Cover Image For Episode 42: How Unconditional Love For Pets Led This Maharani To Scale Huge- Heads Up For Tails Rashi Narang Talks Problem Solving For Pets
Scaling with Unconditional Love for Pets- Rashi Narang from Heads Up For Tails

From an HR Executive to Founder of a Multi-Million $ Pet Care Company – Rashi Narang of Heads up for Tails

Listen Here:




Some things just fill your heart without trying. This is certainly true for pet parents, who have unconditional love for their pets! Pets have become such a huge part of our lives. Even if one does not parent one themselves, they surely have friends or family that have one and they love to spend their time with them.

 How Pets have become a huge part of our lives.
Pets have become a huge part of our lives!

A report from 2019 shows that pets contribute to healthy aging. Pet parents aged 50-80 years, owning a pet reduced 79% of stress. 64% of them were more physically active thus healthier. 65% of them were more connected with friends, family and neighbours.

Constantly stuck to their electronic devices and under extreme workload, pets help the younger generation get away from it all. Long walks with your pet, cuddling and even bathing helps one have a break from the stress that surrounds one.

Advantages of owning pets
Advantages Of having pets.

Many pet parents have faced trouble finding the right product for their beloved pet, for example one might not be able to find a comfortable blanket, bed, toys etc for their pets, as each of them are very different from each other. One such pet parent is Rashi Narang who, not only solved this problem for her own pet only but found Heads Up For Tails which provides products to help build a deeper relationship between pets and the owners. Hear Rashi speak On Scaling with Unconditional Love for Pets.

Being Rejected 200 Times And Being Away For 7 Years to Now Raising 5 Million In Revenue.

Unconditional love for her pet and not being able find the right product for her beloved puppy, helped Rashi discover her entrepreneurial side and she founded Heads Up For Tails, a brand that provides solutions to pet parents, to help them understand their pets just as well as the pets understand their parents!

From having to leave her first store for 7 years after going to Singapore, to coming back and raising 5 Million in revenue and having 38 stores under her brand, Rashi’s journey is filled with passion, love and most importantly the support from her family.

Listen to Another Maharani of Scale, Anindita of Yoga Bars Talk About Her Scaling Journey And Delivering a Healthy Breakfast to Millions!: Season 1, Episode 22

 Listen to Rashi of Heads Up For Tails on scaling with Unconditional Love for Pets, being rejected 200 times, the support from her family and much more on this episode of Maharajas of Scale Podcast.

Listen Here:


 Rashi of Heads Up For Tails On Scaling with Unconditional Love for Pets
Heads Up For Tails Providing Pet Parents What Their Pets Need!


Here are some excerpts from the Episode:

Growth Over The Years

So if you want a comparison, we started out as a tiny, homegrown business, literally, you know, out of home. Almost no investment, just a couple of products.

We are now at 38 stores nationwide, well, primary primarily metros with a couple a couple more and fit out. So we hope to be at about 60 in the next year, lots of leases being signed, etc, etc. Plus, we’ve grown strongly online as well.

Rashi Narang 2:05
 Scaling with Unconditional Love for Pets-Rashi Narang of Heads Up For Tails
Scaling with Unconditional Love for Pets-Rashi Narang
Understanding and Solving Customer’s Problems

So it was really about building it from scratch. And we’ve also had to educate a lot during the way to build demand for our products.

So, you know, people used to ask. Why does a dog need a toy? You know, they’ve not grown, I mean, in the wild, they don’t have a toy. And you know, so we’ve had to educate them saying, Listen, here is a being with, you know, very strong senses, who, for example, in the forest, would, you know, hear and feel and taste and smell 100 different things, versus being in a small apartment where they have nothing to do.

Rashi Narang 27:54
Being Away for 7 Years!

Well, you will be surprised to know, actually, but my husband got posted overseas. So I went away for seven years. And I came back in 2015. And that’s when the next store happened.

This happened in early 2009. It was that fast? And you know, there was no one mean, everybody thought I was crazy that I wasn’t even thinking of closing it down and saying Okay, now I’m moving overseas, I said, No, this is going to run. I’ll come back as often as I need to.

Rashi Narang 30:04
Despite The Odds She Kept Growing

And then we started off with our store expansions , you know, we met a couple in Delhi couple in Bangalore, again, you know, went wrong with some locations did really well in the others, it was a very steep learning curve to understand even retail and the processes and the operations and the government and the laws and the 100 rules and compliances. And it was crazy.

We have to be able to create products which are comfortable. We have to change the way that people look at them. I think it was just so much hustle and so much push, relentless to learning, trying, you know, We made zillions of hiring mistakes.

Rashi Narang 43:16

Despite all Odds Rashi Of Heads Up For Tails Has Scaled with Unconditional Love for Pets
Despite all Odds Rashi Kept On Scaling with Her Unconditional Love for Pets

Rashi’s Open Minded Approach Towards Her Business

I’ve worked very hard to kind of keep myself updated as well. Because, you know, at every stage, I think starting a business is easy, scaling it is enormously hard. And so, you know, I’m constantly learning, growing, reading up, you know, trying to see, you know, what we can absorb from other companies who are doing it right.

Rashi Narang 01:05:55

Watch On Youtube:


Show Notes

Follow Rashi Narang On LinkedIn (@rashinarang)

Do Check Out Heads Up For Tails Online Store at headsupfortails.com

Here is what the world cloud from the episode looks like:

Word Cloud for this episode
Word Cloud for this episode.

Follow Maharajas of Scale On Twitter(@maharajaofscale)

· · ·

Episode Transcript

(Automated Transcript)

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

people, store, retail, dogs, big, build, pet, business, products, grown, long, rashi, customers, lots, india, offline, home, understand, journey, life

SPEAKERS

Rashi Narang, Krishna Jonnakadla, Tania Jadhav

Krishna Jonnakadla  00:01

This is Maharajas of Scale, a podcast where we go behind the scenes and talk to founders who are demolishing the myths around building and scaling a big business in India. These are the stories that have shattered the assumptions around Indian consumers and of changing the game completely. I am Krishna Jonnakadla, serial entrepreneur, co founder of FLIT the fashion located in town and startup mentor, bringing you the stories. Hey, everyone, this is your host Krishna from Maharajas of Scale. Today, we have the lovely and beautiful Rashi Narang of heads up for tales, who's actually changing the paradigm of what it takes to be a pet parent. And I've always read the term pet owner. And then when I read the brief about Rashi's startup, you know, she calls them pet parents therein lies the huge difference in terms of how she sees pets. Rashi, it's so wonderful to have you. Welcome to the show. So tell us a little bit about yourself and what you're working on right now.

Rashi Narang  00:59

Thank you, Krishna, I'm really, really happy to be here. Thank you for the opportunity. Well, just a little about myself. I started Heads Up For Tails back in 2008. And so it's been a long journey and a little bit of a while very much of a roller coaster ride. And we're continuously working on building products that connect people to their pets, and help pets live better lives. So there's lots of new stuff in the pipeline, you know, just planning out the year ahead. It's very exciting with you know, we're getting into food tech, we're trying all sorts of things. We have already introduced, you know, more than 200 India first products, and just building out on that every day in the hope that, you know, we can add joy to pets and their families one at a time.

Krishna Jonnakadla  01:49

Very interesting. Terrific. You put in a lot in that very short and sweet introduction. What What does it tell us a little bit about your current scale and a little bit of your spread? How just a little of how you've grown over the years?

Rashi Narang  02:05

Sure, sure. So if you want a comparison, we started out as a tiny, homegrown business, literally, you know, out of home, almost no investment, just a couple of products. And you know, we are now at 38 stores nationwide, well, primary primarily metros with a couple a couple more and fit out. So we hope to be at about 60 in the next year, lots of leases being signed, etc, etc. Plus, we've grown a strongly online as well. And the read the focus, to be honest, has been offline until last year, because the category was new. And you know, we wanted people to come into the stores to experience the variety and to be able to educate them through one to one interactions, which has worked very well for us. And now we're looking at scaling a lot more online. So you know, last month, we had a very interesting month, we had, you know, more than almost 40,000 customers shop with us. So it's been it's been an amazingly awesome journey. Very challenging, but that's where we are in terms of scale at the moment.

