Are you germaphobic? How utterly frustrating is the fact that you are now obliged to keep your hands constantly sanitised, be aware of the surroundings to make sure that the place is spot-on clean in order to prevent any sort of “germ-leakage” that could cause any infection? It is too much to give in after living your whole life messily right, if you are not a germaphobe.
Unfortunately, we do not have much choice but to follow the safety protocols in place to keep us safe during the global crisis. It has come to a point where we all have to ensure that the places we associate with are well maintained in terms of hygiene standards and precautionary
As Covid-19 has taken centre stage for over a year, some entrepreneurs alongside other essential workers during this period have tried their level best to curtail the prevailing situation to get things back to normal.
The Develop It Yourself (DIY) column this week interviewed Commercial Cleaning Lanka Founder/CEO Kithali Jayawickreme, who established the company this year in a measure to combat the bacteria amongst us.
Jayawickreme, who is playing a similar role for a US-based company, highlighted that she had been thoroughly brainstorming and researching the cleaning sector in Sri Lanka over several years, and had initially intended to launch the company in 2019, but due to unavoidable circumstances she had to delay her plans by a year.
Commenting on the journey so far as an entrepreneur in Sri Lanka, Jayawickreme said that even though people told her that, as a woman, there would discrimination against her and warned of potential difficulties in the industry, the country on the other hand has given her a great platform to do what she desires.
“Excluding one particular incident at a medical institution that astonished me, everything else has been good. There have been challenges to be faced, but it was quite easy for me, and then I found that people were supportive, thankful, and very co-operative for me to establish this company at the perfect time,” Jayawickreme said.
Let us now look at how CCL aims to differentiate itself from other cleaning companies in the country.
CCL is the first company in Sri Lanka to have a medical cleaning approach when conducting commercial cleaning for business premises. What this essentially means is that CCL has in-house doctors to ensure that all cleaning processes go through them; for instance, they direct the mixture of the chemicals, how detergents will be used, and the way they are applied while cleaning.
Even though the company was established this year, there are many areas CCL specialises in to enhance its competitiveness. First of them would be the fogging technology that ensures 100% sanitisation and kills all microbes, all forms of bacteria, viruses, moss, corrosion, or any other form of air pollution or airborne diseases on any and all surfaces.
Second is the quality assurance mechanism used in all of their systems, through which they ensure every service discussed with the clients is fulfilled, whether it’s a monthly service or just a one-time job.
Later comes the commercial laundry services that follow a very strict washing protocol, and they employ in-house specialists for this; followed by waste management solutions, special garbage management, fumigation and pest control, landscaping and gardening, and finally, renovations, repairs and painting.
Jayawickrema further said that they offer another unique service in the form of infection control, in which they would allocate protocol officers to their clients in order to ensure that all operations that are being conducted are well maintained, sanitised, and followed through under regulations in order to provide the best possible results to their clients.
Elaborating on this, she noted that protocol officers in their official uniforms would monitor the surroundings. For example, according to research, banks are seeing a high number of clients on a daily basis. However, during lunch, it becomes potentially contagious as everyone eats together. At this stage, our protocol officers ensure that only a limited number of people eat at once, make sure the place is sanitised and people are maintaining distance, whilst also monitoring other essential hygiene protocols.
Further, according to her, all CCL employees are ready to face any critical situation they would encounter during their job. For example, if a client is affected with Covid-19, a trauma protocol officer, as part of the cleaning procedure, will come forward in a very empathic manner and perform a rapid antigen test when required.
“This is called 24-hour Covid cleanup. Later, the entire area starting from the doorknobs will be sanitised, because although people don’t realise, even small spaces like doorknobs are one of the biggest carriers of this virus. We put intricate thought and care into our processes,” Jayawickreme explained.
Due to its highly diversified services in the industry, the marketing aspect would generally be challenging, but in this regard, Jayawickreme highlighted that CCL follows a traditional marketing approach, which is through the main sources of “networking, sources, and contacts”.
“We do not indulge in very heavy marketing as it’s all about connection and networking skills. I believe you don’t have to invest money for your branding, provided you know the right people to spread the word. However, we started our social media just a few days ago,” she added.
Meanwhile, every entrepreneur has several visions when they start their company, and Jayawickreme’s vision was to reduce the unemployment rate in Sri Lanka, give equal opportunity to every employee, provide an adequate salary so that they could meet their essential needs, and finally to also care for and keep the employees safe at all times.
Even though the company was launched this year, a total number of 300 permanent cleaners and another 50-60 freelance cleaners are currently working with CCL.
Operating with more than 100 islandwide clients in Sri Lanka, Jayawickreme has targeted a few goals to be met within the months to come. One such large-scale goal is the expansion into the South Indian market, due to various reasons.
Speaking in this context, she said that the reason for choosing this country is to reduce the unemployment rate by giving them a job at CCL in India, and also to enhance cleaning, etc., in those parts of the country, given the current situation.
“I conducted research and found no one has cleaning measures to such an extent, and I believe it needs to be done due to the prevailing Covid-19 situation. I believe that this time has come for us to unify the world into one because we will all be facing this crisis. We have to be devoid of any form of race, ethnicity, political differences, or country differences, and join hands together to combat the situation,” Jayawickreme expressed.
Meanwhile, commenting on the Sri Lankan market, she said one of the plans is to bring down advanced cleaning technology into the country by the next few months. However, she noted that the details of these plans would be kept confidential.
“There are a couple of products in the global market used to fight bacteria, which would further eradicate the diseases in the country and avoid a resurgence of Covid-19,” she noted.
Another of CCL’s targets is to capture a dominant share in the cleaning industry within the months to come by being a company with the least amount of errors in the process, while simultaneously being positioned as one of the helping hands in the industry if a client requests help.
The third is to help Sri Lanka gradually reduce unemployment rates by giving everyone an opportunity for good remuneration, to manage a house and buy essential goods given the current situation. “I know their story, I want to help them as much as possible by also providing them guidance, even on other aspects to generate income,” she told.
As we switched topics from goals to challenges, Jayawickreme stated that the only challenge, despite the Covid-19-related travel restrictions, is when clients are reluctant to show the physical space of their office before signing the agreement.
Meanwhile, when inquired how CCL is unique in their services among their competitors she replied that the way the company manages the process, its follow-up mechanism, and how much thought and effort is put into the process, are what makes CCL stand out from its competitors in the industry.
Later, she also said that fogging technologies or other technologies require a very good after-sales process, since the services offered are very customised. According to Jayawickreme, maintaining a standardised approach is unfeasible, as the approach must be assessed on a case-by-case basis to understand what is required.
She added: “I really value my cleaners, because if not for them, their hard work, dedication, and patience, CCL wouldn’t be where it is. For me, I believe my skill of managing people, motivating them, listening to their opinion, and then empowering them to do the right thing is the main core strength factor of CCL,” Jayawickreme explained.
Subsequently, giving the concluding remark, Jayawickreme said that in five years, she would expect CCL to be the top contender in the facility management industry, not just cleaning. “I believe in the next five years to come, my commercial cleaning will travel to greater heights, and I believe that we will have more technologies and new processes in line. Hopefully, we will have a very dominant share in the Sri Lankan and global market,” she concluded.