Bringing canine care straight to family homes, this Karachi-based startup may be the first of its kind in urban Pakistan. The seed was planted for dog grooming business, Pampered Paws Pakistan, when Uzair Bhatti and Aneela Shaikh discovered their mutual love of dogs. They watched 101 Dalmatians on their first date and eventually married, with Aneela receiving a dog as her wedding gift from Uzair.
The business officially launched in March of 2016, as the mid twenty-something newlyweds bravely embarked on a new life and a new business together. The two-part operation functions with Uzair as the dog groomer and Aneela as the marketer. Uzair visits the homes of owners who have set up dog grooming appointments, while his wife Aneela handles the behind-the-scenes business tasks.
Recognizing that there was a lack of trained dog groomers who offered home visits, the couple decided to fill the gap.
“A dog is most comfortable in its own surrounding and environment. Grooming can be a stressful process for a dog and trips to the vet can induce fear in even the bravest of canines. By coming to the dog instead of taking him or her out of their home, we ensure the dog is more comfortable and relaxed as opposed to frightened and worried,” Aneela told the Express Tribune.
Not only does in-home dog grooming benefit the pups by reducing anxiety and allowing for a calmer experience – it’s immensely convenient for the owners as well, who don’t have to deal with the stress of transporting nervous pets and handling poor behavior issues.
Uzair originally worked for the UK Kennel Club, gaining experience as a groomer there. He now grooms an average of three dogs per day from the comfort of clients’ homes.
As far as marketing tactics go, the couple have stuck to the basics thus far, and have seen results right from the start. Uzair cites social media as a primary marketing tool for the new business. The Pampered Paws Facebook page features services and prices, photos and videos from grooming sessions, and more than 20 reviews – all showing 5/5 stars. They also hand out flyers to passersby walking their dogs, and rely on word-of-mouth to keep the pooch appointments flowing in.
While the two-person business is still in its humble beginnings, it exemplifies just how effective small-scale startups can be if they simply address a current need in the market. As established founders have told young entrepreneurs, “find a gap in the market and own that problem.” In Karachi, home-based dog care was largely unheard of, giving Uzair and his wife the perfect opportunity to swoop in and claim the space. While it seems like an obvious early step to ensuring sustainability, “failing to determine whether there is a need for a product in the market” is a mistake 42% of failed entrepreneurs admitted to in a Forbes survey.
Aside from the fun of dog grooming, the couple cites a much more serious purpose behind their startup. Pakistan, like many other countries, does not have strong legislation in place against animal cruelty. The couple have witnessed terrible conditions with some of the dogs they’ve worked with – some had dirty and matted fur from going unwashed for indefinite periods of time. Others were plagued by extreme and untreated flea and tick infestations. Many of these animals are virtually tools, used only for breeding and are frequently neglected, the couple told reporters. Thus Pampered Paws began offering a 20% discount for strays and rescue dogs hoping to quell the troublesome issue.
Friends and family humorously refer to Uzair as the “dog whisperer” due to his friendly demeanor and impeccable track record with dogs of all breeds. “Our friends and family all call Uzair the dog whisperer because we’ve never met a dog that has not taken to him, to the point where even their owners become jealous sometimes!” Aneela told the Tribune.
The startup offers a variety of services – the standard package includes shampoo and conditioning, combing and brushing, blow drying, ear cleansing, and nail clipping for Rs2,500. They also offer haircuts and flea and tick treatments.