Krishna Jonnakadla  03:11

And you're seeing challenging with a big smile. And that just tells me what sort of an entrepreneur you are. I'm, I think we are going to have a terrific session. So let's go go to the beginning. Park 2008 Gosh, it's been what, like 12 years now since you got started. Or maybe it We are in 2021 already, that's like 13 years. Consider the starting years, what was that starting Spark?

Rashi Narang  03:34

The starting spark was a special dog who came into my life and changed everything. And I think dogs have the ability to do that into every life that they enter, which is why I was telling you just before that it's time for you to get home one. But I got I got a little puppy and even though I've grown up with dogs, Russia, she was the first one that I was responsible for otherwise it was always family dogs and you know now I was just recently married and I said I need a puppy in my life. And when I got her I was solely responsible. And I remember just you know, looking around for products and I couldn't find anything. And then on her birthday, I came home with nothing and I think that's when I realized that there is a big whitespace here a big gap where pet parents like myself who want to get home the best for their furry family member really don't have enough options. And that was the little spark.

Krishna Jonnakadla  04:25

So when when you say products this these were in basic essentials like absolutely bad

Rashi Narang  04:32

one so I was looking for a very basic stuff like a toy or you know little of nice color even that was not available and and the pet industry has come a long way but that was the spark then.

Krishna Jonnakadla  04:44

Very interesting. So then what did you set about working on it is when you decided and and let's unpack that religion, you went searching for something for your dog and then you came back. Not everyone comes back and then tells Okay, I, I'm finishing my room. For instance, if we were to draw an analogy of moving to a new city, let's say I'm punishing my apartment, okay? I don't see this. So let me just start a business, you know, that very rarely happens, right? So, but unpack that a little more. And say, because that means a couple of things. One is you love your dog a lot. And it drove you so much emotionally, to say, Man, I want my puppy to have it. So if it doesn't exist, I'm actually going to bring it to life, so to speak, right? So unpack that a little?

Rashi Narang  05:35

Well, I think I just, I think I just knew that this is it. You know, I came home. And I remember calling, you know, a friend of mine and saying, You know what, I just couldn't find anything. And I just want to build it out. Like I just knew somehow in my heart, and you're right, I mean, you don't do that with stuff that you don't find normally. Right? But, and it just came together in that one moment, because I've always loved animals. I've always wanted to do something with them, but I wasn't looking. And it just, it was just that one second, and it just came together.

Krishna Jonnakadla  06:10

Very interesting. So and then what do you do? What did you start with? How long did it take you? And what was the initial launch like?

Rashi Narang  06:17

So I basically started looking at the Indian market, trying to find reports, trying to find any, you know, tech companies trying to just look at what was there already. And honestly, there was nothing, there were no companies, I was just very one or two local manufacturers, you know, very basic stores. So really no one that I could learn from. So really, you know, I made a basic business plan and all that, but I don't think I ever looked at it again. Because, you know, I just had to learn on the job. I remember, I could not find a single manufacturer, I couldn't find anyone to come and do anything for us. Because if I said, Okay, you know, this is for dogs, they would take huge offense. And it was just so new. So I just started out with thinking that, okay, what could be stuff that I could do in house, which would be fabric related. And I started out with bedding and clothing, and you know, stuff like that. And then we moved on to lots of different categories, but just even cracking that took forever. I mean, I learned everything, this was not my background. You know, I had done my masters in HR and had got some experience in that field. So I literally just, you know, went from vendor to vendor Market to Market asking questions, trying different fabrics, seeing you know, what's what suitable for dogs learning about allergies, patterns, body patterns, making sure that what we're building out doesn't constrict them in any way, they can still jump run around, understanding different coats, you know, double coat versus a single coat, which dog needs warmer clothes, you know, different shapes of beds, how they sleep, some dogs sleep round, some dogs lying down, you know, like the layout flat. So there was lots of learning about the species, and about materials, and then how bringing them together. And then about the manufacturing process in general, you know, so that's really just data. And it was literally just learning and failing and trying and learning on the job every day.

Krishna Jonnakadla  08:17

Interesting. I, and all of this just for the home based store that you kicked off back back then.

Rashi Narang  08:24

Yes, yes.

Krishna Jonnakadla  08:25

My God, was there. Has there been a entrepreneurship or a business week in the family? Is that how all of this comes? or How did this was it just pure passion?

Rashi Narang  08:36

Well, I think it was a huge, it is hugely passion lead. But I've also always been an entrepreneur ever since I was little, I think I started selling Christmas cards in the colony when I was five years old, and, you know, doing all sorts of things. So I definitely have that entrepreneurial streak. And I know, I always wanted to do something. But I think that I couldn't have embarked on something like this without really knowing what I was building out, you know, I had to dig in and make sure that what I was doing was enhancing the lives, you know, of these amazing animals in whatever little way. And I think it would have just been disservice to not have done that correctly.

Krishna Jonnakadla  09:16

Interesting. So then from that first time, how long did this research take? And what did you actually launch?

Rashi Narang  09:22

It took a couple of months, about six months. And then I launched a small range of bedding and accessories and clothing. I took it to lots of pet stores in the country more than 200 I still have the Excel sheet. Everybody said no. Each of those 200 said no, this is not going to work. Who are you? Why are you here, please leave. And that was just like a huge, you know, period of rejection. And so I had already built up stock. And my friends seem to love what I had done my own dogs and family dogs seem to have, you know, be liking it. So I thought okay, I'm going to To start taking part in some pop up exhibitions to liquidate the stock, because I had already built it up. And there the response was so different people were excited, they had so many questions, it sold really well. And it was just encouraging and just having those conversations, and understanding people's pain points is when, you know, things started to build up, because first we started to solve for design sensibility. And then we started to solve for real pain points and real problems only by being close to the customers, you know, versus selling through a pet, another pet store, etc, etc. So, you know, every day I was wherever, whenever I was taking part in these, in these pop up events, I was having these conversations, and people say, Oh, you know, what, can you make this, my dog has this problem. And, for example, some you know, I remember a customer saying, Listen, you know, my cocker spaniel, whenever he eats his food, His ears are so long, they get dirty and have to clean them after every meal. So we built out a bowl, which had, which was longer with a narrower, you know, top, so that the ears fall outside, and like that we have innovated non stop only because of being close to our customers, and gotten into so many categories, which are actually solving real problems every day.

Krishna Jonnakadla  11:18

So the initial Spark, and when you did put that initial bedding and fabric line together, did you do any live research or, you know, live tryouts with a few animals? Or was, was it mostly the kind of puppies that you want? And then a lot of it was based on conjecture. And then going around to stores? How was that part?

Rashi Narang  11:40

We did a little bit. So you know, a lot of my family and friends have pets. So I was sending it to them, which is where in the first set of encouragement came to even move forward? You know, they said yes, they love it, this is a really, you know, different product, it's created looks good in my home, you know, it's not a bad route to hide from everyone, you know, it's comfortable, it's easy to use, it's long lasting, same with, you know, clothing or accessories, or, you know, slowly toys, etc, etc. So all of it is tried first was tried, you know, with my dogs, and then you know, with a closer circle before we brought it out to the market.

Krishna Jonnakadla  12:17

So, you mentioned family. So let's talk family for a second. And you sort of made a passing mention of the fact that you were just recently married when this happened, right? That's a that's that's a lot to take on. Right after marriage, isn't it? It's like, unless there is an environment for it. It's like telling your husband. And I'm not even going to go into the the women, the woman's side of the angle here. It's a it's like saying, telling him, Hey, look, I have this puppy. And we'll come to that. You can tell us whether your husband is fond of pets or not. And this is what I'm thinking. And that must have meant. So you first newly married, inspired by a need? Yes. And you go about doing this research, yes, rejection from over 200 stores. And then when you decide that this is not happening, and then let me liquidate it is when you start getting real feedback from the market so to speak. It's it's sort of like flying over peaks and valleys in just a few seconds. So if you unpack a few family reactions, what was it? You didn't you feel overwhelmed to take on something of this sort right after wedding? And what was that journey Like?

