Creature Companion had an opportunity to interact with Anushka Iyer, Founder and CEO at Wiggles.in and discussed the journey of the company so far and its future plans. Being a pet parent herself, she is a passionate animal lover and a voracious reader. For her, the success of her company lies in seeing healthy and happy tail-wagging furry friends.
Congratulations on completing three years. Tell us about the learnings you have had in the past three years.
The past three years came with a plethora of learnings. COVID-19 was the greatest teacher. It taught us patience, perseverance, and resilience. Wiggles Tribe, our online Facebook community was bustling with a lot of activity from pet parents wanting advice, help, behavioral consultations, vet care and pet food during COVID-19. We didn’t hesitate to go the extra mile even though we were short staffed. In some cases, I had to personally go for deliveries which was an immense learning in itself. We launched new products, started new services and evolved into being on pet parents’ ‘favorites’ list on their phones. In the end, it all worked out by joining the dots and preparing us for the future.
How did Wiggles come into being?
Wiggles did not start as a business. It was more of a passion for pets.
I wanted to make pet health care hassle-free and we were not destined to be just fair weather friends only for the good haul. We wanted tobe with pets and pet parents in the good and the bad times and be their partners in Pethood. This is how we began when I started the company and it has only grown stronger.
When I look back, growing up in a family with pets and taking forward the legacy of my uncle being the General Secretary of Blue Cross of India & FIAPO, this was my natural and intuitive calling.
We wanted to focuson awareness amongst pet parents about their pets. Incidentally, Wiggles started as a WhatsApp platform to address queries from pet parents. Later, the WhatApp Group graduated to a Facebook group as we grew in numbers. Today, Wiggles Tribe, our online Facebook Pet- Parent Community is a close-knit group of 20k+ members across India. It is used purely as a platform to educate pet parents; it is non-commercial and more awareness-driven.
We realized that pet parents have a lot of basic queries on veterinary care, grooming, training etc. New pet parents are especially the most vulnerable when it comes to taking care of new-born puppies. We know pet parents spendlimited time with vets. Vets have a busy schedule and are not easily accessible, hence, this group was instrumental in discussing and answering those queries online.
Today, just having a pet is not good enough. You need to know how to take care of them. Creating awareness about petcare is of primary importance. We began with posting content through blogs, infographics, reels, FB LIVE – all of which isvet-approved and pet-centric.
While communicating, the visual medium helps. The entire team puts in that extra effort, right from our in-house vets, to our groomers, trainers andnutritionists, they all help with sharing answers with our members.
We believe with the right information at the right time pet abandonment will reduce.
“We serve, thus, we grow!”
You started with services, something which is difficult to scale up and maintain quality as it is manpower centric.
The petcare services industry was ready for disruption. There were almost zero to none contenders providing 360 degree services for pets, in fact there still aren’t. We tried to address the pain points of pet parents in a concentrated manner. The entire space was fragmented. If pet parents could have their pets groomed and a vet to treat them in a friendly environment, it would give all concerned the comfort of having a pet at home. We wanted to provide that kind of trust-worthy service to pets and pet parents.
When veterinary experts from Wiggles visit pets to render services at home we want pets to be happy to see them, not terrified.
“The benchmark for quality care for us at Wiggles is when we see a happy wagging tail, lots of licks or the sweetest of purrs when our vets or groomers go back for another appointment. Each pet is taken care of with empathy & compassion. We want them to feel comfortable and loved before, during and after any grooming session or vet check-up.”
We get a number of applications from vets, groomers, trainers amongst others. We look for empathy in them while handing pets besides skills and qualifications. When we are dealing with an animal that cannot speak we need to create an unspoken bond with them to make them comfortable.
How India’s First Pet Sanitizer came into being?
Originally, we had conceptualized a pet sanitizer. We were planning to launch a product that pet parents could use on their pet’s paws and coat after a walk, to keep them germ-free. It was in the pipeline pre-COVID-19.
During COVID-19, most pet parents were apprehensive of taking their dogs out for walks, some were using alcohol-based human sanitizers on pets which were harmful to pets. That hastened the production of our pet sanitizers which killed 99.9% germs and was alcohol-free. It received a great response in the market and pet parents loved it. It was a product instrumental in the growth of Wiggles’ and its commitment towards pets.
How did you step into the pet food space and other products?
Pet parents were struggling to find food for their pets duringlockdowns. Supply chains were disrupted, so even though companies had stock, they were unable to deliver due to lockdown restrictions. Imports had been affected and since most pet parents were dependent on foreign brands, they were short in supply. As a pilot case, we thought we should try to help pet parents to tide over the challenge. A makeshift kitchen was established in our office. Everyday, we prepared fresh food and delivered it to pet parents in Pune, our base. Word of mouth spread. We were happy to help, however, orders started pouring in from other cities too like, Mumbai, Bangalore etc.
The cloud kitchenmodel was not scalable. So we came up with retort packaging that could be delivered in other cities without compromising on food quality. That is how we slowly got a foot in the door. Post that we engaged ourselves in finding out the need for an Indian pet food brand. I am a firm believer in ‘Make in India’ products. And this is how Wiggles pet food was beginning to see the light of day, slowly.
Our market survey indicated that there is a need for an Indian Pet Food brand. We put our heads together and came up with dry food, something that was not available in the market. We had a lot of sessions together and finally we came up with oven baked pet food. Today, it contributes to 30% of Wiggles’ revenue. We have not looked back ever since. With puppy food, Barkstix treats for dogs and Kittibles for cats, our pet food portfolio is going strong.
Our present portfolio includes Wiggles Wet Food for dogs, YKibble Oven Baked Dry Food for adult dogs and puppies and Kittibles, dry food for cats and kittens along with Barkstix for dogs in 2 flavors and xylitol-free Peanut Butter for pets.
You already had two rounds of funding. How are you going to use the fund?
We had seed funding and recently raised pre-series funding of $5.5M. All our investors have been incredible partners for us. What binds us together is our combined love and devotion towards pets and animals in general. All of them are pet parents and they know the pain points that make them natural believers in what we do.
Anthill Ventures and Panthera Peak Ventures have been supportive to us in our entrepreneurial journey. With their positive guidance we are moving ahead of the curve and aiming to build a strong D2C business model on a sustainable foundation. Their advice helps us in charting out paths that are more focused. We wish to use the funds in expanding our capabilities, market penetration, marketing, research and development and hiring skilled talent.
Your future plan at Wiggles.in
We have plans to expand products and services and also increase footprints in other cities. We are on course to launch the first medicine for epileptic pets soon. Again this was based on feedback received from pet parents.
The growth percentage is nothing less than 25% CAGR. This is evident from the fact that so many petcare companies are doing phenomenal work and there is an increase in pet parents. COVID-19 helped people to adopt more pets and now they are part of their lives.
Your take on petcare trends in 2022
Human care is influencing pet care products. These are very interesting trends that I am witnessing. The mindset of pet parents has changed from a pet being a companion to a family member. Pet parents are more aware and they want the best for their pets. I would personallylike to see more pet brands finding their roots in India.