Ruffled dresses or hoodies to make your pooch look so fetch. Or freshly-cooked plant-based meals for your doggo.Tiny shoes that can protect their paws!
Pets are serious business in India. Ask millennial pet parents about their furry companion, and they’ll call them their ‘baby’. They aren’t kidding. As young modern Indians break away from the traditional ‘family’ set up, many of them prefer canines to human kids. According to data site Statista, almost 13 million Indian homes had either cats or dogs in 2014. That figure jumped to 18 million in 2018. So when a generation decides to bring up animals as their kids, they’re also in the market for high-quality pet care products.
It all began when a Labrador named Sara entered Rashi’s life in 2006. To help her new companion live her best life, Rashi began looking for quality pet products. Her search left her dissatisfied and disappointed. This was because pet stores were run by businessmen and not pet-owners at the time. Their products lacked the personal touch and care pet parents like Rashi were looking for. An unsuccessful gift shop trip sowed the seed for HUFT. Rashi had gone looking for Sara’s birthday present but returned empty-handed. That’s when she realised there must be others like her who wanted thoughtful and unique products for their pets.
Today, HUFT has a presence in 9 Indian cities with 41 stores and 20 pet spas. But it hasn’t been all treats and belly rubs—Rashi’s path to success was paved with roadblocks and rejections. “After I created my first collection, I went to about 200 pet stores in the country. All of them said, “No, this is not going to work” and showed me the door. But something told me to keep trying,” she said. Rashi then decided to set up stalls during Diwali melas and Christmas fairs. That’s where she made the first of her many sales and she’s never looked back since.
What’s made Heads Up For Tails stand out in the Indian pet-care market? It’s Rashi’s first and most important lesson in entrepreneurship—to always listen to the customer. Enter a HUFT shop and you’ll notice it isn’t your run-of-the-mill pet store. The friendly staff will listen to your specific needs, and help you find products best suited for your pet. From organic treats to toys that can keep your pets engaged—their products are thoughtful and innovative. But what makes them a favourite among pet parents is that they’re more than just a store—they provide holistic pet care. The HUFT blog informs and educates on how to care for your furry friend. First time pet owner? Join their puppy and kitten club that’ll help you navigate your new role. They even have their own ‘vetline’ where you get 24/7 access to experienced, RCVS (Royal College Of Veterinary Surgeons)-registered veterinary professionals.
Heads Up For Tails is Rashi’s labour of love. Her vision is to help your fur baby lead a happy and healthy life. Sara the labrador has been the inspiration behind many of HUFT’s innovative products, including the cult classic ‘Sara’s Doggie Treats’. The company’s products are meant to help your pets live a happy and healthy life. These include comfy (and stylish!) sweaters, organic pet food, engaging toys, personalised accessories and so much more. Last year, Rashi launched a podcast to share tips on how to understand your pet better. Her undying resolve to improve the lives of pets is awe-inspiring, making her a perfect fit for our #POPxoWomenWhoWin series. In a recent chat with us, Rashi opened up about her entrepreneurial journey, the lessons she learned along the way and her advice for newbies. Lightly-edited excerpts below:
It’s important for me to have an early start to the day. I spend my time meditating, exercising, journaling or a little bit of reading. It’s about doing something for my mind, my health, my soul and my body—that gives me a wholesome start. This gives me energy for the rest of the day to stay happy and healthy through it all.
My workdays are pretty hectic. I start my meetings around 10am. I spend a couple of hours in meetings, interacting with the team, working on product development and visiting some of our stores. So there’s quite a lot of things going on at any given time. I usually try to end my workdays at around 6-6:30pm.
My journey has been a rollercoaster ride with heaps of ups and downs. I have stumbled more times than I can possibly count! When I had the idea for Heads Up For Tails and I started to build it out, no customer had the real and ready awareness that they have today. There was no market or industry—everything was fragmented and disorganised. There were no vendors or products, or no company to really learn from. So it’s taken a long time and an extremely steep learning curve of picking up several things. Not just about business, but also about the beautiful animal companions that we share our homes and lives with. Despite all of those insane challenges, I wouldn’t do it any other way. It has taught me my best lessons and in a lot of ways, it’s taught me about life. I’m so grateful for all of it.
I have learnt to listen and understand what works for my customers and what doesn’t. This helps me create products that add value to their and their pets’ lives. Another lesson I’ve learnt is that everybody has something to teach you. I’ve learnt some of the best lessons from my dog, my teammates, books that I’ve read, people that I’ve met, and customers. I think every entrepreneur needs to have that learning mindset. Another important lesson is that feedback is precious and necessary, even if it stings sometimes.
Success is such a fluid word—you climb one mountain and then you realise that you have another one to climb and it goes on. I’m a learner and I’m always learning—so for me, success is about getting 1% better every day. Even if it’s the same product that I’m placing the 100th order for, I’m going to make sure that we make it *just* a little better every single time.
I wouldn’t limit my biggest professional accomplishment to just one moment. There have been so many—when customers tell us that we were able to make a difference in the life of their animals or families. I’ve had the opportunity to see little puppies and kittens come in and grow all the way to their senior years. It’s been such a privilege to create products that add value to their life.
I think the pet care market is a wonderful space—it’s a niche but it’s still growing. It’s not a quick-return industry, so be here *only* if you want to be here for the long term. Find your passion and purpose to serve these amazing creatures that we’re so blessed to share our homes and lives with. And that’s what makes me really happy—that we’ve had a chance to contribute in terms of good quality products, whether it’s healthy treats, natural shampoo or fun toys that keep them busy.
It’s really all about trying! Robin Sharma said “the only failure is not trying”, and I really do believe that. Trying and winning or getting what we want is great—but trying and failing is a great learning experience too. Not even trying due to fear, is when we’ve really failed ourselves.
It could be a walk with my dog, a lovely book, a cup of tea, meeting up with a friend or spending time with my family—all of these are the things I love to spend my free time on.
Rashi lives in New Delhi with her husband, daughter and two dogs. Her journey is inspiring and wholesome. Team POPxo wishes her all the luck for Heads Up For Tails.
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