Rashi Narang  13:37

It was crazy, it was extremely overwhelming, because I don't know how this I mean, this just possessed me, you know, like, I was just so driven, and yet having to, you know, be a new daughter in law and a new wife and so many new rules that, you know, were thrown at me, you know, in a big joint family. And I remember just being so obsessed, and everybody was like, What is wrong with you? And it was very challenging, because you know, it, just our Indian families do. That's just our culture, they do demand so much. You know, of a woman or especially a newly married woman, there's so many relationships, and there's so much to be done. And I really did struggle. But I was honestly I was just consumed by this. It just made me happy. I just, that's all I could think about. And I'm very grateful in hindsight of how accepting everybody was. And of course, there were everyday challenges for time for you know, so many things, but overall, you know, everybody has been very supportive in the family and really sort of encouraged me. I accepted I think at first everybody was like, Okay, this is just a small little hobby. I don't know why she's being so obsessive. But I think over the years as we've grown, you know, that perspective has also changed and They also view it differently, which is, which is nice. But overall, I've always got support, regardless of the fact that they didn't quite understand what I was setting out to do.

Krishna Jonnakadla  15:10

Interesting. What are the families? Like? Are they businessmen, they're into business themselves? Are they professionals?

Rashi Narang  15:16

Yes. My husband's family, you know, is a business family. So was mine. But, you know, yes, they were they they did support despite not quite grasping exactly.

Krishna Jonnakadla  15:33

Did you get more than emotional support? Was there, let's get our hands dirty, and then help Rashi she's, she's so driven by it. And was there some something of that sort as well? Or was it largely,

Rashi Narang  15:45

It was largely emotional. And of course, you know, every now and then before an exhibition, and I was up till three o'clock in the morning, everybody would say, Okay, can we help you tag something, write out something, you know, little bit here and there. But I think I'm very grateful, just a emotional, but it was also just really nice to have. And, and now, I mean, now, two years ago, my husband joined the business as well. So I think that's when they really were like, Okay, this is something and you know, so it's been, it's been a good journey.

Krishna Jonnakadla  16:15

Interesting. So the initial launch liquidation, so and around the time you were considering liquidation, or rather actually liquidating stock through the pop ups was when you started getting validation. And so what was a personal notion was sort of being endorsed by real consumers, you were getting feedback, you're working on products. And then what happened, what happened next?

Rashi Narang  16:39

Then, we I went, I went for coffee to a mall in Delhi called select City Walk, it had just opened, and it's one of the best malls in the country. And they had these tiny little kiosks where small businesses were displaying products. And I had not seen that format before. So I went into the mall management. And they said, it's, you know, so many lakhs for the month, and I said, you know, what, please can I just take it for the weekend, and they said, We don't do contracts for a weekend, you know, like, What is wrong with you, we have compliances, and law and you know, our own policies, but I begged them, and they did give it to me for a weekend. And that was when that was in 2008. And I'm still there, I did not leave. So. So I think that really being in a, in a place where you are accessible, and available to people of all walks of life, you know, just that huge visibility that it gave us really was a big stepping stone, because we grew from that tiny kiosk to a bigger one to a small store to a little bigger store now to a fairly medium sized store. And, you know, just, we've been there for so long, we've had customers who've come as little puppies, and now we have senior dogs, and we've been through with them on that entire journey. And every day we were able to, I was standing there talking to people getting feedback, knowing you know, like, just fast failing, right? This is working, this is not working. You know, let's try something different price points, I mean, everything. So I think that was you know, that first, that first milestone, which helped a lot of other things come about because you know, you are in a very prominent place and getting a lot of visibility people were talking about us in our in their own small little ways about dogs. So the conversation, the brand was coming up in conversations. Okay, have you heard of heads up? What is you know, I bought this from there, because the products were never seen before in the Indian market. You know, so people used to just stop and be like, is this for dogs, you know, and a lot of the times, they would say, you know, they would confuse it for children. And we would they would say pass I'll kill a cat. Or dogs. And some people don't have a great laugh, and others would be like, Oh my god, are you serious? Like really big and fancy? Like, how could I make this everyone know? So it was just interesting to see reactions. And also I have to tell you Krishna, that I've seen an amazing evolvement of the bond between people with their pets then to now you know, so a lot of people then we're like, Ah, you know, we have a guard dog. He's outside of the gate. I don't want something like this, you know, he'll tear it he'll spoil it to now where they're not just inside our homes and our hearts but they're also inside our beds. I mean, like it's become very different, you know, in the last many years like they're truly companion companions and true family members. So I think that was a big face where we could face to face get lots of access.

Krishna Jonnakadla  19:47

So this this is I think incense sort of tying with the way India itself is growing, isn't it immobile. And the more mobile and away from homes, that they are, you know, change jobs and completely coming into newer urban spaces. And urban urban spaces can be energizing and tyrannical at the same time, you have this feeling that hey, there is so much for me to do here. And at the same time yet I'm lonely this, this is a whole huge Metro Metroplex in front of me. And I and I feel lonely. And so, dogs fill that void. so beautifully. Right? So I think in some sense, looks like you're growing with a because even back then, yeah, at least in 2008, around the time you started, maybe the, the breeds of the animals barring a few pockets across India, right. Even in Bangalore, if we take Bangalore as an example, they were just a couple of pockets or defense colony may be aware people who had traveled overseas and didn't, some, in some sense did maybe had warmed up to this concept of a pet. And the other ones were slightly different. And we've always always had this socialist notion that anything other than thinking about the poor was totally wrong. Yeah. And if you if you made anything, Pagal logon kae liyae khanae kae liyae nahi hai tum log yeh banare ho. So it's sort of like a universal refrain. thing, other than just being an agrarian economy, and then, you know, just being in the circle of doing really poor things, we shouldn't be doing anything else.

Rashi Narang  21:25

Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, just, you know, for us, I think the thought really goes very deep and goes, I mean, if you talk to anybody who has this bone Crusher, you will know that when you share your life, when you have the privilege of sharing your life with an animal, you become a much better version of yourself, because animals see the good in us and and that inspires you to be better. And so for, for us, it's always been so deep, because we actually feel that the more we can encourage people to be responsible pet parents and open their hearts and homes, the more more compassion, more empathy, more kindness will come out in people, and it just shifts the world in those tiny little ways. You know, so for us, the, the feeling is very deep, and it's it's as much as thinking, so let's feed the poor. Because it really is, it's very deep, that the whole notion is that, you know, we, we can make the world a little bit kinder and more empathetic.

Krishna Jonnakadla  22:24

Let's dig in deeper, a little more into that 200, you know, 200 stores that you approach. How was that you? And you said they were pan India,

Rashi Narang  22:33

They were pan India, they were just, they were just small, they were run by people, many of them who didn't have pets, so there was no passion. And I think that they didn't understand the consumers, sadly. So it was just somebody coming in saying, you know, do you have a color? Yes, he has a color. And that was it. You know, there was no education, there was no value add, there was no interaction, per se. And so when I came up with this collection, and I went to them, they didn't understand it at all, they said, No, this is not going to work. Our customers are not going to buy this, you know, and yeah, that was that. I mean, I remember just one after the other closed or closed or closed or closed, or, you know, I said, Have I made a big mistake, you know, and I said, You know, I mean, like, it just wasn't coming together. Because on one side, my friends, and everybody was so excited. And on the other hand, it was just one after the other 200 stores is a long list of stores. So it is it was not a very happy time.

Krishna Jonnakadla  23:32

What Bombay, Delhi, South as well,

Rashi Narang  23:36

everywhere, everywhere.

Krishna Jonnakadla  23:38

How was the How were the reach outs remote? Or did you end up traveling to them,

Rashi Narang  23:42

I traveled whenever wherever I went, I would take my products, otherwise, phone calls and emails, and you know, all of that stuff, just sending across the catalog, following it up with a call. They're just not interested at all.

Krishna Jonnakadla  23:56

So at that point in time, I'm quite what strikes me as very interesting is that you kept track of the number. And you said you still have a spreadsheet of all the stores that actually turned you down? In some sense. You know, a big video is in my mind is playing that. someday I'm going to show you that.

