SmartClean Technologies an IoT and AI-powered solutions providing start-up for the cleaning industry, secured S$3.7 million (US$2.7 million) in a pre-Series A funding.
Co-led by SEEDS Capital (the investment arm of Enterprise Singapore) and an Environmental Services company, strategic investors Ecocare (a leading hygiene company in Indonesia) and co-CEOs of Oneberry Technologies (a security automation company in Singapore) joined the round one of the funding.
“Round one, which was closed earlier this year, brought our total funds raised to date to US$3.4 million, which also includes venture debt”, said SmartClean Technologies’ Marketing & Communications Associate, Yashvi Tekriwal
“In addition, we had raised government grants in the early days of its operations,” he added.
SmartClean was founded by Lav Agarwal(PhD from NTU, Abhishek Mishra (PhD from NUS), and Stella Aw(co-founder of Spotless).
The idea for SmartClean occurred when Agarwal and Aw met in late 2016 and ended up discussing the challenges faced by Spotless.
Realising that lack of tech adaptation is a major challenge, they sensed a huge potential for a ground-breaking digital transformation in the cleaning industry.
The duo brought this idea to Mishra(who was already working on a robotics idea with Agarwal), combined with his tech expertise, SmartClean was born in June 2017.
The startup is currently in the process of raising US$10 million in Series A from several investors, including a large VC firm with operations in India and Southeast Asia. This round is expected to close in March 2021.
Launched at CapitaLand’s IoT accelerator programme, SmartClean is working on reimagining the next-gen cleaning industry and building IoT solutions which will:
- Monitor spaces,
- Learn from the facility data
- Run cleaning operations of properties
- Autonomously do it with a team of cleaners and robots.
“We are on a mission to fundamentally change how cleaning is done today. We equip property owners, facility management & cleaning companies with data-driven solutions to deliver top level cleanliness standards”, the Smartclean team says.
A Manual Industry’s Challenges
Cleaning and security form two of the biggest segments of facility management. The security industry is tech-driven with automated surveillance and command centres.
However the cleaning industry still faces many challenges:
- Cleaning is still mostly manual with cleaning operations clocking a lot of manhours
- Cleaners go around doing physical checks and cleaning on a scheduled and periodic basis.
- Cleaning is also seen as a dead-end job and hence there are very high attrition rates.
- It is a challenge for a cleaning operator to continuously train and deploy new cleaners.
- It’s also hard to standardise cleanliness since there is no real-time visibility, and cleaners are only identifying issues during periodic checks.
SmartClean’s solutions assume significance in the face of the above challenges:
The system uses advanced data analytics, Machine Learning and predictive algorithm to compute usage and cleaning requirements, which are used to send alerts to cleaners with detailed work instructions and used by managers to plan resources in advance.
This helps the industry to move from scheduled to on-demand operations, increasing productivity by over 30 per cent and improving service quality, resulting in net savings for the organisation.
SmartClean is also rolling out a one-stop SaaS platform, called Matrix, for MSME cleaning companies to digitise their back-end operations, including workforce management, contract management, audit and payroll.
SmartClean was commercially launched after a year-long trial in 2019 and has expanded to both commercial and public properties, such as Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Jewel Changi Airport, State Court, NParks, Bus interchanges, and JTC Summit.
It has ongoing projects in Singapore, India, the UAE, Indonesia and Malaysia with expansions in the pipeline for Hong Kong, Australia and Thailand.
Currently employing 40 people the startup is planning to double this number to 80 by the end of this year.
The market size
The Cleaning industry, an evergreen and recession-proof business, is an approximate US$300-billion industry globally, of which 60 per cent is organised commercial cleaning segment.
The industry employs around 50 million people and manpower drives 80 per cent of the cost.
About 10 million people are involved in cleaning operations in India alone, with a total market size of approximately US$10 billion.
In COVID-19 times, the need of cleaning and hygiene has only gone up. “As cleanliness and hygiene gained priority, something that was good to have, became a must to have, and so did our solution,” says Yashvi.
Greater priority on health, safety, and sanitization in the new normal has opened the doors of technological transformation for the cleaning and facilities management industry.
SmartClean too is riding on this trend and seeing good growth. However it has also been facing challenges commercialising in low-labour cost markets like India, as it’s hard to justify the ROI.
The startup has ambitious plans for the Indian and Global market and aim to transform the cleaning industry.