Brothers Mr. Anand and Mr. Kushal Pittie, Directors of ABK Imports recently sat down with Ms. Priyanka Tanwar, Editor of Creature Companion Magazine to discuss their company’s journey in the last ten years; their motivation for creating the startup; challenges faced while importing international brands and procuring distribution rights and expansion plans for the future. Excerpts . . .

What motivated you to start this business? Anand is a certified canine behaviour consultant and his knowledge of pets and canine behaviour helped ABK to realise the dearth of quality pet products available in the market. This knowledge motivated us to start a business focused on importing high quality products with the aim of bridging the gap between pets and their parents. Also our big brother and mentor Mr. Bharat Pittie guided us through the process of importing and distribution when we started our journey in the year 2010. Where is your startup based? What are your geographical target areas? Our startup is based in our hometown Pune, Maharashtra. Our target at present is to make our products available in all grade A cities across India.

Share the story behind the startup. How did it come up? It was March 2010 and Anand was in-between jobs. He was to join as Sales Head for a USA based robotics company from April 2010. Kushal had just finished his mechanical engineering and was working in production department of Mercedes Benz in Pune. Bharat was the Director at Bharat International Pet Foods in Pune.

We had met for a family get together and post lunch we were discussing work and Anand was sharing with Bharat how he was going to join a new company in next few weeks as Sales Head and that this company was in the business of importing robotic arms and fixtures for specialised applications. After listening to this, Bharat immediately quipped that what he was doing for someone else he could do for himself.

He further added that the Indian pet industry was growing and there were no major players selling high quality imported pet accessories in the market. He suggested that we could start a new company in which we would import quality pet accessories and sell them all across India. Kushal was very inspired by this thought and jumped on the opportunity offered by Bharat. We spoke with our father asking him to raise finance for this new venture and the rest is history. The motto of our startup story is “No Guts, No Glory!”

What challenges does your venture resolve? In the last nine odd years of ABK Imports’ existence, it has evolved tremendously. ABK started with the idea of bridging the gap between pets and their parents by offering products which would enhance the life of every pet and also make living with pets more fun. Along the way ABK realized that the pet accessories business was catering only to pet households across India and to pet retailers.

ABK wanted to cater to a larger audience. ABK identified the pet professionals and ventured into importing of high quality grooming products and veterinarian equipment for these pet professionals who tirelessly work with pets. These products are empowering the pet care giver to lead more healthy lives and continue their service towards pets. Our grooming products and vet equipment offer comfort, ergonomics and safe practices for the betterment of both the pet professional and the pets.

Pet identification is another category ABK ventured into after realising that nearly 1 in 3 pets would be lost at some point in their life. Today, ABK offers pet identification solutions so that every lost pet is returned to their owners.

Educate us about your products and services. ABK serves almost every pet household across India. Its presence pans across the Pet Treats and Training category, the Pet Care and Hygiene category, the Pets At-Home & Travel category, the Pet Toys and Games category as well as the Pet Grooming and Well Being categories. ABK works only with trusted brands that are household names across the world. These include top brands like Trixie, Savic, Flexi, Petkin, Tropiclean, UrineOff, Simple Solution, Chip Chops, Outward Hound, etc.

ABK empowers every pet groomer and veterinarian across India by offering high quality imported grooming products and vet equipment across the Pet Dryers category, the Grooming Tables category, the Clippers and Blades category as well as the Pet Operation Tables and Runner Cage category. These include top brands like Andis, Aeolus, Metrovac, Biogroom, etc.

ABK offers pet identification solutions by providing the largest selection of ID Tags and the highest quality of in-store engraving machines. ABK also offers microchips and readers for pet electronic identification from the popular brand Datamars, Switzerland.

What is your USP that sets you apart from competitors that are selling similar products and services? ABK’s USP is its strong distribution network, reliable delivery and constant effort to offer new innovative products. ABK offers pet professionals free shipping on all products, easy exchange policy, and lowest price guarantee. ABK also provides dedicated after sales service for all grooming and vet equipment.

What initial roadblocks did you face while importing pet products into India? There were very few organised companies in the pet accessories business, so pet retailers were used to buying sub-standard products from the grey market. ABK was one of the few companies trying to work in an organised way in the unorganised pet market. Initially when ABK started importing, the market did not accept our products because of high MRP and perceived low margins.

Tell us about your company’s journey in the past 10 years. ABK is one of the largest and amongst the fastest growing pet consumer goods companies in India. Established in 2010, pets have been the centre of our attention for the last ten years. With our inquisitiveness, know-how and passion for pets we have grown continuously. Presently, ABK provides about 1,200 products for dogs, cats, birds, small animals, and fish to about 1000 retailers in India. ABK’s extensive grooming and vet equipment range is supplied to more than 500 pet care givers across India. ABK promotes education in grooming, safe grooming practices and has sponsored international dog grooming competitions in 2014 and 2018.

What hurdles did you come across while procuring distribution rights for international brands in India? International brands didn’t have a very good experience with business owners from India. We were told that people had purchased goods and never paid the companies and many similar stories. This was the biggest hurdle where brands were looking at India in a very negative way. It took us a lot of effort to build our credibility and make the international brands believe in us and ABK.

What are your expansion plans for the next 5 years, if any? We are studying and analysing a number of projects as we speak. We believe the Indian market has huge potential and you will soon be hearing more exciting news from us on the expansion plans.

How did you raise funding for your business venture? We put in the initial funding to start the business by taking a loan from our father and eventually we repaid him and started funding our business through banks.

If you had the chance to start your venture again, what would you do differently? Honestly, with all the ups and downs, our experience has been great. We believe that as entrepreneurs you always need to go through the curve and keep learning and educating yourselves as you grow. So, we have no regrets and would really not want to do anything differently.

What advice would you give to upcoming entrepreneurs? The only advice we can give to entrepreneurs is that you need to believe in yourself and if you really want to achieve something in life then there are no shortcuts to success. Keep your goal and vision clear and you will definitely achieve it.