By Animesh Katiyar*
It all started when a college decided to get puppies to the campus. While the students were busy giving belly rubs and getting sloppy kisses, one of them sat down to observe the drastic change in the atmosphere and decided to spread this unconditional love in the world. That student was me – I noticed that when I got to foster these pups, I felt a lot calmer and my blood sugar levels also stabilised. This experience was followed by extensive research in the field via which I came across articles and research studies of Harvard Medical College and Virginia Commonwealth University, which had conclusive proof of the stress reducing benefits of companion animals. That is how Fur Ball Story was born. We started our operations at Pet Fed 2016 in New Delhi and since then there has been no looking back.
Imagine this, you were at your office and were yelled at by your boss because you couldn’t adhere to the deadlines. You cannot share this with your husband because he is already suffering from stress at work. At this juncture, the HR of your company organises a session wherein dogs are brought to your office for the employees to spend some time with. The moment you enter that room, 3 big balls of fur come running to you with wagging tails. While you spend some time with them, you are in awe of those adorable eyes that look at you in a non-judgmental manner and those sloppy kisses that are wiping your blues away. That pretty much sums up the experience of our clients.
It is true that this world is a difficult place to be in. But when we have some adorable balls of fur willing to spread love around, the opportunity must be grabbed with open arms. The concept of Pet Therapy is a scientifically proven one. Harvard Medical School conducted a research titled ‘Get Healthy, Get a Dog’ wherein they have held that by spending time with a dog, there is a considerable decrease in the stress hormone Cortisol and blood pressure, and an increase in neurotransmitters Serotonin and Dopamine. This makes us feel lighter and happier and increases our levels of productivity.
We currently have eight dogs in our Furry Army, out of which 4 are adopted, – Angel (Golden Retriever), Muffin (Labrador), Cocoa (Shih Tzu), Alice (Shih Tzu), Coco (Shih Tzu), Bailey (Golden Retriever), and Luka (German Shepherd). Three of our dogs are in Mumbai, posted at the Mumbai International Airport, and rest of them stay in Gurgaon.
Our company has multiple sources of revenue such as a Dog Café in Gurgaon, Pet Therapy sessions in Mumbai and Delhi/NCR, boarding facility in Gurgaon, and sale of retail merchandise. Recently we have also started an online platform to book pet sitters, pet walkers and pet trainers, but currently we are working with a small number of people, who are trusted in the industry and whom we know personally.
We believe that delivering quality service with less service providers on board is way better than providing bad services with a large number of service providers. Our Pet Walking facility is available in Golf Course road, Gurgaon; Pet Training sessions are available in Delhi/NCR and Mumbai, and Pet Sitting service is available in Mumbai. Our current customer base for pet therapy sessions is over 5000 people and 1000 pet parents per month. For our pet boarding and café facilities, we get around 800 new people every month including approximately 80 pet parents. Our Pet Therapy and digital platform reach will soon be available in other Tier 1 cities such as Bangalore and Hyderabad.
Apart from this, Fur Ball Story provides free therapy sessions to old-age homes, orphanages and schools for underprivileged children. Our concept of animal welfare is a bit different from the conventional method of rescuing stray animals. We believe that cruelty against animals will never get over if the feelings of empathy and sympathy are not inculcated in the young kids of our country, which is why we conduct animal sensitisation sessions in schools to teach them about love and care towards animals. However, I have rescued and helped several stray dogs in my personal capacity.
We also promote adoptions. Fur Ball Story is an adoption partner of WeWork. In addition, we also conduct several adoption drives in the Gurugram Dog Café in collaboration with Fauna Police, SGAC and Paws For A Cause.
Our business is currently bootstrapped and we don’t want to rush into funding. We believe in the profit factor rather than the growth multiple. In recent times, a lot of start-ups have died down due to running in operational losses despite increasing their revenue by 30 times per month. In the long term, it is bad for the company and it spoils your shareholding table too as the investor would want a big piece of the cake that you are baking.
Our motto is two-fold – to help in reducing stress of people right at the basic level, so that it doesn’t escalate to the chronic stage; and to sensitise people towards dogs. In the wake of recent incidents of animal cruelty, such an initiative was much needed. The concept of pet therapy is very prevalent in the West and we had no clue of what to expect when we first started out. We have been facing a lot of criticism too, like any other new idea would. There are people telling us what to do and what not to do. But we believe in listening and moving on, because we know they haven’t been in our shoes. This would be the first thing we would advise a person entering the world of entrepreneurship.
We have given sessions of Animal Assisted Interventions at several residences and corporates, including Mumbai International Airport, Sequoia Capital, Yes bank, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, Jio Saavn, Nagarro Technologies, DirectI, Cars24, RedFM, ScoopWhoop, SoDelhi, Burger King, CoHo, MakeMyTrip, and the like. We also provide our services pro bono to non-governmental organisations and have given so in the past to Make Love Not Scars, Shashiraj Foundation, etc. We are looking for more such places for our furry soldiers to leave their paw prints at. It is said that a dog is the only creature on Earth who loves you more than he loves himself. Please give us an opportunity to provide you with that love, you can visit all our services at www.furballstory.com.
* Animesh Katiyar is the Founder of Fur Ball Story. He is a lawyer by profession.