Indian pet owners don’t get proper services
Pune-based Anshul Goenka, owner of an online platform offering services and products for pet lovers and owners
Q: What made you come up with the idea of an online platform for pet lovers and owners?
I saw that while many companies abroad provided such services, there were very few in India. Based on my research and conversations with investors, mentors and professionals, I concluded there was need for a platform for pet owners but one that would also make money and keep my mentors and investors happy. Pet owners in India don’t know where to leave their pets when they go on vacation or business trips as hostels or kennel services are not well organized. Kennels don’t provide any personal attention to the pets that are like family to a lot of people. So we decoded to provide a platform for people interested in extra income who are also pet lovers. This person could be a student, a housewife, or doing a part-time course. She/he can register as a sitter on our website; provide all details and photos of the house, a small description about self and the rates she/he will charge. We interview the host to understand why she/he wants to be a sitter, what kind of facilities the sitter can provide during an emergency and the experience the person has with pets. We verify whether the person registering as host is genuine or not and approve the credentials and give approval. If someone is looking for a host, she can just visit our website, feed her pin code and find the pet sitters in that area. A pet owner can book and pay online for the desired dates she wants to leave the pet with the host, who gets paid within a week. We are in the process of getting our sitters registered so that our owners can have multiple options to choose from according to the budget, location, house condition and facilities provided.
Q: Tell us about your services.
We have a team of groomers that can go to the owner’s place for any grooming requirement. We have walking services—we provide a pet walker on a monthly basis. We also have an online store where one can buy pet products and accessories which would get delivered within 24 hours of ordering. These services are restricted to Pune at present, but the sitters are all over India. We can scale this model across all cities. We started operations with grooming services. We then started building on technology so we have a good mix of online and offline services for our end users. Then we started our walking services and later we started an online store and the sitter platform.
How capital-intensive is this business? Are you looking to raise funds?
Most of our capital went into paying salaries, in setting up another office, over technology and on marketing efforts. As of now, we are bootstrapped. Whatever money we get from our clients from subscription, on-demand, and selling our products and services is ploughed back into the business. We are looking for external investment also as we are now planning to scale up in Mumbai and Hyderabad that have much bigger markets. This would be the first round of fund-raising where I’m looking at raising Rs 2-2.5 crore from investors.
80% of organic crops being exported
Anjali Pathak, consultant to the Indian tea industry, fruit growers & spice growers on organic methods of cultivation, and a qualified naturopath
Q: What are the benefits of using organic seeds & do plants thus grown require special care? Is the produce/yield (flower/fruit) limited? By organic seeds we mean traditional seeds that have been passed down for generations and have not been tampered with. Our experience with organic/traditional seeds is that they are very hardy and able to withstand climate change. Moreover, our farmers and we as a nation can remain independent if we use our own traditional seeds. By using GMO or hybrid seeds we will become slaves of the multinational companies and our food security will be in jeopardy. A mathematical approach to food and farming which only sees numbers and statistics misses out on the numerous benefits of growing and eating organic food. Crops that are grown organically need organic manure and good soil. The yield is bountiful and health promoting. One saves on hospital and doctors’ bills and has good energy for work, family and friends. Need I say more? Q: Please explain the concept of bio-fertilizers and their benefits. Bio-fertilizers are fertilizers that are plant based or animal based and are therefore good for the soil. Farmyard manure, vermicompost, biochar, bonemeal, fishmeal, panchagavya, kunapa jal etc. are all biofertilizers. It is best that the farmers produce these manures themselves on their farms. I am in favour of farm self-sufficiency. Not only will the crops grown with such organic fertilizers be healthy, the soil will remain fertile too. Biofertilzers can be prepared cheaply on the farm itself and the farmers can thus save money which they are currently spending on purchasing chemical fertilizers. Q: What are the challenges in running such an enterprise & ways to overcome them? Organic farming in India is labour intensive. In South India there is a severe shortage of farm labour. Unless the daily wages of farm labour are hiked and they are provided with health benefits and provident fund, the area under organic farming cannot be expanded substantially. Moreover, the vast majority of urban consumers are not yet ready for buying and eating organic food. There is lack of awareness amongst the Indian consumers and also lack of outreach. More than 80% of organic crops being grown in India are being exported. Q: What is your advice to those who wish to foray into similar field? Those who wish to start an organic farm need to be ready to accept and solve the challenges that they come across. Organic farming is not a “get rich quick” or “make a fast buck” thing. Those who think that they can make a lot of money overnight through organic farming are sadly mistaken. But if they weigh the benefits of living on an organic farm, eating fresh, healthful food and providing the same to their customers then the pieces fall into place. Health is truly wealth. People can make a lot of money in a short period of time by living in the big cities. However, the stress and pollution of big city life take their toll upon one’s health. What would you prefer—to become a crorepati by the age of forty and die of a heart attack or cancer at age 45 or to live a modest life with modest means and live to be 80 or 90 and see your grandchildren and perhaps great grandchildren. The choice lies entirely with the farm entrepreneurs.