On 4 May, smack in the middle of India’s devastating second wave of Covid-19 infections, Giggle needed emergency blood transfusion. The dog, a two-year-old Lhasa Apso, had tick fever. It was the middle of the night and Giggle’s only option turned out to be an emergency hospital called Crown Vet, located in the upmarket area of Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar.
Founded in 2016 by Pratapsinh Gaekwad, a member of the former royal family of Baroda, Crown Vet is a chain of first-point-of-care 24×7 veterinary hospitals. The Lajpat Nagar facility—launched in January this year—is its fifth; the chain has two facilities each in Mumbai and Pune.
24×7 emergency veterinarian hospitals are few and far between in India, mostly due to the amount of money involved in setting them up. Emergency vet hospitals need to have a wide array of medical equipment, from X-ray and ultrasound machines to oxygen cylinders and anaesthesia equipment. They also need space—X-ray machines need a separate room to account for the radiation, not to mention operating theatres for surgeries, isolation rooms for highly infectious pets, boarding and lodging facilities for overnight monitoring of sick animals, and more.
Crown Vet’s Lajpat Nagar facility, for instance, is a sprawling 2,200 sq ft and cost, according to Gaekwad, between Rs 1.5 – Rs 2 crore ($220,000 – $260,000) to set up. And this is not accounting for everyday overheads.
All of which is beyond the pale for most single-doctor, family-run vet clinics that have been in the business for decades. And with the pandemic shuttering most of these small clinics for an extended period of time, Crown Vet is seeing an opportunity to execute some of its ambitious plans.
The company is in high-growth mode. According to official estimates provided by Crown Vet, over the past five years, it has invested Rs 15 to 20 crore (nearly $2 million) in the business. Once earning around Rs 6-8 lakh ($8,000 – $11,000) per month, the company now claims to clock monthly revenues of close to Rs 1 crore ($130,000) across all five of its facilities.
According to Gaekwad, revenue grew 32% for the year ended March 2021; the company saw Rs 7.4 crore ($1 million) in revenue that year, from Rs 5.6 crore ($750,000) for the year ended March 2020. And now it wants to build 50 such 24×7 emergency hospitals in the next five to six years.
The plan is audacious, but ground reality will prove to be Crown Vet’s damper. For one, India has an acute shortage of veterinary doctors and other allied professionals. There are only about 50 veterinary colleges in India, out of which a grand total of 2,500 students graduate each year. Even Max Vets, a chain of veterinary hospitals with 19 centres (15 of which are co-branded) across the country, is struggling to attract talent.