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Expert Services and Customer Satisfaction

Snowhite: from dry-cleaning to manufacturing cleaning products.
Updated 29 Apr, 2024 05:05pm

From a modest storefront on Abdullah Haroon Road to the largest dry-cleaning company in Pakistan, Snowhite has come a long way since its inception in 1949. Hailing from a family of glassworkers in Delhi, Shaikh Fazal-ur-Rahman was encouraged to venture into the dry-cleaning business during a visit to India after an ill-fated dabble in the footwear business. A businessman at heart, Rahman took the leap and immersed himself in learning the trade from his friend, who had set up a successful dry-cleaning business in Delhi and returned to Karachi with a clear vision.

Rahman began with a small shop in Saddar and gradually expanded to include a dry-cleaning plant with state-of-the-art machinery and equipment. He worked tirelessly to establish his dry-cleaning business, a highly specialised service that the people of Karachi were initially dubious of.

“My father was a very hardworking man,” his son Shakil-ur-Rahman, the current director of Snowhite, fondly recollects. “I remember my mother telling me that he would often iron the clothes himself if the pressman was absent.”

He also recalls how his father won over a reluctant individual by restoring his worn-out designer overcoat to its original condition so flawlessly that the owner was unable to recognise it as his own. Slowly but surely, the general attitude towards dry-cleaning and laundry services in Karachi altered and many warmed to the idea of dry-cleaning their delicate fabrics and linens instead of entrusting them to dhobis.

Snowhite’s early success was marred by tragedy when a fire engulfed the factory, resulting in a massive loss for the company. The news was reported on the front page of Dawn as “City dry-cleaner receives rupees one lakh claim.”

With no laws governing insurance claims at the time, Rahman faced the daunting task of rebuilding his business from scratch. Despite the setback, the community rallied behind him and customers withdrew their claims in a show of solidarity. One remarkable incident involved the recovery of a sack of 11 saris, mistakenly thought to be Banarasi silk but revealed to be cheap Dhaka muslin, much to the chagrin of a persistent customer who demanded Rs 25,000 as compensation.

The late Shaikh Fazal-ur-Rahman posing with Snowhite’s lucky draw grand prize, the BMW Isetta.
The late Shaikh Fazal-ur-Rahman posing with Snowhite’s lucky draw grand prize, the BMW Isetta.

In line with his entrepreneurial spirit, Rahman launched a series of dry-cleaning coupon books with discounted deals in an effort to recover his losses. He also reserved his BMW Isetta (in those days, a rare luxury in Pakistan) as the grand prize for the winner of the lucky draw associated with the sale of the coupon books. The car was proudly displayed outside the Saddar outlet, wrapped in a giant red bow to entice customers. Rahman continued this much-loved tradition of extravagant lucky draw prizes for many years, offering all kinds of prizes, from Harley-Davidsons to rare China tea sets.

Snowhite employees with the Kiswa from Makkah.
Snowhite employees with the Kiswa from Makkah.

Significant moments in Snowhite’s history include the time when the Kiswa, the cloth that drapes the Holy Kaaba, was sent to them for dry-cleaning in the sixties. For this special task, the dry-cleaning machines were purified by being repeatedly flushed with clean water and a brand-new solvent was introduced to the machinery. Snowhite was also responsible for restoring the personal effects of Mohammad Ali Jinnah before being displayed at the Mazar-e-Quaid as well as Allama Iqbal’s wardrobe.

Mr. Jinnah’s personal effects.
Mr. Jinnah’s personal effects.

Rahman’s goal was to always ensure that Snowhite remained at the forefront of dry-cleaning and laundry innovation in the country. They were the first in Pakistan to introduce the convenience of at-home services like carpet, drapery and upholstery cleaning and have been quick to incorporate the new solvents introduced in the international market to ensure quality services for their customers.

Currently, Snowhite operates in four cities: Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, through a reliable pick-up and drop-off laundry service network. However, navigating the turbulent waves of Covid-19 proved to be a challenge.

“The pandemic hit us particularly hard; people’s habits changed drastically and they started opting for casual wear and doing their laundry at home. Customers also lost a lot of buying power, so our services were viewed as a luxury again,” laments Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Recognising the evolving needs of consumers, Snowhite made a strategic leap into the cleaning products market, capitalising on their existing laundry detergent formula to introduce a range of domestic cleaning products that include two washing powder variants, dish soap, hand soap, hand sanitiser and various surface cleaners. The products aim to fill a gap in the market for medium-priced detergents and cleaners with their affordable pricing. One kilo of the signature Snowhite washing powder is priced at Rs 480, while rival washing powders go up to Rs 590 and Rs 620 and one kilo of Jhaag, the other variant, is priced at Rs 290 as compared to Rs 450 for similar brands. At the moment, two new products – liquid laundry detergent and body wash – are under development and set to launch soon.

Snowhite’s current marketing strategy employs TVCs, social media and housewife engagement schemes. The full product range is available at all Snowhite locations and through their online shop. Additionally, Snowhite’s products have been stocked at various general stores throughout the country since early this year and they plan to expand to online retailers like Daraz and Krave Mart to reach a wider customer base. Since October, due to the consumer boycott of pro-Israeli companies, Snowhite and other local companies have witnessed an unprecedented increase in sales. Shakil-ur-Rahman revealed the boycott to be the reason behind their slogan of ‘Be Pakistani, Buy Pakistani’ adapted from the founder of Hamdard, Hakeem Saeed’s slogan, ‘Love Pakistan, Build Pakistan.’ This approach to emphasise local products has proved successful, according to their online store’s metrics report, which reveals that the majority of customers have placed repeat orders since late last year.

As Snowhite continues to evolve within the laundry and dry-cleaning sphere even after seven decades, their commitment to providing expert services and ensuring customer satisfaction remains, so far, as steadfast as ever.