Written by Shivani Kava
This is not your ordinary neighbourhood laundry. This laundry specialises in cleaning shoes. Sandeep Gajakas (41), owner of Shoe Laundry, says since he started his business in 2003, he must have cleaned 30,000-45,000 pairs of shoes.
Gajakas, who owns branches in south Mumbai, Chembur, Ghatkopar and Thane, says the need to maintain his expensive shoes pushed him towards shoe maintenance. Gajakas, who has a degree in fire engineering, says he could have done 10 other things in which he was good at but perhaps was destined to do this. “I am obsessed with cleaning. It may be the result of my NCC background or simply because that’s how I have been brought up at home.”
“I don’t mind lending my shoes to cobblers as long as they do a good job. But they haven’t upgraded their skills, be it slippers or a really expensive pair of shoes a cobbler treats both equally,” he says.
An Andheri resident, he adds, “I have cleaned 30,000-45,000 pairs of shoes in 16 years. Initially, I worked alone: pick-up and delivery to cleaning and repairing… because I wanted my work to be perfect. I still clean shoes if I happen to get my hands on them. I personally train others.”
Gajakas says though his parents were supportive about the venture, they were a little horrified with the idea of cleaning shoes for a living as it isn’t a financially viable business.
“But most shoes these days are more expensive than a full-featured Android phone, what is lacking is service. A shoe that costs Rs 20,000 comes only with a three-month warranty and many terms and conditions, but there are no services attached to it,” he says.
“Cleaning shoes and maintaining them isn’t as simple as putting them in a washing machine and using glue, there is a lot more to it. Each footwear has a different style and material, which requires different techniques.”
“We serve anybody who owns a pair of footwear. It can be formal shoes, casuals, flip-flops, stilettos, workout shoes, wedges etc,” Gajakas says.
His company, apart from cleaning shoes, also offers maintenance services. “Through our methods and proven expertise, we have successfully performed nearly impossible repairs and footwears wearable again,” he says.
His charges: Rs 300-350 for sports and non-leather footwear, Rs 400-450 for leather footwear and repairs.