How digital ‘mama nguos’ have taken laundry services by storm
The busy lifestyle of Nairobians has revolutionized laundry services within the city and two young people are now offering digital cleaning services based on online requests.
Janet Otieno, who is her 20s, and Femi Odunuga, in his 30s, are the co-founders of Kisafi – a cleaning service firm that offers laundry and home cleaning services at the client’s convenience.
All one needs to do is to request via the Kisafi app or call the firm for their laundry to be picked. The laundry is done at the Kisafi workshop in Lavington and thereafter the clothes delivered back to the client.
The idea was born in December 2015 after some of the co-founders who were temporarily living in the city decried on how hard it was to get laundry done in Nairobi since the hustle of driving to the dry cleaners or finding a trustworthy ‘mama nguo’ was daunting.
“We realised there was a need for the service from personal experience. I started doing research and asked a couple of friends. We put our heads together to come up with an online platform where at the click of a button you have your service and chores done,” Ms Otieno told Nairobi News in an interview.
The firm was launched in February 2016 with funds drawn from personal savings of the co-founders and others from investors.
The first clients were family and friends who tested the services until May 2016 when they took in the first client from outside their circles.
Initially, requests could only be made through the Kisafi website and social media. But the clients kept enquiring about an app that was later created and is available for download on Google App Store.
“In terms of market reception it’s been really good as we have had very good problems in the last three months we have been up. Our plan was to test the service for three months and maybe get our first customer but the good side of it is that we actually exceeded the target in less than a month as we are now at 4000 customers and have expanded to Kampala and Lagos,” Mr Odunuga told Nairobi News.
The company has offered an opportunity to the traditional city mama nguos to make more money and get more clients at the comfort of the firm’s base in Lavington, Nairobi.
“Now they don’t have to sit on the roadside in estates to get clients, they work from our workshop and they say they are making more money than before as while on the road side they would get one or two clients due to competition but now we bring the laundry to them and pay them,” said Ms Otieno who is a former kids clothes designer.
According to Mr Odunuga, whose parents live in Nigeria, hence the roll out in Lagos, the initial model was to take laundry to dry cleaners but some clients insisted on hand washing so as to give personalized care to their laundry hence the move to bring in mama nguos.
“We recruit (mama nguos) every single day. We interview up to between 10 to 25 sometimes up to 20 people daily and we need as many as possible as currently we have 26 of them,” said Ms Otieno.
The mama nguos are interviewed and tested for weeks before finally being recruited into the system where they receive laundry requests.
The service is currently available for Nairobians living in dozens of estates in Nairobi among them those along Thika road, around Eastlands and upper market areas like Lavington and Kisafi has plans to expand to all other neighborhoods before the end of the year.
Requests are made through the Kisafi app, the firm’s website or even social media platforms.
Kisafi also offers home cleaning services to its clients through trained cleaners who have experience in working for major hotels within the city.
The cleaners have their background information thoroughly scrutinized before recruitment and wear aprons with cameras fitted on them for accountability purposes and to ensure their work can be supervised remotely.