PetKonnect offers facilities from bloodbank to animal ambulance
After the loss of her pet, 27-year-old Devanshi Shah decided she would immerse herself in the joys and travails of other pet owners and try and limit any problems they encounter in bringing up their pets.
After her MBA, Devanshi was immersed in business case laws, happily number crunching balance sheets. The death of her pet brought on a range of emotions, and helped forge a new path as Founder of PetKonnect.
In 2016, while at Imperial College Business School in London, which Devanshi says is “very big on entrepreneurship”, the need to do something on her own was born.
“I was part of a start-up, a college project, and was involved in a course where students had to think of a solution to a problem as a team,” she said.
Called SnaXchange, the online community marketplace was a platform where students could buy and sell food and beverages well below MRP and before the expiry date.
SnaXchange was born to reduce food waste, says Devanshi.
“We had to think of a solution to a problem and the student online marketplace platform was a prototype. We did surveys and noticed the huge gap that existed for students,” says Devanshi, speaking of her initial venture.
The app was launched and the three co-founders encountered many hurdles before getting things right. Devanshi sold her stake in the venture at a small premium before she came back to India.
The many hiccups at SnaXchange helped Devanshi strategise and focus on her weak points. “None of us came from an entrepreneur background. One was an engineer, another a consultant and I was a lawyer. So, there we were, thrashing around in all directions, with no initial focus,” she recalls.
Since marketing at SnaXchange was weak, Devanshi decided it was the one thing she needed to fortify in her new venture.
“Marketing is not my forte, but I learnt how an app should be developed, where it should be hosted and so on. I also conducted an initial market survey and spoke to several pet providers before launching the website and app,” she adds.
Pet parents were asked about their favourite peeves. “My pre-launch survey for PetKonnect was one of my biggest learnings. I am emotionally invested in this venture,” she maintains.
Entering pet-care segment
The surveys helped Devanshi become aware of pet-care gaps in India. The idea behind Pet Konnect is to enable all pet and animal caregivers build a safe and loving environment for their pets. After her MBA in London, Devanshi returned to India end-2017 and joined the family business Ishan Industries, which manufactures primary packaging materials.
Two months after joining the family business, she was devastated by the death of her pet, a five-and-a-half-year-old Havanese dog named Hazel. It took her some time to come to terms with the loss.
“We faced a lot of health issues with Hazel and changed three vets to cater to her genetic problems. She needed blood transfusion, but we could not find a donor. There were no (animal) blood banks we could approach. It is not an easy task to raise a pet,” says Devanshi. “In theory, it might sound fine but practically it is different. We are a well-to-do family and did not spare money, but despite all the medical advances we couldn’t save her.”
Today, Devanshi has vets on call, providing 24-hour service. “We are setting up a team of prominent doctors and our on-call vet consultation, with a team of 15 doctors, can tackle any query,” she says.
From providing access to a blood bank for various animals, PetKonnect lists other services such as animal ambulance providers, shelters, vaccination centres, geographically listed animal playdates and a section for animal profiles that enable and support caregivers in complete healthcare management.
To flag off the venture, Devanshi dipped into her savings from her law practice. “I was at KPMG from 2011-13 and had a tidy amount stashed away. My father paid for my MBA, but I worked with lawyers at the High Court and handled many corporate law cases, all of which helped me stash away some more money,” she grins.
Devanshi’s father helped out initially with ₹20 lakh, “though he didn’t take me seriously at the start”. The budget was ₹30-35 lakh. “I still have a margin of ₹10-12 lakh,” she says, adding: “Platforms like PetKonnect can’t ask for money upfront. One has to burn some more money before asking patrons to spend. Advertising, upkeep and maintenance of the app will take some more time before it starts generating revenue.”
“I figured if my profession or business is not going to make me happy, I would move out,” says Devanshi, who had a bunch of career goals in mind when she came back to India.
Though the call to join the family business initially stymied her plans, the death of her pet changed things. “The business student in me was not happy. I realised something needed to be done for pet parents, since I was talking to a lot of people and understood the many hurdles to pet care. My market research also helped me on the ground,” she adds.
PetKonnect aims to provide solutions to all pet parents on one platform. “In the US and UK there are organisations, communities where the entire fraternity is together. India is unorganised. Awareness of pets’ health issues is low,” she adds.
To counter this, she decided to build a community. “A canine blood bank, a community of pet parents, vets-on-call, all learnt from personal experiences. We launched PetKonnect mid-September after starting the initial work in February. More than 400 pet parents have signed up,” she says.
As for the other pet ventures that appear to be cropping up overnight, Devanshi says. “I don’t want to compete, I want to associate. We need to bring everyone on board.”