• Startup Name: CollarFolk
  • Founders: Rukmini Vaish and Vijay Chandrashekar
  • Year of founding: Feb 2016
  • Funding Status: Bootstrapped

Going out on a vacation and worried where to leave your precious pet? Planning to spend some activities with your pet but unsure of what to exactly? Well, if these things concern you, don’t hassle up, here might be something that will help you and result in providing you tension free solutions.

CollarFolk helps you to plan vacations with your pet buddies. It’s pretty simple, Browse through the options, Reach out to the holiday managers, Book and Check-in; be welcomed with your pet.

  • They help you to plan your detailed itinerary with the activities that you could share with your pet during your vacation.
  • A pet friendly transportation plan
  • Holidays range from a drivable weekend getaway close to your city to a trek up the Himalayas with your pet.

CollarFolk Services

  • Pet Picks – A curation of the most pet friendly rooms. These rooms are personally vetted to meet stringent requirements that are ideal to host pet parents. E.g. Pet Sitters, Private Open Spaces etc. Additionally, all of the Pet Picks have pet menus in place, after all your pet is on a vacation too.
  • Experiences – These includes activities ranging from nature trails, camping, treks and kayaking.
  • A Holiday Manager – The Holiday Manager helps you in selecting the right place basis the time of the year, the nature of your pet and various other factors. The holiday manager remains accessible to you even during your holiday for any additional assistance and help.
  • Vet On Call – All the clusters have vets on call and have pet shops nearby in case required.
  • Travel Planning – Since pet travel is different from normal travel plans. They play an active role in planning your trip be it road, air or travel by train.

How it all started?

Rukmini the founder, explains, “As a pet parent for a majority of my life, I have experienced the inconvenience of traveling or not traveling with my pet on vacations. Choosing sub-optimal options is not just difficult but heart wrenching. I either had to leave a family member behind or have trustworthy domestic help stay back. All this meant multiple calls back home to check on them and on numerous occasions waiting for the vacation to end to be back with them. Today the options remain equally difficult ranging from pet boarding facilities to kennels.

If only every pet parent could feel that way and realize having a pet doesn’t necessarily mean compromises but that’s much more fun, we would have so many more wanting to adopt pets. India is becoming a little more pet friendly, so we started with the pet taxi to facilitate this. The idea is to gradually have families believe that it is not all that difficult and handhold them in overcoming their apprehensions.

Who all the team consists of?

Rukmini Vaish is a Pet lover, pet parent to Jack, Zara and Kiki.

Over 8 years of experience in sales and marketing with global Telecom and Consumer Durable. She has an Economics Hon. Degree from Sri Venketeshwara College in Delhi and completed her post graduation in Management from IMT, Ghaziabad

Vijay Chandrashekar, Dog person, shares his home with the mighty Thor and Kaiser.

Having worked across verticals and roles has been a core to his experience. Starting with M&A deal experience with the Mahindra Group, he moved on to the Axis Capital(erstwhile ENAM) as part of their investment banking division before returning to the Mahindra Group to be a part of the setup team for US 2Wheeler (electric) business after which he led the restructuring of their domestic 2 wheeler business. His last stint was with Mahindra’s PE & incubation cell within the Group before moving on to manage the India Portfolio of a global Impact investment fund. He completed his B.Com from HR College in Mumbai and has a management degree from SIBM, Pune.

Journey so far

The traction so far has been very interesting as they launched their website in late Feb 2016. In total they had 400+ transactions. They believe to continue to see rapid growth in both their verticals (Pet Taxi and Pet Holiday). The company consist of 120+ partners for their holiday verticals, and presently they are looking at some very encouraging initial responses for their new product offerings as well.

How did they get their first Customer?

Rukmini says, her first customer was a pet taxi customer. She decided to give it a try and put up posters at a couple of vet clinics hoping to succeed with a plan in Delhi City. The team didn’t hear their phone ring for 15 days. Just when they thought they should get back to the drawing board, they got a call for a ride to the pet clinic on a Sunday morning.

