For the last eight years, Abhishek Joshi has been running a blog to find homes for abandoned or homeless dogs. During the current lockdown, he has seen a 4X rise in abandonment of pets and his dogwithblog platform has been kept hyper busy.
The increasing number of cases of pet abandonment was the reason that Pune-based Anuskha Iyer, an ardent animal lover, launched Wiggles, a preventive healthcare start-up two years ago. Iyer found that one of the main reasons pets are abandoned are the huge costs associated with medication and healthcare. Wiggles hoped to plug the gap by providing a range of affordable medication and nutritional supplements for pets as well as arranging veterinary care services. “The whole area was B2B focused and there was lack of transparency on medicine costs,” she says. Backed by pedigreed investors and pet lovers such as Nachikhet Deshpande, COO of L&T Infotech, Aparna Badkundri, Director, Dell Computers, DrSachin Phadke, MD of Vetbiochem India among others, Wiggles took off with great promise.
However, it is during the lockdown that all the need gaps that Wiggles had spotted came into glaring focus, forcing the company to accelerate its plans. “Pet parents were unable to find access to healthcare for pets, pet food or vet clinics during lockdown, as there prevailed a lot of uncertainty about the virus,” says Iyer.
The start-up always had plans to expand into food but had to hurry up as pet food distribution was disrupted in a big way.
“We were forced into production quickly,” says Iyer.
Despite the challenging times, Wiggles was able to deliver medicines for pets. “Our dog boarding in Pune, Petsville, made it possible for pet parents to send their pets over for a stay while they were able to handle family emergencies,” she adds.
During the lockdown, Iyer’s start-up, which has a physical presence in Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad, also launched Wiggles Tribe — a closed community of pet parents on Facebook and Whatsapp monitored by vets. Here, pet parents who faced issues could share and get solutions. Already the number of pet parents on the platform has crossed 3,000.
It also launched Wiggles SmartVet, an online consultation service for pet parents across India. As of today, Smart Vet takes around 200+ video calls daily from pet parents. It even got a call from overseas. “Our vet consultation service has crossed global boundaries,” says Iyer.
A unique offering by the start-up for pet parents is the Wiggles Box. The personalised box curated by vets after assessing each pet’s needs contains anti-parasitic medicines, nutritional products and essential vitamins. It also is backed up by dosage alerts and guidelines based on the pet’s needs and requirements.
However, after selling over 500 boxes, they reviewed the offering. “We realised that while it was great for pets, it was not very convenient for the pet parents and they were not following the dosage guidelines,” says Iyer.
Based on their learnings, Wiggles has now launched a subscription model offline in the form of an Annual Health Furever Subscription which comprises vet check-ups and grooming appointments throughout the year.
“We now have over 500+ AHF customers and counting while spending zero marketing dollars,” says Iyer.
Keeping in tune with Covid-19, the start-up has also launched India’s first pet safe and 100 per cent alcohol-free sanitiser.
Given the dearth in pet services, does Wiggles plan to expand to other cities?
Iyer says Wiggles is looking to launch in Delhi and Bengaluru in the months to come. “Currently, we are strategising and planning on how we can scale up, not just with quantity but with quality protocols in place as far as logistics and operations are concerned.”