Elite K9 Club: Supporting holistic care for dogs

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Elite K9 Club is a Bangalore based startup founded by Pratik Sen in 2016. The vision behind this startup is to  support holistic lifestyle care for dogs. Elite K9 Club has presence in  Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad and Noida.

Bangalore is one of the biggest markets for the pet care industry, that has a cultural diversity that maps the entire country, and secondlym, it is also the city Pratik calls home, says Pratik.

We at Bangalore Insider had the opportunity to catch up with Pratik, the founder of  Elite K9 Club  and to know more about the startup, read his inspiring story.

 

Pratik: founder of Elite K9 Club

Give a brief info about your startup?

Compassionate Canine was founded as a Pet Care startup with a focus on holistic lifestyle care for dogs. Through the Elite K9 Clubs across India combined with the other integrated services such as pet parent counselling prior to adoption, guidance and advisory services, pet relocation services, etc. we have our objective in improving the bond between pet and parent, thus enriching the life of the pet, and reducing abandonment. Our approach is to promote pet parenting as a lifestyle rather than ownership, and hopes to inculcate a more equitable and mutually reapectful relationship between pets and parents. We started in 2016 with Elite K9 Club’s proof of concept at Hennur, with 10 centres planned in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad and Noida.

What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?

 Pratik has lived with pets all his life, and through thick and thin, the singular challenge was a place where dogs coule be themselves without restrictions, conditions, or consequences. Elite K9 Club is not anything new – in fact there are quite a few dog parks in Bangalore and just about every town or city we plan to expand into – which brings us to what we offer – accountability and ownership of the park. At the end of the day, when you take your pet to the park, there are either restrictions on where he/she can move, conditions on how he/she must behave, and most importantly, there are always consequences of the misadventure, despite our best intentions – from ticks and fleas to greater threats such as communicable diseases, and infections.While most other places offer sometimes even larger expanses for the dogs to play about, the commitment to cleanliness, hygiene, and protection of this environment against the risks that are inherent for a place frequented by dogs and other animals. This commitment is the problem that Compassionate Canine solves.

Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?

From his beginnings as a door-to-door salesman at Eureka Forbes, to running Media Mindscape, and outdoor advertising solutions probider, followed by Mindscape Maestro, a Sports and Celebrity Management outfit that managed stars such as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, John Abraham, Suresh Raina, RP Singh and many others, Pratik’s journey is one that combines two traits – a die-hard entrepreneureal spirit, and his yearning for the path not tread upon. .

Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?

 Compassionate Canine built its proof of concept for Elite K9 Club in Bangalore because of two simple reasons. Firstly, Bangalore is one of the biggest markets for the pet care industry, that has a cultural diversity that maps the entire country, and secondlym, it is also the city Pratik calls home.

As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?

 As a startup founder, pet parent, or as a member of Elite K9 Club, the one thing that keeps me awake at night is operational consistency and excellence. As each day passes, I go from my life as of yesterday’s worth of learning, to today. There is never enough knowledge, understanding or experience when it comes to running a tight ship. When bootstrapping, manifests as the risk of a cash crunch, and when well funded, it manifests itself as the risk of failure. While every idea that transforms into a startup has the potential to thrive, what keeps me awake at night is “What will happen to pets in India, if Compassionate Canine fails”, while we may not be in a position to claim to be making a difference, our motto is as basic as “Every puppy not abandoned, is one puppy saved”, and it does make me lose sleep.

Who are your competitions and how are you better than them?

As I mentioned earlier, there are people operating in similar spaces, but I do not see any direct competition as of now. Perhaps I am speaking too soon, but given the current time frame, our operating model, objectives and approach, we do not see any other player in the market vying for the same market segment we are.

How hard is it to have a work life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?

Calling it hard would be making an understatement. For startups and especially those bootstrapping, there is no such thing as balance because until you reach breakeven, it’s hell on earth. However, for Compassionate Canine, we took an iterative approach to growth that allowed us a few milestones where we had a minimum viable product that was stable and operational, thus allowing our people, processes, and systems to mature and stabilize while we plan the next round of development. When your life’s worth is involved, work-life balance can be a little difficult to conceive in our minds, but it is achievable if planned appropriately. Currently, as we map our growth plan, there is this period of relative stability wehre we mend our nets and train our people, and brace ourselves for the next onslaught of challenges.

Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise.

 Not yet, as funding is a tricky ground  for us to tread – tricky because there’s a very delicate balance that we’ve struck from being dewy eyed idealists who want to do the best they can for dogs, and businessmen looking to establish a profitable business. We were a little hesitant to approach for funding without at least a fully functional prototype and with the proof of concept ready and driving revenues as we speak, we would be looking to raise funding to support our growth plans. .

What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?

 Since Elite K9 Club, North Bangalore was open to public, the most repeated question we have been asked is the biggest misconception people have about us – “What are the services you offer?”

As we stated before, one of the reasons we don’t identify any competition to us is because ultimately, we are not service providers because as service providers, we limit our engagement to the transaction. Reality is, that Compassionate Canine is your partner in wags and woofs, for life. Our engagement with pet parents begin sometimes even before the pets are adopted, definitely during the entirety of the pets’ lives and most often, even afterwards. We promote pet parenthood as a lifestyle choice and what we do is in the capacity of an enabler and facilitator of this lifestyle choice. So while do provide everything from dog walking, boarding, grooming, etc, we would hate it to be seen as partially differentiated services that are disconnected from the whole picture of holistic and comprehensive enablement of pet parenthood. .

What gets you excited about this company?

As much as the pet care industry is growing, it is an exciting time for petcare startups, and all that jazz, we get excited by the wag in the tail – that’s our ultimate success dashboard.

Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.

 Luckily, with Ghazal Rajah on board, the routines are split between the lark in her, and the owl in me. So between the two of us, the day begins at 4:30-5:00 AM with the morning tea and a look through the day’s schedule. Daycare, hostel, swimmming, stay-and-train, and walking schedules are reviewed, including pool maintenance, food, and other inventory requirements. 7:00 AM marks Ghazal’s arrival at the club, where she oversees the preparatory maintenance of the pool, play areas, hostel, and lounge, followed by the arrival of the first guests. My day starts by 9, where over coffee, I catch up on the day’schedule which typically includes meeting realtors for institutional sales and partnerships, vendors, service providers, as well as prospective pet parents, opinion leaders and interesting folks who may add value to their lives as well as ours in a symbiotic partnership. All this usually gets wrapped before 2:00 PM , during which Ghazal has overseen the morning and mid-morning walks of the hostelites, their morning meal, their swim, play and exercise routines, followed by lunch for the younger ones, and second and third rounds of swimming, playtime and exercise for the more active and energetic ones. By 2:30 PM which is the lull before the evening storm, Ghazal is ready to take her break when she goes home to spend some quality time with her two pets, Buddy and Maya, while I catch up with my babies at the club, and oversee the pre-evening preparatory maintenance of the pool, play areas, lounge and hostel. Ghazal rejoins by 5:30 as the action heats up. The evenings are just a blur between guests and calls from members, prospective members, vets, industry folks and  the odd friend who dials us by mistake. We wrap the day up after evening maintenance, followed by planning for the next day, and part ways by 8:00 PM. Subsequently, I update the books of accounts, plan the finances for the days and weeks ahead, between a few boops from Sara, and the odd glass of scotch, and a few more calls and meetings, wrapping up by 1:00 AM.

Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?

Compassionate Canine was my brainchild nourished by a flambouyant marketing guru, Quentin Rajah. Over long battles of wits and words, the plan for Elite K9 Clubs were crystallized between Pratik and Quentin, fueled by passion and their perfect companion, single malts. In 2017, Quentin passed away from a sudden and completely unexpected heart attack, leaving a large void in what would be the combined soul of Compassionate Canine. Ghazal stepped forward and became the second set of wheels driving Compassionate Canine and Elite K9 Club of North Bangalore. She is a successful architect, interior designer and expert event decor designer who is also passionate about dogs. She has raised Buddy, the Cocker Spaniel, and Maya, the Siberian Husky and loves being among dogs.

 

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