The Dubai-based on-demand cleaning marketplace covering the GCC expands into new business areas.
After starting as a laundry service app, JustClean is branching out and looking to make a clean sweep of the sector.
The company, an on-demand cleaning marketplace covering the GCC, which also offers car washing and home cleaning, is now focusing on the beauty segment so users can get their hair and nails done at home instead of going to a salon.
It also has logistics operation as well as an SaaS (software as a service) business.
Based in Dubai, JustClean has successfully made its way through the coronavirus pandemic, and earlier this year, raised $6 million in a new funding round that has helped with the company’s expansion plans.
Having started in Kuwait, the company moved its base to the UAE at the beginning of this year, partially because of the talent available in the market in the Emirates, and also because it faced some issues with visas in Kuwait during the pandemic, according to chief executive and co-founder Athbi Al Enezi.
It was “very tough to bring existing staff back or obtain new employees” in Kuwait and so “we believed it would be in the best interests of the company to bring it to Dubai”, Mr Al Enezi says.
Pet grooming could be the company’s next area of focus, and when it does expand into a new vertical, it does so across the whole of the GCC.
“We are covering the vertical across the region with the same quality, standards and experience whether you are in Kuwait or the UAE,” says Mr Al Enezi, whose brother, Nouri Al Enezi, is the company’s co-founder and deputy chief executive.
“Pet grooming is part of cleaning, and there’s a few things we’re looking at and decisions are made based on basket size and demand. It works as partnerships as well. If we can’t add value and aren’t passionate about it we won’t go there. We have to believe in the problem we are solving,” says Mr Al Enezi.
JustClean is looking at five new markets at the moment, and while they may not enter all of them, they need to do a study on all, he adds.
Egypt is “the promising one, which we may be in later this year or early next year”.
“The main focus at the moment when I talk about expansion is ensuring all verticals are expanding in each region correctly with the same quality,” Mr Al Enezi says.
“Our focus is on Saudi Arabia. We cover the Eastern Province and Riyadh and Jeddah and there’s many little cities we’re entering at the moment and want to cover the whole of Saudi Arabia, which is like a continent in itself.”
The pandemic saw restrictions placed on the movement of residents in the GCC, with different rules in different countries.
For JustClean, it found the situation beneficial in some countries, but detrimental in others.
“In Kuwait, they gave us three or four hours to work, so it was hard to turn around,” says Mr Al Enezi.
However, other countries had permission for delivery only, which benefited JustClean “as we were the only delivery company, so that’s where the investment in our logistics service played well for us”.
“We took that time to reflect as a company and re-evaluate ourselves, see what we may have been doing wrong, focused heavily on building these verticals, which took a lot of time, and we took a strategic decision to keep hold of as many employees as possible.”
Within a month of the end of the worst of the pandemic, the company was back performing as it was before the restrictions were put into place, says Mr Al Enezi.
“We believed in the brand and had enough cash to do that,” he says.
“That showed we were offering a great service, understood what the customer needs and our retention was brilliant. That did very well for us closing our last investment round, and had we downsized and got rid of the team, we wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
Mr Al Enezi was born and raised in Kuwait until his late teens when he moved to the UK and has seen the difference in lifestyle between living in Europe and the Middle East.
Like getting a regular haircut, he saw getting laundry done each week by someone else as part of life in the GCC as it “doesn’t break the bank like it does in European countries”, he says.
He highlighted the Arab clothing as requiring certain ironing items making it difficult to do at home, and he regarded the $3.5bn industry as untapped.
Next up, the company is looking into electrification of its delivery service amid high petrol costs.
“We want to get ahead of the game and bring costs down. Anything that can benefit us,” Mr Al Enezi says.
Q&A with Athbi Al Enezi, chief executive and co-founder
What’s the next big dream you plan to make a reality?
In terms of the cleaning sector, we want to be the leading cleaner in the world and believe there’s a lot of space in that. Instead of competing with everyone, build an umbrella which has all of the cleaning companies under one roof, like you see in the food sector, to make value instead of spending big amounts on marketing.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I want to be able to give back to everyone who believed in us — investors and family etc. It’s a tough question to answer. When you’ve been doing what you love and been living it for years, it’s not a job, it’s a passion, and an honour to be able to get this opportunity. It’s more of a lifestyle and when this shuts off, I don’t know what I’m going to do. The same thing happens with football players; when they stop playing, they don’t know what to do.
Is there anything you would have done differently if you started over again?
If I had done things differently, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Each little decision may have created a different path which may have been better, may have been worse … but I’m very grateful for where we are at the moment.