How a dog lover turned a store into an omnichannel pet care business

For a child who had always dreamed of having a pet but was faced with the familiar ultimatum of “either the pet stays home or I stay”, Anthony Ashish has come a long way. He founded JUSTDOGS, a retail brand with an annual turnover of over Rs 100 crore, over 16,000 recurring customers, over 50+ stores, across India.

But it all started with that first step he took in the 90s when he was living alone as a bachelor in Mumbai. Ashish has found the freedom to have his first pet – a German Shepherd puppy. At that time, as an employee of ICICI Bank in charge of the Western region, he did not think twice when he got the chance to move to Ahmedabad. In fact, he looked forward to a slower pace of life and more open spaces.

Once in Ahmedabad, Ashish married Poorvi, a corporate trainer and fellow dog lover, and the couple soon became owners of six dogs – four German Shepherds and two Rottweilers. They were so passionate about their dogs that when the bank called him back to Mumbai, he was ready to put his career aside for the sake of his dogs!

“The main reason for my resignation from ICICI Bank was when my boss asked me to move to Mumbai. I couldn’t move to Mumbai with six dogs! Ashish recalls.

Ashish Anthony (right) with his employees during a training session

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How it all began

Besides being a pet parent, through all of his corporate experience in the 90s and early 2000s, Ashish Anthony was constantly doing one thing: starting businesses. From Unilever to Shell, ICICI Bank and Barclays – Ashish’s roles in all of these companies have led him to explore markets in rural areas and learn everything from FMCG to finance.

“Around 2010 when I was at Barclays, the banking industry, in general, was not doing very well. Barclays had put us beyond the reach of any other bank in India in terms of what we were getting, so even though I moved to another organization, they weren’t going to pay me what I was getting,” Ashish said.

When thoughts swirled around starting his own business, it boiled down to what he knew best.

“I’ve always thought that to get into any business, it’s very important for you to like that business, know it, and have some passion for it. Otherwise, it becomes very difficult for a man first-generation business,” says Ashish.

For Ashish, that passion was in dogs. In 2010, a big gap he saw in the market was the lack of choice in pet products – whether it was food or accessories.

“When I was made redundant from Barclays I was trying to cut costs in a number of ways, but when it came to my dogs I was not missing any expense. It was then that I realized those who were really shaukeen (keen) about their pets, will spare no effort to spoil them,” he says.

Although Ashish was convinced, it was met with initial skepticism from friends and colleagues. “When we shared our idea with them, they were perplexed, “Why are you opening a pet store? » The first thing that people think of when they think of a pet store is a seedy 250 square foot place with food packets and dog leashes. We were convinced that it was possible to change perceptions here and bring some organization to the chaos, and launched JUSTDOGS in 2011,” says Ashish, adding that he is proud to say it is of the leading retail chain of pet products in the country.

Starting with a small store in Ahmedabad, JUSTDOGS launched its largest retail store in the country earlier this year – a 4,000 square foot space in Thane, complete with a pet spa!

“We opened our first physical store in Ahmedabad, which many people believe is the last place in the country to start a pet business as its demographics boast of Gujaratis, Marwadis and Jains. When they hear about dogs, they associate them with non-vegetarian products and they don’t want to do anything with dogs. But we saw it as a great testing ground for what India would be as a market as well,” Ashish recalls.

He says that while he knew pet penetration in the state was very low, he didn’t see it as a problem. The problem, he said, was awareness. “As we started to educate people about different products, our business started to grow. We didn’t have a lot of money, so we decided to franchise. Our growth has been across Gujarat, which is why every city in Gujarat has a JUSTDOGS store,” says Ashish.

“The idea is to provide products and services that contribute to the long, happy and healthy lives of fur babies. Whether it’s food, toys, accessories, training or grooming, we want JUSTDOGS to be a one-stop solution for all lifelong pet needs,” says Poorvi.

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In its early days, JUSTDOGS catered to all pet requirements except health. From pet food to accessories, to breeding dogs to training them, it was all part of the JUSTDOGS experience.

“We wanted to scale it a lot more, and picked all the scalable businesses we could think of and started doing them offline. Since pet food is inherently logistical, we wanted to make sure our business was also hyper-local. Now we are much more efficient with our product transportation costs,” he says. The company currently has 19 branches and 22 franchisees across the country.

To provide 360-degree support to improve the journey for pet parents, the company has teamed up with partners to offer pet insurance and training and behavior workshops.

“In the second phase of expansion, we will provide medically prescribed products from our store and app. The app will be a one-stop solution for complete health tracking history, insurance, medical feed and growth,” says Ashish.

Earlier this year, JUSTDOGS raised $7 million from consumer-focused venture capital fund Sixth Sense Ventures to create a comprehensive online experience for pet parents.

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A pet market

According to market research firm Market Decipher, India’s pet care market size was estimated at Rs 74,000 crore in 2021 and is expected to reach Rs 210,000 crore by 2032, growing at a CAGR of 19.2% over the forecast period from 2022 to 2032.

“Rapid urbanization, a move towards nuclear family configurations, dual-income households, lifestyle changes and the humanization of pets in recent years have been instrumental in increasing the ownership of pets across the globe. India is considered an active contributor to this league with a promising pet population of 32 million, which is growing at a rate of over 12% per year,” notes the report.

Ashish agrees as he says he wants JUSTDOGS to be more than a transactional outlet and sees the platform as a place where pet parents can come to get expert advice, discuss behavior pets, seek advice and live in a sense of community.

A handpicked team supports them in this great vision. “We more or less made up most of the retail team ourselves. pet services After our first round of funding, we have our next line of people.

It also helps that the pet industry is a much talked about industry now, and there are people genuinely keen to join the industry.

“People are easier to find now. Also, when you have cash on you, you’re able to pay people, and it’s easier to get the right kind of people. During the pandemic, we were even able to hand out raises as the pet industry saw a massive revival and we were visible as a segment,” says Ashish. JUSTDOGS currently has 195 employees.

The JUSTDOGS Foundation

Besides the store, Poorvi and Ashish also founded the JUSTDOGS Foundation, a non-profit organization for street dogs. Several projects, campaigns and campaigns are carried out within this framework, including the Raksha campaign (attaching reflective radium collars on street dogs), feeding sessions, vaccinations, etc.

“We have always loved dogs, and as a child, as I was not allowed to have any at home, I always played with street dogs. So I grew up with a lot of them. Even when we started this business, we always had two dogs right outside the door, and out of habit I always watched over them. We felt compelled to do something for street dogs, so we registered our foundation in January 2020,” says Ashish.

Future plans

By 2025, JUSTDOGS plans to open 150 stores across the country. “Over the next four or five years, we expect to hit Rs 1,000 crore, where at least 35% to 40% of the business comes from online and the rest offline. We’re already almost 35% online right now,” says Ashish.

Elaborating on future steps, he says, “We are expanding into food brands with products in the economy and premium segments. Besides food, there will be a strong portfolio to meet the growing needs of the fashion and apparel segment through our own brand.

“The pace the country is going, the pace the tech industry is growing, everything is an opportunity, maybe a challenging opportunity. You just need to have the money and the plan to execute it,” says the first-generation entrepreneur whose simple childhood love for dogs translated into more than that.