Ms. Darshan Kaur Khalsa, Founder of Waggy Zone Dog Ice Creams in conversation with Ms. Priyanka Tanwar, Editor of Creature Companion Magazine on her education, entrepreneurial journey, product offerings, innovations, research and expansion plans. Excerpts . . .

What was the key motivation behind starting Waggy Zone?

It was my furball, Tyra – a German Shepherd. I was absolutely scared of dogs and then LOVE happened. My fiance had adopted Tyra when she was 45 days old; and Tyra and I fell in love with each other. As she is my first dog, I got very excited and I would attend all the pet events happening in the city. At the events, I realised that dogs would get only chicken rice and vanilla ice cream. I thought it was unfair to the dogs to get only vanilla ice cream, as I come from a family with an ice cream manufacturing business. Slowly, I realised that dogs cannot have milk and sugar and so my journey of developing Waggy Zone for my furball and then for the whole pet community began.

How far did your experience of growing up in a family with an ice cream manufacturing business help in shaping up your entrepreneurial venture?

Well! There wasn’t anything in the frozen dessert segment in the pet industry. So, coming from a background of ice cream manufacturers was a blessing. Ice cream is a temperature sensitive item and needs a lot of care while handling. I had to not only work around logistics for the frozen yogurts but also explain and educate about frozen products to every pet store that wanted to sell our offerings. We also had to explain about our products to a lot of pet parents, as it was a relatively new concept in the pet industry. Even after studying about dogs and canine nutrition, it was a challenge to fit what’s good for dogs with the traditional definition of ice creams or frozen treats.

Tell us about the different flavours of doggy ice creams that Waggy Zone offers. How did you go about shortlisting these flavours?

We have five flavours available in frozen yogurts. These are – Honey, Banana, Blueberry, Mango and Carrot. We had initially made a list of fruits that dogs could eat and made yogurt samples with each of them. After doing a trial and error of all the flavours for six months, we observed that these five flavours were most liked by doggos, so we selected these five droolicious flavours for our final product.

What kind of research did you carry out before coming up with your present ice cream formula?

I sat down with a few vets to study about dogs and the food products that they are not allowed. Generally, a human ice cream is primarily made up of milk and sugar, and both these items are harmful to dogs. Thus, we make our frozen treats with yogurt, which is probiotically healthy for dogs; and honey, which is again healthy for canines. And we have formulated it like an ice cream so that dogs can enjoy healthy ice creams which pet parents can feed guilt-free.

Waggy Zone recently opened a store at Mira Road in Mumbai. Tell us more about this. Which other brands does your store retail?

Waggy Zone has opened a distribution centre at Mira road, Mumbai. This store supplies only Waggy Zone frozen yogurts for dogs.

Which pet stores and e-portals retail Waggy Zone Dog Ice Creams in India?

With our frozen yogurts, we are active majorly in Bombay and Delhi. However, with our new product – Waggy Zone Doggy Insta Mix, we can now ship across India via Amazon. We would soon be available at all retail stores across India as well.

You recently introduced a range of merchandise for pet lovers. Tell us about these new offerings.

We will officially launch our merchandise line for pet parents in the upcoming days. This line includes passport covers, pet print trays, pet themed notebooks and other products. These would soon be available on our website and also on Amazon.

Which other categories do you want to diversity into?

We have just launched Waggy Zone Doggy Ice Cream Insta Mixes. These are available in two of our top-selling flavours – Banana and Mango. It is a dry item so it is easy to transport. It will soon be available at all leading pet stores across India. A lot of pet parents have tried the insta mix and up till now we have received an excellent response. Now you can make guilt-free ice creams for your dogs at home in just 3 simple steps. All you have to do is add water and freeze.

You won the Nari Shakti Award 2018 for Business and Entrepreneurship – Innovations and the Young Innovators Award at Women Economic Forum 2019 in Amsterdam. In what ways does national and international recognition help in opening up new business opportunities?

Recognition always helps people to believe in their dreams. I remember when I came up with the idea of Doggy Ice Creams, people laughed at me saying who makes ice creams for dogs! Some people even remarked that are humans dying that now you will make ice creams for dogs! People kept making fun of my start-up until I got my first ever award from Nari Shakti. I patiently took all the negative criticism in my stride and let my accomplishments speak for my innovative work. International recognition was the next beautiful appreciation that I received. The World Economic Forum award bagged me some international business opportunities for Waggy Zone.

How does it feel to be a woman entrepreneur?

It is a beautiful experience to be a women entrepreneur. You already have the skill of managing people and prioritising your work. As women, we are unknowingly equipped with managing skills and empathy. Both play an important role in running a company. When you have empathy, you can relate to your clients and your team which helps you at every business step – from making the product to selling it; and maintaining a happy working place as well.

What challenges have you faced while shipping the frozen desserts from one city to another?

Well, like I have mentioned earlier the pet industry didn’t have anything frozen so managing logistics was easy but to explain to the resellers about the ice creams was a tedious task. We had to explain everything to them – from handling of the products to their storage. There were instances when we even had to explain about freezers and how to maintain them. People didn’t realise how sensitive ice creams are unless they got into it. We had to keep guiding them on how to differentiate between a good and bad product through simple observation. We were very sceptical initially as we didn’t know if resellers would know when an ice cream would get spoilt. Luckily, we have never had such an incident and all our social media channels always reply to customers when they message with a query.

What lessons have your learnt in your journey as an entrepreneur?

I learnt that ethics and consistency play a very vital role in your journey of entrepreneurship. It is important that you stand by your principles and believe in yourself. There were times in my journey when I wanted to give up or bend my principles as it was an easy way out but because I chose to stick around and keep making products that wouldn’t harm dogs in the long run, people now trust my brand and me.

What are your expansion plans for the future?

Initially, we were only available in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore but now we are expanding nationally with our Ice Cream Insta Mix. And soon, we should be available internationally too. We want to spread happiness across the globe.