Premium shelter for dogs when owners have to be out of town
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It was a bad experience at a dog shelter that led to the idea of Hotel for Dogs, a Chennai facility where owners can leave behind their dogs while they go out of town.
The dogs are given a 10,000 sq. ft. play area along with a swimming pool especially designed for them. The kennels are climate-controlled and monitored by CCTV cameras.
“Most vets, they just put them in kennels and they don’t take the dogs out. They come back with infections, ticks, rashes, all that. So, we decided when there’s a market which you can use, we might as well get into the market and make the most of it”, said co-founder Adhishwar, speaking about the motivation behind opening Hotel for Dogs.
The facility arranges Skype sessions for owners who miss their dogs. The dogs are taken for a walk every morning and evening and are free to play during the day. A veterinary doctor is on call in case of medical emergencies. Pickup and drop facilities are available as well.
Six employees stay on the premises round the clock to look after the canines. The facility can accommodate 40 dogs, and usually runs at 80-85% of total capacity, with weekends and festivals being the peak time for business. Hotel for Dogs, which has served roughly 2,500 customers to date, hopes to open another branch in Chennai to cover the entire city.
Hygiene is top priority at Hotel for Dogs. Dogs are checked for ticks and infections before admission and are treated if found to have any. The dogs are given a bath once every five days. Only vaccinated dogs are accepted at the hotel. The kennels, which vary according to the size of the dog, are spacious, with the smallest measuring 8x4 ft. They are cleaned everyday.
The start-up also hosts a pet store where customers can buy supplies from dog food to collars to shirts. Sourcing products directly from distributors helps keep prices low. A pet grooming clinic is also available on the premises, although separately chargeable.
The 20-year-old Adhishwar has a simple philosophy on serving customers and their dogs. “You should be willing to give the dogs your love, time and affection. Because, unless you give them love, they’re not going to be happy, and unless they’re happy, the owners aren’t going to be happy,” he says.
Started with an initial investment of about Rs.10-15 lakh by the two partners, they have no immediate plans for inviting investments from equity investors or venture capitalists, although it is an option they would consider when expanding to more cities. This student enterprise won a Tata First Dot award.
The starting rate at Hotel for Dogs is Rs.500 per day, which increases with the size of the dog. Swimming sessions and dog food cost extra. The business generates revenues of about Rs.4-5 lakh per month, with the firm reaching break-even within six months of opening.
Bengaluru is next on the radar. India’s highest pet-populated city with about a million dog owners, the city could be the ideal destination for Hotel For Dogs. Work is under way at a 28,000 sq. ft plot in central Bengaluru, and the facility, which can host about 50 dogs, is expected to open in the next few months.
The facility has adopted street dogs and takes care of them. Dog therapy is another way in which the enterprise gives back to society. Physically challenged students from a local school come to the kennel once every fortnight to play and interact with the dogs.
“I have a physically challenged brother, so I know how much a dog helps a physically challenged student. So we’ve partnered with his school and we’re doing dog therapy for his school,” explains Adhishwar. “It’s not just about making money for us, it’s about providing some value to society.”
The biggest challenge while setting up Hotel for Dogs was hiring people willing to learn and are fond of dogs. At present, all employees at Hotel for Dogs have been personally trained by the founders.
Coming from a family of dog lovers, the support for the young entrepreneur from his family has been immense. Currently a final year B.Com. student at Loyola College, Chennai, Adhishwar hopes to work for a while before pursuing his Masters in Business Administration. He is also a cricket fan, and works as a strategic analyst with the Delhi Daredevils IPL franchise.
Adhishwar and his partner have a vision for a dog café—a concept for a restaurant where owners can take their dogs with them, and the dogs are treated to their own menu and choice of food items, too. They hope to launch this unique type of café within the next couple of months.
Mint has a strategic partnership with National Entrepreneurship Network, which hosts the Tata First Dot awards.