As pet parents worry about their pooches and kitties contracting Covid-19, 21-year-old Anushka Iyer, the founder and CEO of pet-care brand Wiggles, decided to launch a solution: An instant pet sanitiser. The product, claims Iyer, was already in development before the pandemic.
“Many pet parents started reaching out to us in March, saying since they were using regular alcohol santiser on their pets,” Iyer tells Forbes India. Currently, the company’s portfolio includes 24 pet-care products, targeted largely at a first-time pet parent.
The Pune-based startup aims to introduce transparency associated with costs, medication, nutrition and wellness options across the pet industry. While the pet sanitiser launched in July, Wiggles was set up in December 2018, by Iyer and her father Rajh, along with co-founder Venky Mahadevan. So far, they have raised $1 million from angel investors, and claim to be growing at 30 percent month-on-month. “We're on track for our 10x growth YoY and we aim to be a $70 million company in the next four years,” Iyer adds.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
Q. To what extent are Indians aware of pet healthcare?
Earlier, pets were treated as a status symbol, locked in cages, fed leftovers, and no one thought a dog or cat could actually be sick. But today, I definitely see a shift. Pet parents are taking the time to understand the needs of their animals, especially their health. These are the people who consider their pets to be their baby, their sibling or their buddy for life.
But then of course, there are those who are unaware and do not pay attention until things get worse. There’s a 50:50 split in my experience.
To increase awareness, we are building a community called ‘Wiggle Tribe’, for which the intention was to help pet parents by giving them access to verified responses by our vets. We connect our vets to pet parents from anywhere across India, for free; they can WhatsApp their questions to us and our vet would immediately respond. Our Facebook group has more than 3,000 active pet parents, along with our trainer, vets, behaviourist, and nutritionist.
Q. What has the response to your ‘Instant Pet Sanitiser’ been like?
It was a product in development, and then Covid-19 happened. In March 2020, we saw the surge for sanitisers for us humans, but no one really thought about pets. Many pet parents started reaching out to us saying they were using the regular alcohol sanitiser on pets. We had to tell them this could be poisonous for them.
We launched our Instant Pet Sanitiser in July, and more than 70 percent of our first batch is sold out. It is India’s first pet sanitiser that’s vet-approved and kills 99.9 percent germs in seconds. It is completely alcohol-free and can be used on your pet’s paws and coat every day.
Q. How does Wiggles stand out from other pet care brands in India?
Wiggles is a direct-to-consumer pet care brand with offerings around veterinary care, nutrition and the well-being of pets, curated by our vets. We're trying to shred the one-size-fits-all approach. Every pet is different, just like humans. We’re trying to help pet parents give the perfect supplements, care, medications and advice at the right time and in the right measurement to suit each pet’s individual needs.
Q. What’s the plan going forward?
They say it's difficult to understand the voiceless; we say, all you've got to do is listen. As pet parents ourselves, we understand the problem first-hand. We're creating an ecosystem with 360-degree solutions, building a brand around health and wellness and making it accessible in various formats.
For instance, during this lockdown, we understood the concerns of safety and launched our pet sanitiser. It was difficult for pet parents to connect with their vet, so we launched an online video consultation service. We ensured contactless delivery of our wet food for dogs and cats. Going forward, we aim to reach operational break even by 2021 and plan to be present in seven cities in India. We’re hoping to constantly raise the bar.