Considering they were still testing the market they had not invested in a car. So here she was on Sunday morning, rushing for their first taxi ride in Delhi. She explained “It was an exhilarating feeling. I remember having a good chat with the guest and they were pleasantly surprised to see me in my own car outside the pick-up location. It was a very humbling yet a very memorable experience.”

What are their future plans?

Rukmini described, as part of their planning and execution exercise they ensure that they are focused on three work fronts at any given time.

  1. Identifying the right skill sets to be a part of the core team at CollarFolk.
  2. Drive partner addition and engagement as we look drive scale.
  3. Technology based improvement for our product offering.

In long term perspective, they aim to establish a brand synonymous with pet travel and vacations, as they look to holistically address a pet family’s pain point during vacationing. They are also in the process of identifying strategic international markets to tap into with their product and service offering.

What is your funding status?

CollarFolk is bootstrapped till date.

She says “It is good to back your idea. It’s a sign of confidence and your willingness to have your skin in the game. However, with money being a scarce resource at this stage, it is absolutely essential that we distill our priorities to a handful and have a clear set of objectives which will go a long way in attracting capital for our next stage (if required).”

Also she advises, always have a plan B. Raising capital is time consuming and will not happen as quickly as we would like it to. Ensure you have sufficient runway to keep plugging away while you look to raise capital simultaneously.

Biggest challenge you faced as an entrepreneur establishing your startup & how did you overcome it?

India has not seen any sizable pet player stand out in the domestic or international stage. Both businesses and customers’ needs to facilitate the evolution of the market, I consider it as the responsibility of any pioneer. It takes careful planning and at the same time thinking on your feet to ensure we don’t take our eyes of the ball at any stage especially when there is an operational business.

We continue to face the challenge but with sharp learning curve and better equipped to deal with it; we have in place the standard operating manuals to training processes for our stakeholders and team to address scenarios and situations in an effective yet responsible manner. Also it is important to have built-in flexibilities in our systems and products because every day we learn something new and may need the system to take it into account

Who are your competitors and how do you plan to compete them?

We do not have any active direct competition. There are a few who are expected to come on stream soon. However, to look at it from addressing their moot point, their competition includes pet boarding service providers and kennels.To stay in the game for a longer duration their strategy is “Product innovation” as it remains key for them. They have the first mover advantage coupled with a steep learning curve of operating in this space for the around 6 months. They believe they will bring to bear their learning as they continue to constantly evolve their product while keep a close watch on customer experience.

To stay in the game for a longer duration their strategy is “Product innovation” as it remains key for them. They have the first mover advantage coupled with a steep learning curve of operating in this space for the around 6 months. They believe they will bring to bear their learning as they continue to constantly evolve their product while keep a close watch on customer experience.

What is the biggest learning so far in your journey?

Never to shy away from any task, be it small or big”, She proudly says. From a situation where she or her partner would be personally driving their vehicles to meet Pet Taxi demand and later in the day meeting advisors to discuss more strategic aspects, there is no task that is not important. It has helped us not just to get closer to the customer but also confidently deliver on our promise just out of knowing what it takes to have happy guests and customers.

What are the plans of expanding internationally?

Although India boasts of being the fastest growing pet market in the world, it is yet to become the friendliest. Some of the international markets are more evolved in terms of pet family behavior and service provider understanding of the needs of such a segment. We intend to enter some of the key international markets in future.

In concluding the talk with Rukmini, signs of with a note to the newbie entrepreneurs, “In the market, to do sufficient research on the market space and various factors that could play a role in the execution of your idea. Break up the idea into small goals and phases. A team is always more convincing than an individual. Try identifying the right resources even though not all of them may want to jump right in from the get go.”

Author

"The article was first published in The Cofounder". The Cofounder is India’s first print magazine which writes about early stage startups and entrepreneurship.

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