Rashi Narang  24:18

Actually, it was just a list of stores that I have across against all of them. They said no, they said no. They said no, it was more like that.

Krishna Jonnakadla  24:28

But something else struck me while you were talking about it when you reach out to these store owners, many of them did not even we're not even pet owners, right? I've always had this notion that many times you have to feel the problem that the customer is feeling in order to be able to really offer something of substance to them. Right. The first one is feel and then if you really been there and done that, and that's that takes your whatever you are able to offer to them to a wholly different level right One of the big reasons we speak to founders only because the founders are walking the talk. Yeah. Right. So, so very interesting. And in those 200, hardly any pet owners. That's that's quite amazing and surprising at the same time, isn't it?

Rashi Narang  25:19

Yeah. I mean, I don't have an exact count. But I remember from their conversations, you know, they just, you know, I asked a couple of them, and they like, looking at me with like, strange faces, like, No, of course, we you know, and I thought I was so strange. And I also want to mention, because you wanted me to unpack the start. In 2008, we also launched an online store, which I got a 10th grade student to design for me, it was pretty cool. For 10,000 rupees I remember. And, you know, we were I mean, we started at the same time as Flipkart. Pretty much. It's, it's, you know, so we were done with a few internet companies even then. And I remember I'd get one order a week, Krishna, and I used to be on top of the world because that this was somebody I did not know, from Bangalore, Hyderabad, or wherever, who had found me organically and placed an order. And that was just like, so exciting. So you know, cause now ecommerce is so much easier, but then there was just nothing you have to build from scratch, everything had to be built from scratch.

Krishna Jonnakadla  26:19

Right. And it was just one aspect, though, expectations, were a little toned down, as opposed to what you have today. Because there's so much variety and so much availability, definitely a lot a lot different. So today we are, when we are chatting in 2021, it's it's been 13 years. So if I've always felt this, that when we reflect, for instance, when I go back and look at the home, that I I grew up as a child, and somehow in my mind, it looks bigger. Right? But when I actually look at it, I have to look at my room and say, really, it was this room that I grew up in I you know, it makes me wonder. But back then, pet business is one thing, obviously retailing, how did you see the business back then Did you always see yourself as somebody who made product for pets and therefore you would distribute these products? And the South Delhi store was more of a showcase store, if you will, for people to come and take a look? Or how what was the vision back then? Because today, you've definitely grown, you become in some sense, a company owned company operated chain, where you're making your own products, and you're retailing your own products as well. Right? How did was it always a concept? And how did that evolve?

Rashi Narang  27:41

Yes, it was always about disruption, not even disruption, I would say it was always about building the industry because it just didn't exist, it was so fragmented, so disorganized, and so small. So it was really about building it from scratch. And we've also had to educate a lot during the way to build demand for our products. So, you know, people used to ask, Why does a dog need a toy? You know, they've not grown, I mean, in the wild, they don't have a toy. And you know, so we've had to educate them saying, Listen, here is a being with, you know, very strong senses, who, for example, in the forest, would, you know, hear and feel and taste and smell 100 different things, versus being in a small apartment where they have nothing to do. And how are you going to mentally stimulate them, it is not fair to, you know, keep a wild animal like that without understanding that they have the requirements of their senses being stimulated. So we've had to really work hard on educating people on you can't really give a dog do the end routine that is not that species appropriate food, you know, or just the fact that they need mental stimulation, they need their walks, how do you walk a dog? How do you build that relationship and that bond so that you can really be everywhere with them? How do you train them, so that you don't have to lock them up every time a guest comes or you know, you don't have to give them away if you're having a child in the family, and how precious it can be if it all comes together beautifully. So we've had to, you know, build, educate, you know, and grow with that vision. And and I think it still stands today, because in the global perspective, we're still a very tiny market, very, very tiny. You know, it's just about getting there where people are even taking the time out to learn or taking the time out to understand that I am sharing my home with a species that is different from me and our messages that you have to as a responsible person understand that species they aren't the same as us. And we have to do what's right for them. So it has been a lot of work, even to build demand for what we're doing and just making people understand that.

Krishna Jonnakadla  29:55

So that ties in very well with what I had in mind. Next So then when did the second store happen? How long did it take? And what happened in between?

Rashi Narang  30:04

Well, you will be surprised to know, actually, but my husband got posted overseas. So I went away for seven years. And I came back in 2015. And that's when the next store happened in...

Krishna Jonnakadla  30:19

Talk about the seven years. It feels like, like one of these mythical movies, right. She kept the flame burning, and she actually entrusted it to this person. And then you come back and this old man dusts off something. Beti jab tum chali gayi thi maine iska dekh bhal kiya. So I'm just mystifying it but talk about that period. What was what was going on in your mind? Because 2008 being transferred to overseas is in India, at least a way of working overseas is still considered prestigious, right? Although that notion is changing achara cello? Tom subblock. You all of you, you know. So there's that notion, what, what were the emotions going on? In your mind at that time? You just started a business. And it was maybe taking root? Yes. And this this happened?

Rashi Narang  31:23

 This happened in early 2009. It was that fast. And I you know, there was no I mean, everybody thought I was crazy that I wasn't even thinking of closing it down and saying Okay, now I'm moving overseas, I said, No, this is going to run. I'll come back as often as I need to. So I came back once every three months. And, you know, I had no choice but to keep it running small. I didn't have any finances to have a big team, I just had, you know, a couple of very junior people. One or two people for sales at the at the kiosk. It was it was very hard, but honestly, it It never it was a it was about like you said keep the fire burning, keep the flame low, it should just not, you know, wear out brand. And but I didn't know how long it's going to be. So I said, Okay, we didn't know whether it's one year, two years, three years, four years. And seven years is a long time. Yeah. to continuously shuttle back and forth, you know, but I did whatever I could, and I and I don't think I could have done any more. And that's just I mean, it gave me It gave me some time. I mean, I it helped me to I was in Singapore, where the retail business is huge. And retail is a you know, is as evolved as it can be. So you know, I used to really enjoy spending time just understanding how that is built out. And it was just just observation. But you know, it gave me that perspective that I want to be able to take this global one day, I want it to be world class. You know, it gave me that exposure of what a discerning customer wants. And singer now after so many years, we want to go back to Singapore and, you know, disrupt that market at some point.

Krishna Jonnakadla  33:09

Interesting. And so talk about the financial angle A bit when this happened. This means I'm just thinking about your Does it mean that you were turning a profit as a result of which, because it's one thing to be able to be away? And a totally different thing? If it if it is not financially making sense? Yeah, at some point in time, you're going to turn around and say, This is not making sense. So therefore, and the fact that I'm actually away and not able to be hands on with this. However passionate you are, you're going to ask some questions of yourself. Yeah. Talk about that angle.

Rashi Narang  33:49

So we've bootstrapped all those years. And, you know, I did I did, I put in all my savings to start it from my previous jobs, whatever I had wasn't much. But every now and then we wanted to expand and we didn't have, you know, any funds so we just had no choice but to keep it at that cycle where whatever literally was being made was being plowed back. And but you know what, Krishna, I never asked myself those questions. Because I knew in my heart that just the time wasn't right. And I knew that once I was back on the ground, this could be bigger than I could have ever imagined. You know, and so like, that never bothered me. I mean, sure, it helped that my husband was, you know, an earning member. And you know, I didn't have to worry about everyday expenses. But that said, I'm still a very proud person and I like to be very independent in my finances, and you know, all of that stuff. But yeah, somehow, you know, I was okay with like that very tight, you know, bootstrapped feeling for the longest time just knowing that I'm keeping the fire burning, that was my only aim, just stay, you know, put your head out of the water and stay there Do not let it drown. That's it. So that was just it for so long.

Krishna Jonnakadla  35:15

So the business was self sustainable, although it was it wasn't, it wasn't a lifestyle business where you would make a profit out of it and say, okay, you know, I can run my life also. But otherwise, your goal was to take that and a one make the business sustainable? And to the extent possible, if you could expand potentially, that was the other angle you were looking at?

Rashi Narang  35:38

Yes, absolutely.

