On Treasuring Pets with Rashi Narang of Heads Up for Tails

On Treasuring Pets with Rashi Narang of Heads Up for Tails

Rashi Narang started Heads Up for Tails 16 years ago after facing difficulties in finding her dog, Sara, a birthday present. The pet mama then took it upon herself to change the way pets are perceived, treated and cared for.

Tsunami CostaBirUpdated: Tuesday, May 14, 2024, 04:26 PM IST
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Rashi is bursting at the seams with her passion for pets. Heads Up for Tails has taken the country by storm with 90 stores across 18 cities, foundations dedicated to the upkeep of pets, and grooming spas with specially trained staff. To this day, the way she runs them is all heart. 

It took just one question to trigger the passionate monologue in her. And I was all ears!

What inspired the creation of Heads Up for Tails (HUFT)? 

It was my dog Sara and becoming a pet parent for the first time. On Sara’s birthday, I went hunting from store to store to find her a present and returned empty-handed. The toys were plastic and dirty, and the treats were weird with obnoxious colours. 

I wanted my pet to live her best life, and 16 years ago, there was no awareness in the market. No proper vendors or supply chains, and I decided to start something for people like me. 

I started off with a couple of small products like soft apparel and bedding. I would approach stores to keep our stock and was shown the door multiple times. I had an Excel sheet with around 200 shops that I approached, and none of them understood what I wanted to do. 

I began taking part in pop-up stores and exhibitions, and that’s where our stuff was better received. That’s how we began - building product prototypes and bringing them into the market. There was a lot of design thinking, education and explaining about what we were up to in the initial stages.

Our first proper space was a kiosk at a mall. We started to grow, and then my husband had to move abroad. I went along with him, and things were sort of at a standstill for seven years. There was no expansion happening, and I had no idea what to do - I had no money, no team and had recently become a mom. But I had a fire in my belly. 

Then when we came back to India, I started off work again. Got some seed funding from HNIs, and finally converted one store: ‘Paws the Pet Store’, run by a lovely couple in Bangalore - Riddhima and Sandeep. We decided to merge the companies. Now, we had two stores and a website and came together as co-founders.

Since then, we’ve now opened 90 stores and 68 pet spas and built up a supply chain. We got into manufacturing pet products and developing treats with the help of scientists and food nutritionists. We also started making products for dogs with specific needs - products that are gluten-free, grain-free, vegetarian etc. 

What are things your journey in business has taught you?

My journey in business has helped me grow as a person. I used to be shy and introverted but pushed myself to get out there and challenge myself.

We’re also always rooting for Indies – our desi street dogs. We’ve set up a foundation that works towards impact programs like feeding, vaccination, neutering and adoption. All of the stores have also adopted dogs and cats.

My goal has been to help people and their pets bond and discover the magic of that relationship. I think having a pet makes people better people. It makes us more compassionate, and I hope everyone can experience this opening of the heart and love that a pet brings.

What do you think has led to the changing perception of how we treat pets in India? Is it something we adopted from the West?

The West is definitely ahead of India, but Covid was what I think really led to a shift. People began to discover how much joy a pet can bring into their lives. They had the time to stay home with their pets and really bonded with them during that time of darkness and difficulty. 

People also began seeing themselves as ‘pet parents’ rather than ‘owners’. When you’re a parent, you start to look at your pet as unique and different - they’re not just any dog. They have their own unique personality. People think, “All dogs are social”. But maybe your dog is introverted or socially anxious. That’s the kind of thing you notice and care about as a pet parent. 

Do you have any advice for a first-time pet owner?

Be in the moment for a few minutes a day when you’re with your pet. Open your heart to feel how deep and precious that relationship is. Think about it - they’re a different species who come into our homes, and learn how to live with us. They learn our language, our ways of being. And they’re so dependent on you as their human. You make all their choices - what, when and how much they will eat; where, what time and how long they will go for their walks. Everything. And they always show up for us. It is very important to have respect and regard for your pets for all that they do for you. 

Do you have any advice on balancing out the commercial offerings of the market so as not to get overwhelmed?

You know your pet the most. People always want to give you advice, even when you have children. But you need to listen to your heart. Also, you need to trust where you’re getting your advice from. As a brand, we train our people to help rather than sell. A brand is really based on trust, and if you sell someone the wrong product, that breaks trust. 

What are three key lessons you’ve learnt?

Don't take yourself too seriously, have fun. 

Every obstacle comes to serve us and help us grow. 

Keep moving forward even if you can't go at full speed. Work on getting 1% better.

Any last words you’d like to leave readers with?

Just that our pets are amazing and have short lives that will be gone in a jiffy, so spend as much time as you can with them!

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