Boni and dried: how 2 Hongkongers are laying siege to the city’s on-demand laundry market with a neat little app

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 2:54pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 2:59pm

Hongkongers can now have their laundry washed and delivered to their door without fretting over exorbitant fees or awkward delivery hours, courtesy of Hong Kong start-up Boni.

Boni, which is a romanisation of the phrase “help you” in Cantonese, is an on-demand laundry service founded by Hongkonger Kelvin Lee. Similar to other services such as China’s Edaixi and US-based Washio, customers can place an order on the app by specifying when their laundry should be picked up and delivered, as well as the type of cleaning services required. Payment can be made in cash or by credit card.

Lee, 29, said he got the idea after being frustrated by his previous job’s long working hours and trying to find time to visit the laundromat near his home before it closed.

“The laundromat would often open at 8.30am in the morning and close at around 8pm, before I come home from work. Sometimes my laundry would pile up at home for weeks,” said Lee.

Through this experience, Lee decided to fix Boni’s opening hours from 8am to 11pm every day to better cater to local people’s notoriously long working hours.

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In order to learn more about the business, Lee and co-founder Elaine Leung spent six months working at various laundromats and factories in Hong Kong.

“We worked in different kinds of laundromats – high-end ones where it costs over HK$1,000 (US$129) to dry-clean a suit, and low-end ones where it costs only HK$4 to wash a pound of laundry,” said Lee.

“The laundromats were very surprised when we applied to work there as young people nowadays rarely want to [engage in manual labour],” he added.

Armed with this industry experience, the duo set out to establish Boni. One of the selling points of the start-up is its quick turnaround times, said Lee.

Laundromats often charge about HK$6 per pound of laundry, making Boni’s wash-and-fold services a reasonable option at HK$7 per pound. A minimum wash-and-fold order at Boni is HK$70 for 10 pounds of laundry, with free delivery. Dry cleaning services start at HK$50, but orders below HK$70 are charged a HK$40 delivery fee.

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Lee said Boni’s customers can get their regular laundry delivered within 24 hours, while dry-cleaned items take two days.

“Our services cover the whole of Hong Kong,” said Lee, adding that some of their competitors only service Hong Kong Island and Kowloon with a minimum order of HK$180.

Boni’s customers include white collars, families and tourists, Lee said.

“We have received orders from the JW Marriott, the Peninsula and Fullerton, when tourists are looking for a cheaper alternative compared to the hotel’s premium laundry services,” he said.

Since Boni began taking orders in January, business has grown at a rate of about 15 per cent each week, said Lee.

It now has over 1,000 active users on its platform, and Lee expects to turn a profit in the next six months.

The company has partnered with 15 or so laundromats across Hong Kong. As many shop owners are battling rising rents, they appreciate the extra sales volume, according to Lee.

“They needn’t worry about a dip in business if they shift locations because we will still wash our customers’ clothes through them,” he added.