21stcentury,” he remembers thinking. “There has to be a better way.”

He gave the problem careful consideration. Friends and colleagues were all too ready to share their own laundry-related grumbles of bad service, bad quality and inconvenience.

So he dreamed up an automated locker system that would allow users to drop off and pick up their laundry at their own convenience in their own apartment block. Preferences such as whether T-shirts should be folded or put on a hanger or whether shirts should be starched or not would be entered into the system once then stored for future reference. Card payments would be an option.

Angel investors said they liked the idea, as did real estate developers: tenants would get a convenient service and the building management would make money renting previously empty wall space.

“It’s a win-win situation for everybody,” he says.

The idea gathered momentum and Mr Al Kalooti decided to quit his banking job.

He raised US$1.3 million of initial funding, put a business plan together then spent 18 months researching and developing the system. This included designing the software for the automated locker system, integrating that with the company’s website, and designing the lockers themselves.

He also developed his own laundry facilities.

“That was the thing that kept me up at night: ‘should I do the outsource model or should I not?” he says.

He decided he didn’t want to be at the mercy of others’ laundry operations so he brought in his own specialists from Dubai’s top hotels.

“No matter how convenient my service and locker systems are, if I didn’t have the right quality checks in place people are not going to use my service,” he reasons. “One of our core components is that we actually control the laundry as well.”

Laundrybox was born last April with the first lockers installed in Burj Residences in Downtown Dubai. Nine months later the lockers are in 20 buildings in Dubai and there are franchise inquiries coming in from London, New York, Paris and Australia, Mr Al Kalooti says. However, he adds it is a little to early for franchising with tweaks to the business still to be made, but he hopes to have a deal in place later this year.

The businessman prides himself that Laundrybox users don’t need to leave instructions about whether garments should be washed or dry cleaned. Neither do they need to alert the company to particular stains that need attention.

“It’s our job to know,” Mr Al Kalooti says.

Laundrybox staff inspect each item of clothing and decide whether to dry clean or wash it and how to treat stains. Problematic stains are documented by camera and a picture is sent to the customer with a note explaining that Laundrybox will do its best to clean the garment but it might not be successful. Garments with untreatable stains are returned to the customer free of charge with a note explaining the problem. Communication is everything, explains Mr Al Kalooti. Lost buttons are replaced free of charge and there is no extra cost for an overnight service.

The entrepreneur says he is pleased with the numbers in each building using the system but won’t disclose those figures publicly. At the end of last year the company secured a second round of investment worth $1.4m from Zarooni Emirates Investments to expand the business.

“People appreciate us and we offer great prices” says Mr Kalooti. “If you look at our next-day service and the quality we give, we are probably one of the cheapest. We did this on purpose because we want market share. We are not a niche laundry, we want to be a market mass laundry.”

lgutcher@thenational.ae

TWISTERS

Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Starring: Glenn Powell, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Anthony Ramos

Rating: 2.5/5

MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League last-16, second leg:

Real Madrid 1 (Asensio 70'), Ajax 4 (Ziyech 7', Neres 18', Tadic 62', Schone 72')

Ajax win 5-3 on aggregate

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Turning waste into fuel

Average amount of biofuel produced at DIC factory every month: Approximately 106,000 litres

Amount of biofuel produced from 1 litre of used cooking oil: 920ml (92%)

Time required for one full cycle of production from used cooking oil to biofuel: One day

Energy requirements for one cycle of production from 1,000 litres of used cooking oil:
▪ Electricity - 1.1904 units
▪ Water- 31 litres
▪ Diesel – 26.275 litres

Visit Abu Dhabi culinary team's top Emirati restaurants in Abu Dhabi

Yadoo’s House Restaurant+& Cafe

For the karak and Yoodo's house platter with includes eggs, balaleet, khamir and chebab bread.

Golden Dallah

For the cappuccino, luqaimat and aseeda.

Al Mrzab Restaurant

For the shrimp murabian and Kuwaiti options including Kuwaiti machboos with kebab and spicy sauce.

Al Derwaza

For the fish hubul, regag bread, biryani and special seafood soup. 

KLOPP AT LIVERPOOL

Years: October 2015 - June 2024
Total games: 491
Win percentage: 60.9%
Major trophies: 6 (Premier League x 1, Champions League x 1, FA Cup x 1, League Cup x 2, Fifa Club World Cup x1)

MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League last 16, first leg

Liverpool v Bayern Munich, midnight, Wednesday, BeIN Sports

The Meg
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Starring:   
Two stars

WHAT IS A BLACK HOLE?

1. Black holes are objects whose gravity is so strong not even light can escape their pull

2. They can be created when massive stars collapse under their own weight

3. Large black holes can also be formed when smaller ones collide and merge

4. The biggest black holes lurk at the centre of many galaxies, including our own

5. Astronomers believe that when the universe was very young, black holes affected how galaxies formed

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

10 tips for entry-level job seekers
  • Have an up-to-date, professional LinkedIn profile. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, set one up today. Avoid poor-quality profile pictures with distracting backgrounds. Include a professional summary and begin to grow your network.
  • Keep track of the job trends in your sector through the news. Apply for job alerts at your dream organisations and the types of jobs you want – LinkedIn uses AI to share similar relevant jobs based on your selections.
  • Double check that you’ve highlighted relevant skills on your resume and LinkedIn profile.
  • For most entry-level jobs, your resume will first be filtered by an applicant tracking system for keywords. Look closely at the description of the job you are applying for and mirror the language as much as possible (while being honest and accurate about your skills and experience).
  • Keep your CV professional and in a simple format – make sure you tailor your cover letter and application to the company and role.
  • Go online and look for details on job specifications for your target position. Make a list of skills required and set yourself some learning goals to tick off all the necessary skills one by one.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach outside your immediate friends and family to other acquaintances and let them know you are looking for new opportunities.
  • Make sure you’ve set your LinkedIn profile to signal that you are “open to opportunities”. Also be sure to use LinkedIn to search for people who are still actively hiring by searching for those that have the headline “I’m hiring” or “We’re hiring” in their profile.
  • Prepare for online interviews using mock interview tools. Even before landing interviews, it can be useful to start practising.
  • Be professional and patient. Always be professional with whoever you are interacting with throughout your search process, this will be remembered. You need to be patient, dedicated and not give up on your search. Candidates need to make sure they are following up appropriately for roles they have applied.

Arda Atalay, head of Mena private sector at LinkedIn Talent Solutions, Rudy Bier, managing partner of Kinetic Business Solutions and Ben Kinerman Daltrey, co-founder of KinFitz