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While the use of dry cleaners is very much associated with modern metropolitan life in developed markets, there is another world out there.
Up until the summer of 2012 there was no dry cleaner in the whole of Somalia, with the only answer being to pressgang anyone travelling to Nairobi on business to take as many suits as possible to be cleaned and brought back across the border. With something approaching stability returning to the country and a domestic business and civil culture which favours formal attire, the opportunity to open the country’s first dry cleaning operation was taken by local entrepreneur Mohamed Mahamoud Sheik.
With a degree in business and having been brought up in Italy, the entrepreneur was able to source equipment and chemicals largely from Italy to start the business, and its popularity to date suggests that there are other opportunities around the continent to establish other such enterprises.
Euromonitor International reported that Procter & Gamble had established its own Tide Dry Cleaners franchise, operated through its subsidiary Agile Pursuits Franchising, in the US back in 2010. This new enterprise was viewed with some surprise at the time as retail dry cleaning had not been enjoying the best of times, especially during the recession. The Tide Dry Cleaners brand is alive and well in 2013 and continues to expand, proving that brand power works, at least in this context.
Given the fact that both Unilever and Procter & Gamble are locked in something of a battle to generate brand recognition/loyalty throughout the African continent, branded dry cleaning franchises of this kind may be an option. Branded dry cleaning could be used to drive brand equity in this case as well as cater for growing demand for dry cleaning services in a region where equipment and chemical supplies remain difficult to come by. While Mohamed Mahamoud Sheik’s own story points to the success of local entrepreneurship, there may well be something to learn here for even the largest multinational.
Branded dry cleaners could well boost brand visibility on the high street, create an association with quality and service while also developing a bond with influential groups in society which often set trends for others to follow. While franchising is unlikely to be a pivotal development in the Omo versus Tide battle which is unfolding in Africa, it could well prove an interesting sideshow.