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Peppy Paws’ founder (right) Priya Poduval at her Pune pet-boarding facility.
Peppy Paws’ founder (right) Priya Poduval at her Pune pet-boarding facility.

Building Airbnbs for pet dogs, cats

The eventual plan was to create infrastructure similar to what Priya Poduval had seen abroad—a resort with a pool, play area and rooms, where pets would feel at home

Priya Poduval first realized the lack of boarding facilities for pets in Pune during a family emergency in 2009. At the time, she had little choice but to leave her black Labrador, Tyson, at a small kennel nearby. She wasn’t too happy with the way Tyson was treated, and so immediately after her return, she decided to open up her house to tend to pets while their owners were away.

The eventual plan was to create infrastructure similar to what she had seen abroad—a resort with a pool, play area and rooms, where pets would feel at home. In 2010, she took a loan from her family to start a facility, Petz House, on a 2,500 sq.ft. property under the enterprise, Peppy Paws.

“I had to invest a bare minimum of 5 lakh for the first project, but in the last 10 years, we’ve had over 3,000 happy clients. Today, we have moved to a bigger place where we can host more pets," Poduval, 34, says.

A hectic lifestyle and the urge to travel has led to a rise in demand for boarding facilities for pets around the country, and a growing number of startups are trying to meet this need.

When Animesh Katiyar, 26, started working with therapy dogs out of a rented property in Manesar, Haryana, around four years ago, his neighbours walked over to check if he could babysit their dogs for a few days.

“Since I was already working with dogs, I had no problems. I started getting about 20,000 worth of business each month and there would be a couple of dogs with me on a regular basis," says Katiyar, who’s a lawyer by qualification.

A safe space

Today, Katiyar’s enterprise, Fur Ball Story, has a kennel-based boarding facility in Gurugram, called Dogotel, that can house 10 dogs. Over the past three years, his revenue has grown by over 200% across all services. There are day boarders through the week, while a lot of overnight stays happen on the weekend. The months of May-July and November-January, when most people tend to take holidays, are when things get really hectic for his 12-member staff.

“I ensure that owners come a couple of days before they drop off their pets, so that the dogs get familiar with the place. That way they don’t feel abandoned when they stay with us for a longer period and it ensures a smooth transition. Besides this, we have people who drop their dogs before work each morning," says Katiyar.

Besides boarding, Fur Ball Story also has a dog-friendly restaurant and a sprinkler garden for the pets to play. An in-house team of trained dogs lead animal-assisted therapy sessions, while people are also encouraged to come in if they simply want to play with them.

“Many people come to metro cities to chase a career, leaving their home and perhaps a pet behind. We want to give them a sense of belonging and they are more than happy to come grab a bite and spend hours with our dogs," says Katiyar.

To make things more convenient for clients, he plans to introduce a taxi service that can pick up and drop off pets, since most operators do not permit animals on-board their vehicles.

“The pet industry is very personalized, so a client won’t trust anyone with their animal," he says.

In Bengaluru, Arjun Mathai and his wife started Waggle five years ago when they wanted to travel and found no place to keep their white Golden Retriever, Zoe. The platform allows owners of dogs, cats and rabbits to connect with those willing to host pets for a fee; Waggle charges 10% on the transaction. A pet parent can rate each host based on the experience to give others an idea on what they can expect. “Where Waggle is different from others is that the pet gets single attention, since most host just one dog at a time. Besides, the dogs are never caged at these homes," says Shubha Iyer, director of Waggle. The platform has over 8,000 users spread across 15 cities. “We want to build an app in the months ahead to make it convenient for our customers," she adds.

Poduval, meanwhile, plans to make pet-friendly homestays in all metro cities, besides the three facilities she runs in Pune and Greater Noida that can host 25 dogs at a time. She also runs an old-age home for senior dogs when families are unable to look after them.

“It’s a recession-proof industry, since pet parents ensure their pets get the best care. It’s also a fulfilling job because you get to spend with so many dogs," Poduval says. The Pet Club looks at millennials who are driving the petcare startup space.

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