Krishna Jonnakadla  35:39

And when you left it, it must have there must have been somebody able capable, that that like a roll man, I gave him that tail, who, you know, look looked after this, too, with a certain degree of loud, because what you must have left behind is not just a store that sourced a set of products from a set of people, right, you created a whole new category?

Rashi Narang  36:02

Absolutely.

Krishna Jonnakadla  36:02

 You've created, you know, some vendors and some sourcing people that are making this from the ground up. And therefore, how did how did that happen? That must have been you had good people, and talk about that a little bit.

Rashi Narang  36:15

Um, well, initially, there wasn't anyone, but along that seven year old journey, you know, I did have a couple of people who joined the team who were passionate, they were still very junior, so not able to, like Run, run the business, but with, you know, a little bit of supervision or just requests, they were able to, you know, carry on basic responsibilities on the ground. So it was really, really base level. And, and I'm very grateful to each of them, because without them, you know, even that wouldn't have been possible. And they, you know, we didn't have money to pay big salaries and all of that. So it was just people with passion and love. And literally, you know, that's, that's what sustained did all that while.

Krishna Jonnakadla  36:58

Very amazing, because for him, for instance, in India, there are a lot of enterprises that own property here. And a property does not require anywhere the kind of maintenance and then care that a business like this one requires. And this is not even a regular business, right? It's a very niche, unique business back then, while it's a little more scaled, even today, it's still a niche business, the fact that you were able to keep it alive for such a long time, speaks volumes, I think, for your passion. And was it this sort of dogged belief that this, I am going to come back someday, and then this is going to happen? And I suppose that it also played with the fact that you didn't have a certain timeline for your husband's being away, right. So if it if it originally was like, okay, you're away for seven years, you would have possibly taken a hard look at it and said, Okay, this is seven years.

Rashi Narang  37:59

Yeah, absolutely. That's a long time. So I absolutely, if I had known it was going to be seven years of a lot of anguish on the professional side, but you know, great personal life, I may have said, you know, nevermind, let me just enjoy my personal life right now and come back to this. But it was just year after year. And then finally, I said, Okay, I am done, I have to go and do this, because I'm gonna eat me up otherwise. So I moved back. And and then, you know, that's when we really that was our second inning. And that's when we really started the current expansion.

Krishna Jonnakadla  38:35

Did he move back, or it was mostly your decision to move back?

Rashi Narang  38:39

Well, it was mine. And so we did a little bit of back and forth for the next year. And then and then he moved back in, he realized that, you know, this girl needs to do. Yeah, then he, you know, now we're here and, you know, really trying to relentlessly build this out as best as we can.

Krishna Jonnakadla  38:59

So when you look back at that, and you spoke about Singapore retail sale, and funnily enough, well, it's a great city country, right. So it's a city country. I think today, maybe not way back then the retail scene in India wasn't that evolved. We India for its size, I think will keep evolving for the next couple of centuries. Right? But I think if anybody goes to Singapore today, because of the fact that to use a technical trader makes an entry port, trade city where two nations that don't necessarily like each other can use Singapore as a trading outpost, right, a lot of goods transit. And in some sense, it's sort of a like a proxy. Until Chinese centers emerged. It was still a proxy, or rather another version of what you see in the West, right, so the shopping cities of London and then New York, and then if you were to speak about something, it was in Asia, but a lot of Indian cities, I think Singapore is now dwarfed by a lot of Indian cities as far as the retail scene is concerned. Yeah. So if looking back, do you think it was in some sense a blessing in disguise, the the time was long, but you were niche, the country was Indian pet ownership and or pet being a pet parent, that concept was still evolving. And then Indian retail scene itself was evolving, right. And the Indian consumer was evolving. Post 2008 when the financial crisis happened in Berlin, the Indian economy was largely sort of unscared came out unscathed. A lot of economic growth happened. post that. Right. So in some sense, it, I'm just thinking, you got the opportunity to learn something else see a totally different retail scene, a totally different world, and come back and say, now this is this place is ready, and then let's get rocking.

Rashi Narang  41:01

Yeah, no, absolutely. You're very right. I mean, I think the timing was good. But I have to say that it was very agonizing, you know, to say, why can't I sell more? Why am I not getting enough customers? It's so tiny, how will it grow? You don't want to feel that feeling for such a long time and to feel helpless in many ways that, you know, you're running this, but you know, and you know, that it can do 100, but it's doing, too, because you know, you're not there, you don't have the money, you don't have, you know, people with expertise, all of that. So it was a you know, it was an IT, I wouldn't change it, I really wouldn't perhaps tell you that while I was going through, it was lots of agony. And I'm also very grateful for the digital age Krishna. I mean, if this was 50 years ago, there's no way but I used to do you know, Skype calls with my store, I was paired up with a CCD camera, I could see what's going on. I was on emails, product development, research, all that everything, SEO website, everything, you know, was still happening. And I could happen, you know, just because we're in this in the digital age. So, you know, lots of learnings good things, some challenges, but I guess that's just the way it is.

Krishna Jonnakadla  42:10

My mind, I see that, how much of a gut instinct you have, they say, no successful entrepreneurs come to understand and trust their gut. And, you know, it sounds good in a story. But to be able to hold that for seven, eight years, and continue to feel that I feel this gut, you know, I know it, I feel it in my bones, that this is the this is it. And I'm I'm just going to make it happen. I think it's a testimony to that. So let's talk about the period after then 2015 came back, and then and then talk about that journey.

Rashi Narang  42:47

So lots happened, we raised money from sort of family friends, H, and Is small round, we acquired, actually not acquired, but we merged with another pet store in Bangalore. They were the only ones along the way who said yes, actually, we love your stuff. And so we became friends and partners, and you know, it just wasn't a natural flow that, you know, why should we operate one, one, let's just make it two together and grow it. And so that happened. And then we started off with our store expansions, you know, we did a couple in Delhi couple in Bangalore, again, you know, went wrong with some locations did really well in the others, it was a very steep learning curve to understand even retail and the processes and the operations and the government and the laws and the 100 rules and compliances. And it was crazy. And, you know, and, but, but I think that we, I mean, even even my co founders, and all of us feel really passionately and for all of us, I think it's, it's a purpose, and it's not like a hobby, building a business to exit and so and so time and get that valuation and step out, it was really like coming from a space of, we have to be able to peak for these animals, we have to be able to create products which are comfortable, we have to change the way that people look at them. I think it was just so much hustle and so much push, relentless to learning, trying, you know, we made zillions of hiring mistakes. Just, you know, even with money, even with that little bit of seed funding. You know, there is so many constraints to you know, to hiring people with talent because they are expensive. So again, you know, we had basic teams, struggle, struggle, struggle, but everyday was just learning, which was just amazing.

Krishna Jonnakadla  44:46

So I really dig in a little more deep on that one, contrast three things. One is numbers when you left in 2008. Okay, numbers when you came back in 2015 and numbers today

Rashi Narang  44:59

Oh, gosh. When I left, it was nothing we were scaling a little. I'd say maybe 10-15 lakhs a year. When I came back we were doing about one Korea. So I did manage to push it, whatever the last financial year, we just closed that 50. And I'm hoping that this financial year will close at about 70-80. We lost a couple of months because of COVID lockdown store closures. But we've really tried to make up for it.

Krishna Jonnakadla  45:34

How many unique pets have you served? I don't even track that number.

Rashi Narang  45:39

I don't I don't have that number. On the top of my mind, I'm sure if I dig into the ballpark.

Krishna Jonnakadla  45:45

Some ballpark? How many dogs?

Rashi Narang  45:47

At least a few 100,000 easily.

Krishna Jonnakadla  45:50

Okay, half a million perhaps, or

Rashi Narang  45:54

maybe a little bit less. Because a lot of our customers are repeat. You know, they come back again and again for you know, food and grooming and treats and toys. But yeah, I think I wouldn't say it's very far from that number. It really is in for all these years. It may even be more but I don't know, I don't know.

Krishna Jonnakadla  46:12

 Maybe terms of customers then three lakh customers? Three, four lakh customers?

Rashi Narang  46:16

Yes. Yes. For sure.

