Despite 200 rejections, entrepreneur feeds her pet products at Rs 50 Crore Bonanza
DRashi Narang, based in elhi, has always known a life shared with pets. She left home to pursue higher education in the UK, got married, and returned in 2006 with a furry birthday present – a Labrador puppy named Sara.
“I was happy to have a pet at home after many years and took care of taking care of her,” she recalls.
Her journey as a pet parent has led her to discover a number of gaps in the market. “Like any other pet parent, I have tried to find a good quality leash, collars, bed, treats and toys. But the existing stores offered basic products without any variety, ”she says. The best India.
Rashi says that other than accessories, she couldn’t find food without harmful chemicals and couldn’t read or understand the names of preservatives used in dog treats. Plus, there was little to no choice for grooming supplies and other essentials.
Disappointed with the products and their poor quality, Rashi began to design her own for her dog, which led her to launch the startup – Heads Up For Tails (HUFT). The 38-year-old started the startup in 2008 to create products that help pets live better lives.
Unique and personalized products
Rashi says that dogs should always play with products that stimulate their mental and physical being. “It’s their instinct, and they can’t stay confined in confined spaces. It’s evident when they sniff all around their surroundings on their walks, ”she says.
She created functional and designer products, producing products such as jackets, collars, beds and other items. “I designed jackets that were well suited to the dog’s breed, bowls that were convenient for them to access food and leashes that did not harm the animals. But when I approached the retailers, everyone refused to put the products on their shelves, ”she says.
She says store owners were adamant her products would not sell, and Rashi says she faced nearly 200 refusals from various retailers.
“I have learned from experience that the majority of store owners are not pet parents and cannot relate to the products. They didn’t understand the need of dogs and saw pet products as just another business. But a more thoughtful approach was needed, ”she says.
It was around this time that Rashi started showing his products at exhibitions at festivals like Diwali and Christmas. This, she says, was the turning point for her business.
“Customers interacted directly with me and shared their thoughts and ideas on the products. Many visitors to the events were pet owners and immediately connected with the products. They gave me encouraging comments, ”she said, adding that motivated by the positive response, she invested Rs 5 lakh to set up a kiosk in a shopping center in the city.
Rashi says the company has again helped her interact with customers, rate their reviews, and sell their products. “Pet parents asked questions and came up with various requests for personalized products, depending on their dogs’ requirements. We have also helped pet parents by teaching them how to walk their dogs, take care of them and better understand their pets, ”she adds.
Sharing examples of innovative products, she says, “We created a water bowl for cockers that would ensure their long ears didn’t get in the way or get wet every time they drank the water. We have also made orthopedic beds for senior dogs. We offered food without harmful chemicals as customers complained about toxic chemicals and allergies their dogs got after consuming certain products. Our product line has grown to over 100 of these products and has helped grow the business.
In 2009, when her husband moved to Singapore to work, Rashi kept his business afloat from overseas. “We then launched the website and had a team of 10 people. It was difficult to manage it remotely, especially with logistics and the product supply chain, ”she admits.
But the move has been good for his business.
Six years later, Rashi returned to India and was already in talks with investors in Singapore to fund his startup. “There were a few companies interested in investing in the startup, but I wanted to find the right opportunity and the right time to put it in the business. The first round of investment was made by a wealthy individual (HNI) based in Singapore who invested $ 1 million, ”she said.
She adds that the money allowed her to expand the product line and categories. Since then, there has been no turning back. In 2017, she received another $ 2.6 million in funding.
Today, HUFT sells more than 5,000 products in its 41 stores and has 20 dog spas located in nine cities in Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana. The company earned Rs 48 crore in 2020 and aims to hit a target of Rs 150 crore with 55 stores in 2021. The price of its products starts from Rs 40 for dog food and goes all the way up to 20 000 Rs for a comfortable sofa.
Sustainable and organic pet food
Rashi claims that Sara’s Treat is one of the most popular products and is made from human grade food ingredients, making them “completely preservative-free, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free.” But she adds that “there are many popular products in different categories.”
Bisham Lilaram, an entrepreneur from Delhi, says he stumbled across a HUFT retail store around 2009 and has been a loyal customer ever since. “I was passing through Chhatarpur [Madhya Pradesh] when I stumbled upon their store and decided to visit them. There was only one store where I preferred to buy products for my dog before discovering HUFT and I was immediately impressed, ”he says.
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Bisham says the best feature of the startup is that all products are dog friendly and designed with animal comfort in mind. “They come in all sizes, shapes and colors, so you’re spoiled for choice,” he adds.
Rashi believes that passion and purpose helped her reach the heights of achievement and scale. “I needed a lot of motivation, and there were times I wanted to quit when times were tough. Plus, managing a kid with a growing business only added to my challenges, ”she says.
Rashi said she was ahead of the curve. “We launched into sustainable, natural and organic dog food products even before the market was ready. The market has been slow to catch up. But ultimately it is, ”she said.
Commenting on her journey so far, she says, “I feel privileged to have pet parents who have given valuable feedback, spent time with the products and trusted us and asked us to. bring the best possible items for their pets.
Their innovation with new products has not stopped. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the startup developed dog hand sanitizer for dog paws and toys that would mentally stimulate dogs. “We created puzzles so that the dogs could search for food through a snuff mat. We made lick mats for animals to eat yogurt or other food, which helps improve their senses and social skills. A chew bone has also been introduced, which helps dogs calm down and exercise their teeth, ”she explains.
As a tip for entrepreneurs, Rashi says, “Always stay close to customers. This is what helped me move from rejection to customer loyalty and market trust. Building a team that works on feedback, fills in market gaps, and works on delivery is crucial. I review all customer comments or complaints. Sometimes it’s the logistics or the packaging of the product, but I take care of everything.
On a farewell note, Rashi says, “We are privileged to have pets in our lives and to be able to spend time with them. We must all respect and meet their needs in order to provide them with a quality life.
Edited by Yoshita Rao