With the onset of 2021, India’s #1 Pet Retail Brand, Just Dogs is celebrating its 10 years of being in the pet industry. Let’s rewind and relive the moment of its inception with the people who laid foundation of Just Dogs, India – Mr. Ashish Anthony and Mrs. Poorvi Anthony. They dwell upon their incredible journey over this period. Excerpts…
You set out to build a ‘pet specialty retail’ when there was none. Was it a well thought out plan? Tell us about the inspiration and motivation behind laying the foundation of India’s #1 Pet Retail Brand, Just Dogs.
When we started 10 years ago, most of the businesses were facing great recession including the corporate industry that we were working in. So we thought of starting something of our own. The inspiration behind ‘Just Dogs’ were our six dogs. The more time we spent with them, the deeper we wanted to go into knowing them. Also, we realized that people had pets and spent on some pet products but there was nothing called as a ‘Pet Industry’. We mainly had veterinarians with pet shops as their extended business. And then there were some trainers and some people who were connected to the industry, who joined hands and opened pet shops with a very small customer base. The traditional size of a pet shop was around 200–250 square feet. Nobody had thought about the range that could be offered to the customers. That’s when we thought of stepping into this scattered industry, with a vision of organizing it and making it better.
We wanted to go step by step and the first most important thing was training. To be sure of everything when dealing with the customers, it was important that we go through proper training. We didn’t want to move ahead with “I saw someone doing that” concept but with the correct technical knowledge.
What challenges did you face over these years in establishing your mark in the industry?
It was a challenge and no challenge at all. The entire industry was unorganized. Many people had good ideas but no direction. Maybe they were all comfortable and happy with just one pet shop or a region. But we wanted to expand with 100 outlets all over India and build this industry, which made it easy for us to grow.
The biggest challenge was that we were new. There were no book rules, no guide lines. We had to do everything on our own. The scale or the bar that was needed had to be set by us, as there was no benchmark from where we could take the information or guidance.
What is it that kept you going and build such a strong bond with your customers? What steps are you taking to strengthen this bond further?
See, a brand cannot be created with a small plan. You need a short term and a long term goal. You cannot build a brand without customers’ support. Understanding their perception helps you provide more value to them, which in turn, helps you grow as a brand. It is their perception of you that makes a brand.
You might achieve small milestones in the way and you should celebrate them but you got to have bigger plans. Today, we are celebrating 10 Years of Just Dogs but our first and main milestone is to expand and open 100 outlets across the country. And that is the direction we are headed towards.
We work hard to have an in depth knowledge of our customers’ requirements and this is what helps us to bond well with them. Our top most priority is to be more accessible to our customers and make them the customers for life!
When was Just Dogs Foundation established and how is it going ahead with its mission?
We started because of our immense love for dogs. We never distinguished between a thoroughbred dog and a stray dog. Thoroughbred dog is a business model and takes care of itself. We were always active in rescuing dogs and taking care of them, on our own. But then we wanted to make it bigger, and there are certain things that you cannot do for strays unless you are a foundation. There are laws. So we needed a foundation to help strays in a more flexible way. After our pets passed away, we did not buy dogs. We had some rescued dogs in the boarding and we just took care of them. It is our dream to feed as many strays as we can.
Just Dogs has touched upon almost all the facets of pet care. Going ahead, what more does it has in store to offer to its customers?
We started off our business doing everything from breeding to training and more. But we realized that it was not possible to provide all the services at every location. And we wanted our customers to enjoy uniform services everywhere. After experimenting for a while, we figured out that the best we could do is give retail and spa services. We will keep on adding services that are scalable and easily accessible for our customers.
You are a certified dog trainer. Did you learn out of your personal interest or as a business opportunity?
Mr. Ashish Anthony: I believe, you should not get into a business that does not interest you and if something does, gain an in depth knowledge when you start it. When I got into this business I wanted to learn as much as I could and I am still learning. It’s an ongoing process – Same for everyone, in our team!
What is your mantra of success?
Everybody has got different parameters of success. Our objective is always to change lives of as many people around us as I can, and all the dogs around us. We go by this yardstick.
What is your vision for Just Dogs and your message to start-ups?
We aim to grow more and expand our presence in every premium high streets of the world, with a vision of becoming the first name that comes to your mind when you think of Pets and Pet Services. And our message to anyone starting out on their journey is, to learn and keep learning while they grow.