Krishna Jonnakadla  46:18

 Okay. Okay. Interesting. So the retail 2015 I'm this one. One thing which intrigues me. And that is that you came back? And it was about store expensive. Yes. Okay. And it meant that the it was really about the offline game. Yes. You still had a website going, you spoke about what you what you did back then. quite surprising. Why did you choose offline? Because back then, in 2015, if you if you believed all the pitches that everybody was given, even a massage parlor would go off, online, right? remote, just attach a remote robotic device, and then it will do massage for the customer. There was a kind of thinking that was going on back then. Right? Let's let's take everything online. Yeah. And I've said this in one of our earlier episodes, I remember meeting headed for Bangalore, Bangalore, a shop a stop on location. Okay. And he was literally shit scared. There was this was late 2014, early 2015. And the online, let's go online thing was so crazy. He, he had a motion, because he was afraid for his job. And then he was asking, Sir, will retail even exist? Yeah. And then I had to tell him, dude, the latest ecommerce retail report in the US industry came out in spite of all of Amazon's whatever advances their ecommerce, which is Amazon is just a part of it. Well, it's a big part of it is only 9% in the world's most evolving economy. COVID ads push that number pastored double digits. But offline will be there. Offline will be a dominant part. If anything, they'll both work with each other. So your decision seems to have been little against and and that sort of thinking always intrigues me? Why offline? And how come you didn't get caught up in the whole let's go online into everything kind of.

Rashi Narang  48:19

So I have to admit we did. A we there was like so much fear for more like, Oh my god, everybody's doing it everybody's talking about we must. But I think what we realized was that, given that the market was so nascent, people were naturally only come in to look for food, right? But so when we realized that, listen, if they come in and look for they come in to look for food, but I can suddenly have a conversation or expose them to the massive variety of products that we have, then there is a much higher chance of them, you know, putting five more things into their, into their cart, or well into their bag and leaving. And that is exactly what happened, you know, they would come in asking for food, we talk them about toys, or different treats, you know, chemical free, preservative free, good, healthy, fun, cool stuff, give them value addition, in terms of tips, or, you know, just education in the smallest littlest ways have longer conversations with those who are interested. And I think that just helped us to, you know, just build out that awareness about the product portfolio. And everybody asked us all lots of investors asked us, like, why are you doing this offline thing? And you say, Well, no, it's not just offline. It's omni channel. But once they've come in to see it, touch it, trust it. And then they're buying the same thing online. But that's just worked for us. It really has, you know, especially with you know, it's in some ways, it's also a small win over online because you suddenly run out of dog food. You don't want to wait for three days to get it online. You know, you just go to the nearest store, pick it up, you know, so so in that Boy, omni channel thing has worked. And that's really the way that we want to build it further as well.

Krishna Jonnakadla  50:04

So in some sense, the website is sort of an introductory thing. And and the other way around as well. So if, if they stay closer to a store, or if they can come into a store, the store is an introductory thing for the website. Absolutely. And if the website is an introductory mechanism for the store, which is should be what omni channel is all about, right?

Rashi Narang  50:25

Yes, absolutely. Just enjoy that. I think we just our retail people. And and now, you know, we have a lot of fun scaling the whole online part figuring out how do you replicate an experience that you have offline, which is so high touch, so personalized, you know, if you walk in the same store, somebody will greet you by your name, they know your dog's name, they know what you want, what you like, you know? And then how do you create an offer online as well. So we're really working on building that part out.

Krishna Jonnakadla  50:52

Very interesting. Knowing somebody by their name and their dog's name. That's a lot of personalization.

Rashi Narang  50:58

Yeah, it is. That's what we love. You know, that's what we love that, you know, Bruno loves these sheets, he doesn't like that he likes squeaky toys, he doesn't like this. And then being able to recommend, you know, good things. So Bruno with where is he in his life journey? Is he a senior dog? Is he a puppy? Is he an adult? What is he needed that time? You know, what is what do his does his family need to know about him as he's growing older, etc, etc. So we you know, for us, it was really about making that difference, one dog at a time, one home at a time. And I think we've enjoyed that. And class, I think that just the insight that staying close to our customers on the shop floor gave us was priceless, completely priceless.

Krishna Jonnakadla  51:38

So talk about the retail challenges that you said, you know, you got a few locations, right? And what challenges did what what worked for you, and and at least hearing you out, makes me feel that this personalization, the fact that when the customer came in, you obviously opened a world of choices for them, right? Especially if they truly were pet parents as opposed to being pet owners. I'm just contrasting that term. And therefore that itself is one angle. I'm just thinking that possibly worked very well for you, and what didn't work for you. So you came back. And then the whole notion was, let's scale this now. Yeah. And you've already spoken about, you know, merging with a mango store. So we'll talk about how the CO founding team came together in a minute or two. But talk about those challenges. What what sort of challenges did you face, because the last five, six years, the retail industry has sort of cratered, right? barring a few India goes through these huge ups and downs, where a few large houses stabilize. And then there's a there's a sort of explosion of smaller brands, and then some sort of a detonation of some sort of economic bomb happens, and it wipes out a bunch of those. And then these stores, again, stabilize a bit. And then again, that happens. I think we are witnessing one right now. But we'll talk about those challenges, retail challenges, and some things that worked and didn't work?

Rashi Narang  53:13

Well, I'd say one of the biggest challenges is that retail is expensive. It needs leases and deposits, and you know, in retail location, location, location is the mantra. And if you opt for that, then again, you know, the rentals are insane. So, you know, overcoming that was one, the second was people, you know, we couldn't find any train staff. You know, how do you, you know, anybody, I mean, just finding people who were willing to deep dive into so much knowledge, right? Otherwise, the retail staff is just coming from one clothing store to the other to the other, but to find willing people who are willing to learn so much, was very challenging. And, you know, we had certain sort of expectations on this kind of standards we wanted to set and I think people was a huge, huge challenge. The third was inventory, you know, what are the right quantities to have, how to prevent stock outs, what are your best sellers, visual merchandising, you know, just the whole experience of designing and creating that journey, the product, the, you know, inventory, the, you know, the, the whole sales experience via via people, everything was very, very challenging. You know, just, we had to train from scratch and training could take a long, long time. And then somebody would just in the middle say, No, I can't do this. It's too much, you know, so then you start again, and again and again. And we didn't have people we didn't have people who would be trainers and we didn't have people who will be designing the stores and all of that. So we did everything ourselves. Everything. You know, we didn't have the consultants to tell us this is how retail works. Because they didn't know anything about retail, you know, they didn't have any data to compare it with. There was nobody to learn from and even in Singapore, sadly, the pet market is very basic. So I did not have an opportunity to learn the pet specific retail. And so it was really just trying every day and and learning there was just no model, you know, no model nothing, no one to learn from basically big challenge.

Krishna Jonnakadla  55:28

Oh, my God, my God. So I'm even in existing current retail fashion retail, you don't really find a lot of train staff, nothing against them. But I think we we are still yet to see those as real career choices. Yes. Absent. For instance, in the US, a lot of people don't don't know this. Once a store closes, there is a specific set of people that come back and put everything in a very orderly fashion. Right. So so there are these rows and rows of shelves of clothes, right? And you, you try it on your throne, there's something here on the something there. While we are actually shopping. You will see a you know, store clerk or to actually fold it and then late, but if you pay close attention to it, there is a lot of things that is disheveled over a point of time. Yes. But around 2am these people work on a very specific shift between 2am and 8am in the morning, their whole thing is to put the store back as if it was inaugural day.

Rashi Narang  56:31

Yeah, I can imagine that those stores are large. They have big stores.

Krishna Jonnakadla  56:35

Yeah, yeah. Selfridges, the guy that actually changed the face of retail because until Selfridges opened Marshall fields in Chicago. And until then, it was like what traditional Indian stores are. For example, if you go to places like crowbar con market, there is a counter and then behind the counter via the cow a cow so that Selfridges the western market used to be like that, and Selfridges came in. And then he said, Nothing doing I'm going to put all the wares on shelves, and then customers can self select. And but what that does is it creates an additional overhead of maintaining and putting things things back. And Funny thing is today, when we go shopping, I tell I tell my wife, you know what, she casually would pull out a piece of clothing. And then she would try it on and then she would put it back. And for me, I'm thinking about that person that comes up to me in the morning. And then I know they're paid for it. And then I put myself in their shoes, and then think, man, I can't believe you know, so many clothes are strewn around and my shift has gone. So I would say it have some empathy and to the best extent possible, put it back the way say the same way it is so there's less much less painful for them.

