Progress in leaps and bounds

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From one pet store to four, Chaitanya Malkarnekar’s progress in retailing pet products is impressive. His latest project to expand outside Goa and to launch an app for pet owners is ambitious, finds out Shoma Patnaik

Goa’s pet scene is looking up. Ownership of pooches and felines are increasing by the day due to modern lifestyle and western influence. Therefore it is not surprising to discover that the local pet product business is growing at fast clip.

Margao resident, Chaitanya Malkarnekar, is a major beneficiary of the trend. His four retail stores are doing solid sales and making robust profits.  The latest outlet was launched in Porvorim only recently and the store promises to surpass the earlier three in returns, he feels.

Malkarnekar says that, his business is come a long way since 2010 when he started the Margao outlet with inventory of only Rs two lakh. “Today our inventory runs into crores,” he says while shying away from revealing the sale volumes.

Emboldened by the success, he is aiming to expand outside Goa. Plans are afoot to set up shop in Pune for which the premises are on the way to be finalized. Malkarnekar aims to become the owner of a pet chain business in Goa with stores across the state and outside.

But the bigger project in the pipeline is an online app that aims to connect to all pet owners in Goa. “The app will be a platform for all owners to network and share their concerns and achievements. It will connect owners to what’s happening in the pet world around them. The launch date is tentatively May 2018,” he says.

For the app Malkernekar is interacting with the product developer almost daily. The app will list all pet shops in the state, veterinary doctors, range of medicines available in the market, names of suppliers, etc. “It will bring all stakeholders together for the first time and be a real boon to all pet owners,” he says. And for those who wish to add to the brood the app will also have a doggie matrimony site, he reveals.

Looking at the problems residents face in getting someone to look after their pets while on holiday, Malkarnekar is also keen on starting a boarding and kenneling service. However space is a major constraint for the project as the facility needs to be somewhere in the interiors where neighbours do not get disturbed.  “We are on the lookout for suitable premises,” he says.

According to Malkarnekar, his four stores in Margao, Colva, Ponda and now Porvorim are doing well because they offer good service and competitive rates of products vis-à-vis competitiors. “The store ambience is homely and friendly and the real reason for their popularity is because they are one-stop shop for everything.” He offers the gamut of goods and services needed by a pet owner. From medicines, to chains, collars, pillows, sleeping bag, the range is varied.

Malkarnekar offers grooming services too in Margao and Porvorim where owners can get their dogs for a shampoo and make over. The charges for grooming are relatively affordable, ranging from Rs 500- Rs 700 (in Margao) depending on the pooch size. In the Porvorim the rate for grooming  (Rs 700 to Rs 1000) is slightly higher because of the rent incurred on the premises.

Malkernekar is a graduate in microbiology and initially was not sure of what business to take up. However his father is the former assistant director of the animal husbandry department and being fond of animals he decided to retail in pet products. Malkarnekar says that his dad likes to treat animals and has his practice in the Margao store. “I am keen to offer every possible service related to pets except for buying and selling of puppies or animals,” he says.

He has a taxi service too, for people who want to take their pets to the clinic but lack the transport. “The service so far is not being marketed properly for want of a good driver although the rate at Rs 15 per km is very affordable,” he says.

Malkarnekar adds that, Goa’s pet scene is changed drastically and for the better. “One of the biggest change is in the kind of readymade food available. Earlier there was only one brand and today the purchaser is spoilt for choice,” he says. In his assessment of the local pet marker, he adds that, north Goa offers good potential for doing business versus south Goa because it has pet owners who are more willing to spend for their pets. “Pet owners in south Goa believe in spending cautiously,” he says.