From left to right Aman Tekriwal, Vineet Khanna and Varun Sadana
Supertails is your one-stop solution when it comes to pet wellness and health care needs. You can shop for pet food, accessories, grooming essentials and even book online vet consultation for your pets.The trio, Vineet Khanna, Varun Sadana and Aman Tekriwal, who founded Supertailshave worked together in start-ups like Snapdeal and Licious. Vineet and Varun come from IIM Lucknow and Aman is a Chartered Accountant. It did not take long for them to decide that they were not cut-out for big established companies. Vineet with a stint of 5 and half years and Varun with 3 and a half years with Tata and Uniliver respectively started working with start-ups.
Their working together in Licious (fresh meat brand) is what triggered a dream of starting off something of their own.
How is Supertails different from other e-commerce companies?
Fundamentally, for us, the differentiation is to create trust, and we felt that getting the right vets and giving them recognition was very critical. It is not very different from how it happens across the globe. In the US – almost 40% of the products get sold with a vet being in the picture, it is not very different in India as well. This is exactly what we intend to do, where we have a vet as the focal point and we also have a commerce platform – one builds trust and another ensures that the eco-system of pet parenthood is taken care of, with expertise.
Veterinarian shortage makes it tough to get quality vetson board. How are you committed to addressing this challenge by getting quality consultation for pet parents?
This is a priority issue for us. We aim to get high-quality vets capable of handling customers in a digital format. We are going to colleges to make them aware that there are companies like us who will fill this gap in the ecosystem and they should engage with us. Informing them of employment opportunities is also important. This is how we intend to change the mindset and bring veterinarians to the forefront.
One of the biggest issues amongst pet parents was that when they go to three different vets they get three different answers for the same issue. Our vision is to build an ecosystem where vets could give standardized solutions to pet parents for any health-related problems with their pets.
We strive to build a system where vets graduate and are ready to join the companion animal industry rather than just going into the livestock sector. Things are changing gradually, now people look at entrepreneurship not as a risk but as their first choice. A few private colleges are also coming up with courses in veterinary science. Individuals are focusing on skill development, which is only possible in startups and not in large organizations.
Would you brief us about your collaboration with ‘Animapp’ and ‘Therapeutic Paws’?
There are three companies that we are working with. These are acqui-hired – Therapeutic Paws, Animapp, and Dial-a-Vet. Unnati Hunjan, Dr. Shantanu, and Sagar Sheth, respectively, ran these companies in the past. We are working with them and they are part of the founding team at Supertails.
In the Indian pet industry, e-commerce platforms have not been able to raise funds, of late. What was that you did differently that you were able to get funding right before you even started the venture?
One factor that helped us was our experience with some very successful companies. But the most important aspect is the customer backward approach; this is one of the things that of a lot of people miss out on. One may be very passionate about the space and might be very knowledgeable, but interestingly, one needs to bring out solutions for actual customer problems instead of those that you think their problems are. The most important rule is – don’t assume, go back to the customer and get their opinion, because the kind of thesis you would build in this manner might be very different from your hypothesis.
Secondly, customer demands are constantly evolving because improvements in services reset their expectations at new levels. We have always believed that it is the customer from whom we would always get the right answer. All these factors make business scalable that is what investors look for.
You have mentioned that there is enough business in tier II and tier III cities, so it changes the whole perception and mindset of metros being the hub of the Indian Pet Industry?
Absolutely, fundamentals are going to change. That is what e-commerce did in 2012 and 2014. We were a part of Snapdeal and we know that in the north-eastern states and tier 2 cities, there were not enough options available. When you are able to cater to an underserved market like this, in addition to the metros, and you provide high-quality solutions, you become their go-to platform for each and every problem they face.
Before the entry of Amazon, there were a few pet e-commerce companies. But when Amazon came into India, the disruption happened big time. Today, we all need to come together in the pet industry and change the mindset of the people. We don’t see Amazon as a competition but somebody who is doing a great job at ensuring that people start buying the right product for their pets and treat them as companions.
Before the entry of Amazon, there were a few pet e-commerce companies which were growing steadily. But when Amazon came into India, the disruption happened big time. Your thoughts.
The pet industry is still in its nascent stage and it’s the time for category creation. Today, we all need to come together in the pet industry and change the mindset of the people. We don’t see Amazon as a competition but somebody who is doing a great job at ensuring that people start buying the right product for their pets and treat them as companions.
Timely deliveries make for high customer and client satisfaction. It will be a challenge to match up to Amazon. What are your views on this?
Yes. of course. Top-notch customer service is absolutely necessary. We work on an inventory model because we want to start by giving the promise of delivering within 48-72 hours to more than 100 micro markets and over time we’ll build a very scalable model where we can deliver even faster.
Supertails is a platform where people are able to discover products. On Amazon platform, if you know your product, you go and search you will definitely find it, but you can’t find or discover new products. So, it is fortunate for us that Amazon doesn’t solve the problem of discoverability across the globe. Hence, vertical marketplace work on high-quality merchandizing, high-quality customer service, and fast delivery. It is exactly what Chewy did in the US; they built their business only on this model.
How is the funding going to be allocated in different areas? Do you have any immediate plan to start private labelling?
As of today, we do not have any aspirations of starting private labels. We first want to work with the industry and build high-quality products. It is a part of the journey and not something that you start on day one.
About asset allocation, there are two core areas where the money goes – one is team building; we have built high-quality teams in the past and we would ensure that with this money we attract talent who would love this space and would like to live the journey of a small brand becoming big. And the second part is brand awareness and getting the customer on board through various marketing channels.
Each of you comes from a distinct and different profile. Was it planned to bring different capabilities to the table?
No, it wasn’t planned. The one thing that motivates all three of us is a common vision. Our strengths end up fundamentally being complimentary and we think that’s good for the business.
You don’t have a pet industry background. Did you meet people from this industry when you started to think of this platform?
Yes, particularly from the vet side. Luckily, Varun’s father is a scientist and a veterinary doctor. He served there as a Director for quite some time. He is retired now, but because of him, we had a lot of connections in this space. We ended up talking to a lot of people and understanding the space. We also went out of the country and talked to the head of Mars, Asia Pacific. We got connected to some people in Perromart, a retailer in Singapore. In fact, such conversations connected us with some bright minds who are part of our team now. Every industry has some issues. We won’t say that we will solve all the problems, but we can at least try. If we will not solve it, somebody else will; no problem ever remains unaddressed.