Rashi Narang  57:52

Yeah, no, that's true. That's true. And not everybody thinks about that. You know, and I love how you brought up that example of self which is because what a what a phenomenal experience they created.

Krishna Jonnakadla  58:07

My, my luck is that the very first restore of Marshall fields which opened in Chicago, I used to live very close to that. So I got to and then eventually, Marshall Field's today was subsumed by Macy's has been subsumed by Macy's chain. So that name I think only exists in history. Marshall field himself, has, you know, created a lot of revolution in retailing. But it was Selfridges, that actually changed. And then there's john Wanamaker, who was in the furniture retail side of it. So that's awesome. Let's come back to your story. How did talk about the founding team? How did it come together? Was it a result of the merger? Or is there more to the story?

Rashi Narang  58:51

Yes, it was very much a result of the merger. The store that we merged with was called paws the pet store, and it was ran by a cafe with a mind Sandeep and the three of us have been working together for a long time. And so it was just felt very natural. And we all have our areas of expertise. And then, you know, two years ago, my husband joined You know, he brought in a different set of expertise. We got in CFO, we got in, you know, operations, we got in, you know, lots of good expertise who came in as co founders. And, and it just it you know, the people that I know that I trust, and they all come in with very solid expertise, and it's been amazing to work with a team that challenges you that pushes you that is that has your back. And then that is equally passionate about the little things that most other businesses may or may not really look at, because it's a very values driven business. You know, it is about the you know, pets first. And so if there's something that we don't think is, is good, or we would not give it to our dogs, it's not going to No matter how much it may be selling on Amazon or wherever else, so it's, you know, it's just nice to work with like minded people, and yet people with such diverse thoughts that will just, you know, bring those different sparks to the table.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:00:13

Man awesome. I, this this, there's so much that you said, there are a lot of things I loved about what you just said. And then just goes to show, I think what a fabulous job you've done. And there's so much I think you brought to it, at least from the point that I can see, let's so that's the founding team, let's talk about decisions, what have been some decisions that have worked for you. And what happened?

Rashi Narang  1:00:36

One of the big ones that hasn't worked was that when I when we came when we merge the companies, we decided let heads up hotels be a product led company. And let's do multi brand with another brand. Because, you know, people want a one stop shop. And that just didn't work, we set up a new store with a new brand. And we realized that we were so stretched. So we have two websites, and two Instagram pages and two Facebook's and two stores and you know, just the the craziness associated with it, we want the market wasn't ready. We weren't ready, it was a complete disaster. So we shut it down made everything heads up for days. And it's been so much easier. So that's definitely one thing that I remember that just didn't work. I think what worked, what worked. I think in terms of just product innovation, you know, we've we've all been the follow the international market very closely. We're all coming from a space of pet being pet parents, you know, solving problems. So I think just those decisions have come about very easily, like what are we doing to solve a particular problem? Or how do we want to approach or what values are we made on? What will we not compromise on. So all of those things have been made easily. And of course, there is difference of opinion when we have to make a decision. But we leave it to the expert, we give feedback and suggestions. But we leave it to that expert in that particular area to finally make a decision because we're very comfortable with the fact that everybody brings different skill sets. So the person with the best skills wins, in most cases, when there's a tough decision in that specific area. So if it was a finance decision, I may give my feedback, but I'll leave it to my CFO to make his choice. And I know that he'd do the right thing.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:02:23

Awesome. So we are in the final stages here. So I one question about when did it occur to you? It's one thing to have a gut feel that this will be big. Yeah. But managing success is not easy either. And, and everything like Thomas Alva Edison says, success, very few people recognize success, because it shows up in overalls like workflows, right? It's got a lot of work that goes into it, you back in 2015, you raise seed money from friends and family and patronize? At what point of time did it occur to you that, yes, we are truly on the path for path to this becoming bigger, when did that happen? And then that's when you decided to take a plunge and then do professional fundraising. Talk about that a bit.

Rashi Narang  1:03:11

So I think 2018 we opened some very high stakes tours for a company our size we did Khan Market you know, which is more expensive than Manhattan gallery, and a couple of more really, you know, high stakes tours, for a small company saying that, you know, this is this little by little by little is not working, we need to just make a mock, and just be out there. And I think that putting those little pins on on the map in key cities really got got us that buzz and attention that we needed, and just knowing that we could sustain renters and overheads like that, and not drowned, made us feel that, you know, we can do this, we really can. And plus I think then the validation with that comes with, you know, raising, you know, higher amounts of money. So even now, we went even our bigger next professional round was a nice wasn't friends and family where it was family offices, you know, because we we still, you know, again, even for us, the investors, they have to, they have to feel what we're feeling, they have to have a long term vision. It's not that, you know, valuation exit game only, it's so much more. And so we've been very selective about who we brought on board people who know that this is a long term game. And I think just that credibility, and of course, you know, the push and the ability to fix our back end and improve our front end that, you know, that money has been able to give us has been, you know, amazing and weird, you know, very grateful that all of our investors have that, you know, they are in the same value system, wanting to make that everyday impact and all we really want Todd on, especially this year, in the middle of all of this craziness, we've worked really hard on building out a lot of our back end with better systems and eirp better way housing, you know, lots of stuff, lots of stuff. So yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:05:15

On the leadership front, was there ever a challenge, it's one thing to be able to, because you're the person behind the idea, at some point in time, there always comes away with professional capital comes a tug of war, saying that, okay, we understand, it's your idea, we are awesome, you can still retain ownership and all of that, but it requires professional management tours and stuff like that, you know, those conversations happen in quite a few companies. But from what I can tell, and from what I can see, I think, the the gravitas, the wisdom, so the wherewithal that you have, I think has stood you in good stead, was there ever a question of leadership? Did you ever have to justify yourself?

Rashi Narang  1:05:55

Not yet. Not yet, I've worked very hard to kind of keep myself updated as well. Because, you know, at every stage, I think starting a business is easy scaling, it is enormously hard. And so, you know, I'm constantly learning, growing, reading up, you know, trying to see, you know, what we can absorb from other companies who are doing it right. So I think that, you know, I have tried to stay relevant. But I think I'm very okay with somebody else coming in at the point when I see you that I've outgrown this in terms of expertise, and, you know, be able to contribute towards the more creative side, which is what I love or the foundation side, which is, again, something I'm so passionate about. So, as long as it's just being led? Well, I'm very happy. But not it hasn't been hasn't come to that point just yet.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:06:45

So in that scale, was there a pivot point where there was an inflection point where the eschar happened?

Rashi Narang  1:06:53

 I would say that was 2018.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:06:55

2018. Okay,

Rashi Narang  1:06:57

yeah, we did most tours, and we had high stakes tours, they were doing well, I think it was a very exciting year.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:07:03

And it and true to what real retail is, it was a combination of professional capital coming in, and you going out and opening because retail is about presence, you have to have the presence, you have to be there. And once it's once a product gets into the realm of experiential product, where you have to touch it, feel it, and then the pet needs to like it. And then that's when your presence really makes a difference. So that's 2018

Rashi Narang  1:07:29

Absolutely, yes. And then we revamped the website, we you know, we really have, you know, we started marketing it, scaling it up. So I think lots of things happened in that year.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:07:40

What's the larger vision?

