Meet the 21-year-old who turned her love for animals into a successful petcare business
Once a pet rescuer, forever a pet lover.
Twenty-one-year-old Anushka Iyer’s journey as a pet parent and the Founder and CEO of petcare startup Wiggles started on somewhat similar notes. It was around October 2018, and Anushka, who had always been keen on the state of pet healthcare (preventive petcare, to be more specific) in India, was busy planning a trip to the Blue Cross, an animal welfare charity.
The Blue Cross visit turned out to be an experience that she wouldn’t forget. The state of petcare in India is beyond miserable. Millions of stray dogs survive on the streets of the country, according to HelpAnimalsIndia.org, and most happen to be abandoned pets.
“Pet abandonment happens in India,” explains Anushka, “because people buy dogs as a status symbol and they lack or have limited knowledge in preventive healthcare.”
“Ignorance amongst pet owners about preventive pet healthcare often leads to high vet costs and finally abandonment, since it’s marred by information asymmetry and access to personalised products,” she says.
To address this ignorance and petcare knowledge among first-time and seasoned pet parents, Anushka launched Wiggles in December 2018 along with her father Rajh Iyer and Co-founder Venky Mahadevan.
The Pune-based startup’s goal is simple: to introduce transparency associated with costs, medication, nutrition, and wellness options across the pet industry.
A three-pronged approach
The platform’s flagship offering is the Wiggles Box, a monthly preventive healthcare subscription box that contains anti-parasitic medicines, nutritional products, and essential vitamins for pets.
“Our Wiggles Boxes are individually curated by our team of in-house experts, keeping in mind a pet’s needs and requirements. A Wiggles Box for cats starts at Rs 1,095 per month and a Wiggles Box for dogs begins at Rs 1,200. They include the best of healthcare products put together specially for your pet,” Anushka says.
This offering is further complemented with personalised alerts to ensure “you never miss your pet’s supplement dosage”. The subscription-based curated healthcare product box, however, is just one part of the three-pronged approach followed by the company. Vet-on-call and grooming services form the other two pillars of its services.
“The consultancy prices for vet on call start at Rs 299 and visiting charges depend on the location and the requirements of the pet and the health conditions,” the founder says.
The grooming services have been created keeping in mind simplicity, affordability, and convenience for pets, and start at Rs 799. Apart from this, Wiggles has annual healthcare plans that ensure consistent vet and grooming visits every month along with basic and mandatory vaccines, tests etc. “covered and done by us right when it has to be done”.
The company’s portfolio also includes a range of 18 petcare products curated keeping in mind the pain points of a first-time pet parent.
“Some of our top-selling organic range of products such as the ‘Brushless Dental Spray’, ‘Waterless Bath Spray’, ‘Anti-Wound Spray’, and ‘Anti Tick powder’ are based on live enzyme technology and provide convenience backed by effectiveness for pet parents,” Anushka says.
Pet healthcare – a market ripe for disruption
India’s pet care market, riding on growing disposable income and increasing humanisation of pets, continues to record double-digit growth. A trend that has, unsurprisingly, grabbed eyeballs of the investors and new players alike.
Many pet startups such as Heads Up for Tails, PetKonnect, Petcart, and Woofwoofnow have come up in recent years, claiming to solve one or the other pet-related concern. What this multi-player market has failed to achieve, however, is a personalised approach towards pet healthcare.
“The pet healthcare market is dominated by a handful of players worldwide, who are reliant on B2B channels for distribution and continue to struggle to build direct relationships with evolving customer needs,” Anushka says.
“Right now this market is ripe for disruption since one size does not fit all, and every dog needs a personalised healthcare plan.”
With this vision, Wiggles has set out to take a stronghold of the direct-to-consumer petcare market by administering a definitive first-mover advantage. “We are not reinventing the wheel here, but manufacturing OTC products, keeping in mind simplicity, affordability and convenience,” the founder says.
Currently a team of 72, most of whom are either pet parents or pet lovers, Wiggles is available on ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, BigBasket, and Dunzo. Aimed at spreading awareness about preventive pet healthcare, the platform will soon launch the Wiggles App to simplify pet healthcare further.
Expansion and growth
In November 2019, Wiggles took the first step towards strengthening its presence, operations, distribution, and expanding its product range.
The petcare startup raised angel funding of $1 million from a clutch of high net-worth (HNI) individuals. The participating investors included Nachikhet Deshpande, COO of L&T Infotech; Aparna Badkundri, Director, Dell Computers; Sachin Phadke, MD of Vetbiochem India; Abhay Amrute, Senior Partner, IIFL Wealth Management Ltd; Satish Billakota, VP, Europe Cognizant; and Risshee Tandulwadkar, Founder, Solo Stem Cell Clinic.
“In a short span of time, Wiggles has enabled pet parents to become stress-free by means of our Wiggles Box,” Anushka had said at the time. “Having started off our operations in a single city, Pune, we have now expanded our presence to Mumbai. We will soon be present in Hyderabad and Udaipur and are focused on creating a brand with pan-India presence.”
The plan of taking Wiggles to all major Indian cities, however, is a vision marked by several key milestones, one of them being the moment they got their drug licence.
“When we decided to create our own range of products, we were told by almost everyone that it would take months to acquire the licence and we were falling off track. However, we were relentless, and we received it in 24 days,” the entrepreneur recalls.
In fact, Anushka’s biggest milestone is also something that has, in a way, shaped her entire entrepreneurial journey, even lending the name for her startup: her own pet, Wiggles.
“One of our doctors found Wiggles in a very critical condition after the breeder had bathed him with Surf powder due to ignorance and lack of awareness,” she recalls. “We adopted him and nursed him back to health. Our company is named after Wiggles, strong, full of love, and empathy.”
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)