From body harnesses to luxury spas for fur babies, Rashi Narang’s Heads Up For Tails has revolutionised the segment of pet-care products in India. The entrepreneur talks to us about the process of changing Indians’ perception of pet grooming and going the sustainable way. By Srushti Kulkarni
T+L India: You have previously credited the idea for Heads Up For Tails to your dog, Sara. What made you develop the idea into a business that was nearly non-existent in India?
Rashi Narang: In 2007, when Sara stepped into my life, she completely changed the course of it. Although I had grown up around dogs, this was the first time I was being a parent of one. I wanted her to live her best life and began looking for products with which I could pamper her. But to my disappointment, none of the stores in India shelved even basic pet-care products. I was heartbroken when I was forced to return home empty-handed on her birthday. That’s when it hit me, that there might be numerous others on the lookout for good products and toys for their pets. I began curating products in a little home-grown enterprise, and that’s how Heads Up For Tails (HUFT) was born [in 2009].
T+L India: Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you were starting out?
Rashi Narang: Gosh, so many things! It was very arduous when we started because there was no market, vendors, or even a brand we could look up to. We had to educate everybody to establish this market, and that took us forever. I wish I could change the kind of employees I hired in the beginning, found more resources instead of pouring myself into several arenas, hired better talents or pet experts, who were non-existent at the time.
T+L India: What challenges did you face in creating a market for pet grooming in India?
Rashi Narang: I didn’t know where to begin, and it was a steep learning curve for me. I had to start with understanding the body structures, skin and fur types, patterns on their bodies, etc. Another herculean task was to find vendors who agreed to make our products because most of them presumed them to be non-propitious goods. The biggest blow came when I approached over 200 stores with my tiny collection of pet-care products and not a single store was ready to put them on their shelves. The customers were unaware of the requirements of their fur babies or even how to take care of them. Initially, we printed heaps of content to educate pet parents on how to look after their furry companions and how our products could help them achieve those pet-care goals.
When I returned to India in 2016 [from Singapore], I convinced all my partners and co-founders to hop on board Heads Up For Tails 2.0. Several products in our collection were born from conversations we had with the pet parents visiting our stores. That is how we expanded our brand footprint.
T+L India: You have mentioned that in your quest for ‘pet parents’, you mostly came across ‘pet owners’. How did you manage to change that?
Rashi Narang: We began by sharing our vision, thoughts, and tales of how pets have transformed people’s lives. Once people began to realise that these creatures have healed [their] wounds and that they must be looked after with care and compassion, the revolution began. Simple things like opting for a body harness instead of martingales and choker chains were conveyed to the customer, and over time, customers began demanding products to help their pets lead better lives.
T+L India: You have multiple stores across 10 cities, and pet foundations, spas, and birthday clubs in India. Which other projects are in the pipeline?
Rashi Narang: We are developing an app—that’s our big project. We are excited to introduce our content and community together with our products. We also want to take Heads Up For Tails international in the foreseeable future. We are looking at countries like Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka—mainly South-East Asia as it holds a lot of potential for our business.
T+L India: Sustainability is the keyword in all businesses right now. What steps has HUFT taken in this direction?
Rashi Narang: We have been focussing on introducing the concept in our products for the last couple of years. Eco-friendly and biodegradable products, beds filled with fibres extracted from recycled plastic, reusable puppy pads, and a range of eco-life products as well.
T+L India: What are the pet products you are currently working on?
Rashi Narang: I am working on an interesting range of products for disabled pets. I have noticed people easily abandoning their specially-abled or old-aged pets because it’s tedious to take care of them. I am trying to give them a better chance at having a good life with my new range of products.
FAVOURITE PLACES FOR SOLO TRAVEL
Europe, UK, and Canada. In India, I hear Sikkim and Meghalaya are great for solo female travellers.
TRAVEL WITH PETS
Mussoorie and Ranikhe