Rashi Narang  1:07:41

The larger vision is really for every home to experience the joys of raising pets as family, that truly is because we know how much it brings to every home, and how special it is. And, you know, as far as business wise, I mean, that's a big vision, because if I translate it into business, it means it means so much being in every home a half product in every home that has a pet, also, so and that's global. It's it's a big worldwide vision, we want to do Singapore Next, we want to, I mean, we know that we can do so much we see so much whitespace, good whitespace little bits that haven't been addressed. And there's there's lots of ideas for product for experience. We've traveled the world and seen pet stores online, I think a lot of people have cracked it. But offline, I don't think that they have at all. And so you know, there's lots of, there's lots of hope for doing lots of good things. But the larger aim is to make that impact.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:08:42

So this, so so it's been 12 years is is quite quite, I wouldn't say a very long journey, because building enduring institutions takes time and effort. You know, when you spoke about those personal Greetings, something struck me, Sam Walton, when he was still running Walmart, there was this period when a lot of the baby boomers who had reached 65, they had retired, so a lot of them didn't have jobs. So he, at least, you know, I think whatever is out in the internet, and out there is credited to him. He came up with this notion of having a greeter at a Walmart. Obviously, he doesn't know your name or anything of that sort. But they're 65 Plus, obviously, they and some of them can't do heavy lifting, you know, move the motor crates or anything of that sort. So they stand at the entrance, all they would say is welcome to Walmart. Wow. And apparently, those I think four or five years and this happened around the time 2000 I think six to 2012. And I mean, I've seen that personally myself because I used to live in the US at that time. And as for an economic journalist, it sounds like something cheesy something just a profit motive or to write but For a person who's had a long day, and then who's coming in to shop, which store actually tells you welcome. Yeah, hardly anyone does, right? That is supposed to have contributed a few percentage points of growth. And so it it's it's a twin thing one is it helped Walton, Walmart's growth. And it also gave employment to a lot of these older people, right. So I'm going to ask you sort of the apocalyptic question. You've done a fabulous job you've grown. There's a long journey ahead still, you tell? Do you ever feel this? You might all lose this at some point in time? Do you ever lose sleep over that?

Rashi Narang  1:10:42

 Oh, yes, definitely. I think they say right, the higher you climb, the harder. But definitely, we keep you know, every now and then we heal, okay. All the big guys are getting into it. Nike has gotten into it. capitalize getting into it, lots and lots of the big companies are coming in reliance, there's all these rumors, I don't know, you know, ferns and petals has just gotten into it. So, you know, they have much bigger, having way deeper pockets, much bigger companies, you know, people all have that infrastructure to support it. So yeah, every now and then we feel, you know, we'll be able to sustain once they come in, and they may come in with crazy discounting policies, and you know, all of that stuff. But I also know in my heart, that it may be a tough fight, but it will be a fight that I am very willing to very, you know, go all out with, because I know that my heart is in the right place, you know, and I think that that's what matters, I want to have fun, I want to be able to know them, you know, making a difference. I want to build I mean, you know, we are all about innovation. We've built out some amazing, amazing products along the way. And I think that if we continue to do what we do, we'll be okay.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:11:56

You must have already experienced a sense of that, isn't it a clones or copies

Rashi Narang  1:12:03

Tons of copycat brands have come up tons and, you know, anything that we put up on the shelves literally gets picked up and copied. So that I think that's just it used to bother me a lot now realize that it's just part of that growth journey. And I need to be accepting of that. But yeah, that's, that's that.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:12:24

I suppose you've taken copying as a compliment.

Rashi Narang  1:12:26

I hope I can do it. Not quite.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:12:32

Yeah. Any kids? Okay. Okay.

Rashi Narang  1:12:35

I have a seven year old daughter. Okay. Yes. And I have two two doggies. And I said, you know, my life when? So that's where we are right now.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:12:46

Awesome. Awesome. Terrific. Do you read Rashi? Do you find time to read?

Rashi Narang  1:12:51

I love reading.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:12:52

Oh, what's on your reading list?

Rashi Narang  1:12:54

I just finished the Netflix book. I don't know if you've if you've read it. It is so I mean, it's got some fantastic ideas about you know, a business. I don't quite know if we can do that in India. But you know, I'm going to try some of the concepts. And I mean, I read I need lots. I mean, of course I like fiction, but I also love business books. So I'm always I'm always reading it's, you know, it's just part of a I have to have it in my day.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:13:25

If you've been to a decathlon store, yes. You actually be Gatlin is a perfect example of the fact that you can until I saw the catalin, I would have notions that you could create something different in India, but it will still be a poor cousin or poorer version of what you have somewhere else. But the Gatlin changed that notion for me. Yeah,

Rashi Narang  1:13:44

yeah. They've done an incredible job,

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:13:47

Though, from from pricing to experience to the website. And the funny thing is it it's not even in well to do neighborhoods, right? Yes. Even in really average neighborhoods, they put up stores they've sustained and and the funny thing is, the pandemic has only fed into this desire to find the sporty athletic side. Yes, absolutely. Yeah. Barely has, right so

Rashi Narang  1:14:12

No but again, they just captured a nice which was always there but just never focused on you know, I mean, sports is such an important part of everybody's life of fitness and health and all of that and it's great that they've built this out and it's so affordable and it's it's amazing so that's definitely a you know, a case study that we actually talk about that in theo pany a lot you know, the way that they've built out decathlon it's fantastic

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:14:35

So you know, there's Madhu Sapre, you know, Madhu Sapre?

Rashi Narang  1:14:38

Yes.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:14:39

So she was a finalist for I think, Miss you Miss Universe, Miss World. Yeah, yeah. And each of the contestants were asked a question. I remember this because I think I was in my high teens back then. And if you were if you were to become the president or prime minister of your country, what would you do and for poor lady You know, pretty, but she lost. She said, you know, my country is very, very backward in sports. But there's a lot of raw talent, I would build a huge stadium that would give life to a lot of athletic dreams is what she said. Okay, I think if she had contestant now and then that answer would have been her the crown

Rashi Narang  1:15:22

It's just about timing, then and maybe I know. Absolutely.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:15:27

So for women out there and entrepreneurs in general, to sense from you, what do you think they should be doing to their businesses? And any words of wisdom?

Rashi Narang  1:15:37

Oh, gosh, I would say just follow your dreams. I mean, you know, yes, you have to be realistic. But I think that we've lost, or we don't quite believe in our gut enough, we have to have that solitude and a connection with ourselves to be able to listen to our gut and, and may tell us as we're doing this all wrong, and it may just give you, I mean, the gut is always just that very faint whisper. So you know, if you can learn to hear it out, you won't really go wrong. And I would say just first you and you know, persevere. I think that, you know, as a woman entrepreneur, you need a lot of grit, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of grit. So just that perseverance, don't give up. And I think it's not about taking big steps. It's about taking baby steps. As long as it's not about the race, it's about just moving forward, however slow you go, you know, we sometimes give up because we feel that, you know, it's too slow. And we can't do this. And there's too many challenges, and there's kids and families and in laws and you know, 100 other things. I think it's about taking that one step at a time. So very simple. But I know that you know, it can be very powerful. If you think about it like that, and don't make big goals at that one time. But little by little you're moving towards where you want to get to.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:16:54

My God, my God, trust your gut, take baby steps. Yes. And towards towards the goal. Absolutely. But I if it had come from anyone else, you know, I would have thought that is like nice to hear stuff. But having you relived every bit of that. I've said this earlier in the recording saying that, that that got this, this is special, this episode's going to be so special. Rashi fantastic. Fabulous. Thank you for sharing, sharing your story with us. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. And thank you for being so straight from the heart. That's exactly what we wanted.

Rashi Narang  1:17:29

Thank you, Krishna, thank you for giving me this platform to be able to tell my story and for such a lovely conversation, very grateful.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:17:37

So we say this to every speaker, Maharajas of Scale, it was fantastic Maharaja of Scale wishes this Maharani of Scale. And her vision is realized you scale greater peaks. And when you scale another peak in your journey, Maharajas of scale, we'll come back and interview this Maharani, again, you know, to see what that vantage point looks like and how the world view has changed from there. So we wish you the very best.

Rashi Narang  1:18:04

Thank you. Thank you so much. And I wish the team for you I hope this goes places and I hope that these little tidbits can inspire so many more people who may be thinking about what to do next, or how to move forward. So more power to you.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:18:20

Thank you.

Tania Jadhav  1:18:22

We hope you enjoyed this story. If this story made a difference to you, tell us by leaving a comment on the website or our social media channels. Help us spread the love by subscribing, liking and sharing our show. We welcome speaker suggestions and collaboration. Write to me at heythere@maharajasofscale.com