JustClean, a technology company started by Kuwaiti brothers Athbi and Nouri Al Enezi, is trying to tap the $3 billion (Dh11bn) laundry industry across Gulf countries to boost its growth. Its mobile app allows people to select the laundry outlet in the area and place the order with dates and time for pick up and delivery.
"We started the company by identifying a crucial problem in the market. We sought out to build a platform that would provide convenience to the users," said Athbi Al Enezi, speaking to The National.
Mr Al Enezi was born and raised in Kuwait until his late teens when he moved to the UK. Upon completion of his education, he embarked upon a career in the hospitality industry which offered him significant experience of consumer behavior.
Upon his return to Kuwait, while still in the banking sector, Mr Al Enezi along with his brother Nouri Al Enezi, inspired by the fast-moving e-commerce industry in the region, decided to set up the first laundry marketplace application in 2016.
Together, they launched Masbagti in April 2016 and in the following year, the business partnered with Kuwait based venture capital fund Faith Capital and re-branded to JustClean.
The JustClean team has grown to 130 people with plans for further expansion.
Its app is available in Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia. By the end of 2019, it plans to roll out its service in Jeddah and Riyadh.
JustClean secured investment to the tune of $12.9m from Faith Capital Holding, a Kuwait-based venture capital fund, allowing it to expand its business further. Faith Capital invested $1.3m in February 2017, $3.6m in March 2018 and $8m in February 2019.
In the UAE, the company has signed up more than 100 laundry businesses since introducing its app in the emirates in October 2018 and is looking to sign up at least 10 more laundries each month for the rest of the year and into 2020. It aims to expand its operations in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Sharjah, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah, not only increasing their user base but their territorial presence as well.
“We have thousands of customers using our app. This time last year, we were present only in Kuwait but now we have managed to expand and have a physical office in every city we operate.”
The company expects more investments as it aims to expand beyond the GCC. Mr Enezi said they are studying three to four markets to start their service but did not provide further details.
“The laundry business in the GCC region is currently worth roughly $3bn, with an annual growth of 9 per cent, and it will develop substantially in the next five years. We feel the entire industry will eventually end up online.”
The company is three businesses in one, namely a marketplace application, a logistics operation as well as a SaaS (software as a service) business.
“We’re upgrading what is basically a large and underdeveloped sector through the integration of technology into the daily lives of consumers.”
JustClean has customers coming from different socio-economic backgrounds, locals as well as expatriates.
Mr Enezi feels that atmosphere is right for the growth of start ups in the GCC.
“Having started as a Kuwaiti company and expanded to other GCC markets, we have found the atmosphere to be more welcoming as time goes on. It is an open market and customers are not complicated.”
Various markets in the GCC have begun to adopt more business-friendly rules and regulations, he said, adding, “We anticipate additional positive developments in the very near future.”
Earlier this year, Abu Dhabi has committed Dh535 million for a new fund to invest in start-ups as part of the government's Ghadan 21 programme to diversify the economy and attract investors. The emirate also started a dedicated tech hub, dubbed Hub 71, that will offer cost of living subsidies to start ups to help them grow.
The Kuwait Stock Exchange is also planning to set up a venture capital market to attract and support the country’s growing start ups.
“Everyone is looking at exiting in GCC," says Mr Enezi. "However, we are looking at bigger picture and hoping to reach IPO level in future.”
What is the vision of the company in the next five years?
We aim to upgrade our current sector through technology and aspire for JustClean to be listed on an international stock exchange.
What new skills Mr Athbi learnt in the process of launching the company?
Aside from learning technical business methods and ideologies, on a personal level I have learned to be more resilient.
What already successful start up do you wish you have started?
My brother and I entered the laundry industry because we identified a crucial problem affecting both laundry owners and customers alike, and we are continuously tackling this problem. We are inspired by the pioneers before us and after Allah’s blessings hope to carve our own path for success.