There’s a pet care revolution taking place in India. A generation ago, those who had pets saw themselves as ‘pet owners’, but today’s pet adopters are increasingly calling themselves ‘pet parents’. And guess who’s benefiting?

Premium pet care retail brand Heads Up For Tails or HUFT raised a $37 million Series A round led by investors Sequoia India and Verlinvest just last month. And the two waves it rode on to get here were Indians’ changing mindset towards their ‘fur babies’ and the pandemic.

When Covid-19 forced the world to shutter in early 2020, the inside joke at HUFT—which retails both offline and online—was that it’d be launching the summer collection in October. Sure, getting through the pandemic—which saw HUFT postpone the launch of several new stores and products—was tough. But the virus that locked us all in also reminded one to care better for pet companions if not adopt more pets.

“Puppy adoption rates have gone up in the range of 50-100% in 2020. The cat market has grown upwards of 40%,” Ganesh Ramani, the general manager for Mars Petcare India—the company behind the popular dog food brand Pedigree—has been quoted as saying quoted as saying BloombergQuint Pet Food Sales Jump On Higher Pet Adoptions During Lockdown Read more .

More pets => More scope to sell pet products => Better sales => Growth for pet care players

In August 2021 alone, HUFT opened four stores in Mumbai—with spa centres attached to three of them. Not just that, the company has eight more stores set to be launched by year-end. Currently, the Delhi-based HUFT has around 40 retail stores spread across nine cities, with spa and grooming facilities in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Chennai. This is in addition to its large e-commerce business, which offers a wide variety of brands and products. Its website lists nearly 80 brands, including its in-house HUFT brand, with over 5,000 stock keeping units (SKUs). “We do about 3,000 orders a day split between online and offline. We’re on track to do about Rs 150 crore ($20 million) [in sales] this year,” Rashi Narang, co-founder of HUFT, tells The Ken.

But just a few years ago, this was far from HUFT’s reality. Started as a small kiosk in Delhi’s upscale Select Citywalk mall in 2008, HUFT had to wait eight years to swing a small seed round of $1 million from private investors in 2016. “When we started out, there was no awareness. There was no supply chain, no path for us to follow and learn from,” says Narang. “We had to build everything out from scratch.”

Till 2015, around 90% of India’s pet care market comprised just food, that too, most sold in mini-stores attached to vet clinics.

AUTHOR

Janane Venkatraman

Janane is part of The Ken’s four-member desk team and is based in Chennai. Formerly with The New Indian Express and The Hindu, she decided to let go of her obsession with the 24-hour news cycle to sink her teeth into a good story. She has over eight years of experience in the newsroom, along with a year-long stint at publishing house Orient Blackswan.

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