From being rejected by 200 retailers to clocking a revenue of Rs 16 crore, the journey of Heads up For Tails

At HerStory’s Women on a Mission Summit 2022, Rashi Narang, Founder and Creative Director Heads Up for Tails talked about her journey of starting up and raising funds.

From being rejected by 200 retailers to clocking a revenue of Rs 16 crore, the journey of Heads up For Tails

Friday March 25, 2022,

5 min Read

Since 2008 Rashi Narang has had one mission, to make pet parenting simpler and easier in India. When Rashi had started her startup Heads Up for Tails, she knew it would be an uphill battle. There were many questions around why a pet couture brand? Do we Indian pet parents need it? 

From the time when pet owners struggled to find the answers to many questions such as what to feed, how much to feed, how to groom their pets and so on, we are now in an era where there are a number of startups taking care of such needs for the pet owners. And arguably Heads Up For Tails was one of the first in the space. 

“In December 2021 we had a revenue of Rs 16 crore,” said Rashi in a conversation at HerStory’s Women on a Mission Summit. It  now caters to the unique needs of dogs and has a presence in nine cities with 41 stores and 20 spas. This despite facing rejection from over 200 retailers in India initially. 

Heads Up For Tails

Rashi Narang, Founder and CEO, Heads up for Tails

Starting from scratch 

“When I started there was simply nothing for puppies, senior dogs, or pets with needs. It was a clear white space, and my gut and intuition kept emphasising that it was a latent need. And I feel we don’t listen to our gut early on. We were ahead of time, it has taken time to build it but it was the innate belief,” said Rashi. 

And while Rashi had a plan in place, she soon realised it had to be thrown out of the window, as nothing was going according to plan. Everything had to be built from scratch - make the customer awareness, logistics, products, supply chain. 

“But the path unfolded nicely, if the 200 retailers hadn’t rejected us then, we wouldn’t have created a network of stores. Hindsight is always 20:20,” added Rashi. 

She first started with the products, and from there it was about setting up the pop up stores and different points of sale.

 “We had to explain why pets needed toys, and why it was important to groom and care for them. It was all working parallely - team, product, stores, and content. I was just going with the flow, while not the best business answer, I am being honest. The landscape simply wasn’t there,” Rashi elaborated. 

Hiring people for grooming isn't easy, it is about training everyone, it is about helping people become experts in the pet space. “It is as challenging if not more!” added Rashi. 

Can you be a stronger leader 

Rashi is no stranger to the challenges that come with being a woman founder. “There have been many times told that I am too soft, and a leader needs to be stronger, and really chart the path out. My style is different, I want more opinions to be heard. So I can choose to tune in or tune out. There have been many situations where I have been brushed out, and people won’t make eye contact, even some investors that I had earlier met. But I realised that I don't want to tune into that and stay authentic.” 

This narrative she said needed to change, and people need to call it out. 

Commenting on Heads Up for Tails raising $37 million in Series A funding, Rashi said: “It is an important milestone, and brings in great partners. But the challenge is that you have to work with someone else’s sense of speed and scale of growth. And a good pressure to build on your promises. I hope to see more women-led companies get funded.” 

Put yourself out there 

One of the biggest drawbacks is that lesser women led startups apply for funding, she rued. “Today the scenario is changing and a lot of fund houses are looking to fund women led startups. The nature of capital has changed, and the kind of people investing have changed, and are willing to work with founders who are looking for a different pace of growth.” 

Another issue is that women strive for perfection and they don’t flaunt our achievements, she highlighted. “But from my learnings I would say we need to be committed to the journey and the process. Many times we wonder how we are going to manage home and business. The idea is to find the right support system and have clarity of purpose and why are you doing what you are doing,” said Rashi. 

She says it is all about the B word - Balance! Some days you have to prioritise work and some other days your personal life. “I envy people who have achieved that balance every day, but I personally prioritise. Women as mothers have a lot of guilt, and that can be tough. However it is about being present wherever you are,” added Rashi. 

So what next for Heads up for Tails? Definitely Tier II and III cities, and further growth and awareness of the brand, she said. 

Rashi’s advice to women entrepreneurs? “Go for your dreams even if it is one small step at a time. Many times I have had to temper my ambitions, but it is about moving forward. As Martin Luther King Jr once said - If you can’t fly, run, if you can’t run, walk, and if you can’t walk crawl. But just keep moving forward.”

A shout out to the sponsors of Women on a Mission Summit 2022, an Initiative by HerStory, by YourStory - BYJU’S, the presenting partner, and other sponsors - Kyndryl, Sequoia Spark, Zilingo, Atlassian, Akamai, Freshworks for Startups, and Netapp Excellerator.

Sponsor Shoutout

Edited by Ramarko Sengupta