Meet the young entrepreneurs launching an eco-friendly apparel line for pets and their parents

Kulsum Sheikh, Dhruvika Mangla, and Grahesh Srinivas presented their startup idea, an eco-friendly apparel line for pets and owners, at Advantage 15, an entrepreneurship competition organised by Clever Harvey in association with IIT-Kharagpur’s E-Cell.

It was another casual day at home. Kulsum Sheikh was scrolling through some news websites with her mother when they came across Clever Harvey, a platform that offers online programmes designed for teenagers to explore different career options and build creativity and business acumen.

After a few days, Kulsum received emails about Advantage 15, India’s largest entrepreneurship competition that Clever Harvey was conducting in association with IIT-Kharagpur’s E-Cell.

The competition invited participation from Classes 8-12, encouraging students to learn and use their skills to create innovative business ideas.

Kulsum, a 17-year-old student of Karamveer Bhaurao Patil College (Modern College), jumped at the idea. She entered the competition and, during the training sessions, teamed up with Grahesh Srinivas (15) from National Academy For Learning (NAFL), Basaveshnagar, Karnataka, and Dhruvika Mangla (17), from Bhai Parmanand Vidya Mandir, Delhi, to brainstorm on a business idea.

While Ganesh had an idea about fluctuating rates like stocks for the products on a website, Kulsum felt that no one had the time to surf websites to wait for lower prices or time-bound deals.

The team conceptualised Furrtango, a website for pets’ clothing with personalised services, to address a gap in the market, and presented it at Advantage 15’s final rounds.

“The competition was held at the end of 10-day intensive training on how to prepare and present a business plan. Our facilitator mentored us in learning the basics of business from case studies of many companies, and we prepared our pitch. The pitch itself was a lot of fun - we were able to handle the judges’ questions easily,” Kulsum says.

But the moment they won made it truly special.

“Biswa Kalyan Rath, who made a special appearance at Clever Harvey’s Advantage15 event, announced our name, and we couldn’t believe it,” she adds.

Clothing for pets and owners

Furrtango wants to address the lack of pet clothing brands in the market.

Kulsum explains: “For instance, a sphinx cat doesn’t have fur, so it is even more difficult to keep them warm during the winters. Therefore, we envision Furrtango to be the one-stop destination for all requirements for pet clothing. These days, people treat their pets as their family members, and rightly so. At Furrtango, we offer customised and matching apparel with the owners to make occasions more special.”

The aim is to protect animals during harsh weather conditions, and keep them comfortable and stylish in an eco-friendly manner. All this while reducing plastic pollution and taking ownership to protect the environment.

The startup also wants to extend eco-friendly pet clothing to include pet owners who want to co-ordinate with their furry friends by offering customisation services.

“All our products are top of the line and durable to ensure that your little troublemaker can roam without you worrying about the damage. Furrtango’s apparel made of plastic fibres and polyesters is 100 percent machine washable. There are no representatives of the animal community in the fashion industry, and so steps in Furrtango,” she says.

The team has made a prototype, and is planning to move forward with guidance from mentors at Clever Harvey.

“The next step will be to find our target market and sell some products. Our biggest goal will be to save the ocean from plastic. We will also sign deals to showcase our products at fashion shows,” Kulsum says.

The team aims to target middle-class families and pet owners of all age groups.

Around 90 percent of its revenue will come from product sales - apparel and accessories. The remaining 10 percent will come from website ads. Customers will have to pay for in-app purchases like a third trial online (only one trial per day) and engravings in accessories etc.

The co-founders are readying for a quick launch on completion of the Clever Harvey Incubator Program in January 2022, and the Rs 1 lakh prize money they won at the competition will aid in their efforts.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai


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