The path that led this startup to design shoes for dogs

From 2014 to 2019, Mumbai-based consultants Anisha Pillai and Deepak Gupta were providing consultancy services to companies such as L&T and Reliance Group to help them adopt emerging technologies. However, the couple, who are electronics engineers by qualification, wanted to move into product design and creativity, because that was their true love. But little did they know that they would be designing and making shoes for dogs soon.

“We did prototyping and product development. We built a service business in the past and wanted to build a D2C products business. We were looking for an attractive and challenging problem statement that would make a difference in the lives of the people we serve.”

This made them talk to different types of people. One of those people was the father of a dog. One conversation led to another and they soon ended up talking to over 200 dog parents. While talking to them, the couple realized the pain points dog parents face while caring for their pets.

The issues of particular concern to Anisha and Deepak were those related to dog claws. Their paws were hit by stones and shards of glass as they walked on the road. They also get very dirty and spoil the house.

The duo wondered if the shoes would help prevent these issues. But when they asked some dog parents if they would buy shoes for their dogs, most seemed skeptical.

However, this did not deter the couple and they decided to go ahead and make shoes for dogs for two reasons. First, they felt this was a real problem that dog parents faced, and second, they loved the idea.

Anisha and Deepak used balloons around the dogs’ feet, as they were waterproof and prevented their feet from getting dirty. As a concept, this seems to work. So, the couple designed their first prototype dog boots, called Zoof Boots, using natural rubber. These shoes prevented the paws from getting dirty or injured, which were among the main concerns of dog parents.

In July 2019, the duo created the startup Zoof Pets, which, according to its founders, is the only startup in India that designs and manufactures dog shoes.

The first few trots

Deepak and Aneesa designed and handcrafted 100 shoes from Zoof in July-August of 2019 and tried to sell them on Instagram. It was sold out in two days. That’s when they learned they came up with a winning idea.

Buoyed by the initial response to their shoes, the founders began making more shoes by hand in one of the rooms in Anisha’s mother’s house. Three months after selling the shoes via Instagram, they created their own website to sell their products.

When the duo began to receive a large number of orders, they decided to occupy space for rent in the factory. They purchased the required equipment and materials and were all ready to recruit people when the shutdown happened in March 2020. “We had two options. First, shut down our operations. Second, find a way out. We made the second choice,” says Anisha.

They divided production between them and Head of Research and Development Hatem Seifi. Anisha’s parents helped them with packaging and shipping, once the lockdown restrictions were lifted. Finally the team moved all production to the factory in November 2020.

They also built their own hardware in March 2021 to automate the making of their flagship product, Zoof Boots. The rest of the shoes are made using industrial sewing machines.

Today, the startup sells five types of dog boots, a type of raincoat, waterproof collars, leashes, and a dog paw moisturizer.

Glado, the pet Deepanti was the first customer of Zoof Pets and owns/owns 25 sets of shoes!

Claw and friendly parents

Dipanti Garg, a Mumbai-based entrepreneur and founder of two companies, has been trying hard to find dog shoes for her pet, Glado. “I’ve heard of a neighbor’s pet getting hurt and I didn’t want the same thing to happen to Glado,” says Depante.

Her search for dog shoes on Instagram led her to Zoof Pets. I immediately ordered the Zoof Boots for Glado set, which she loved. Since then, she’s purchased 25 sets of dog shoes from Zoof. Glado seems to be the proud owner of all Zoof Pets products.

Nidhi Goyal, a textile designer who runs Zoof Pets, came across Zoof Pets when the company held a Valentine’s Day contest two years ago. She won the competition and was awarded the Zoof Boots collection.

“I have never seen anything like this before in India. The main reasons I love Zoof Pets is because Anisha helps you with every detail you might need, especially the size of the foot which is hard to measure and secondly, the shoes are very affordable.”

By her own admission, Nidhi is a “paranoid mother,” but it’s hard for her to control where her pet, Champ, goes. Hence, shoes are very useful, she says.

Meet Nidhi’s kid, Champ, who is wearing a limited edition Zoof Boots

Once, bubble gum got stuck to Champ’s paw and his paw had to be completely shaved. The shoes help prevent such accidents, says Nidhi, who has purchased eight sets of dog shoes from Zoof Pets so far. “Plus, Champ goes everywhere (outside) and everywhere (inside the house), including the sofa. Shoes help in situations like this.”

Besides preventing feet from getting dirty or injured, shoes also help prevent ticks and infections (especially in the monsoon season), foot burns during summer, hip dysplasia (which is genetic and common in senior dogs), and arthritis.

“There are also financial benefits for dog parents because the cost of treatment outweighs the cost of dog shoes,” says Anisha.

Does wearing shoes affect a dog’s natural ability to walk or run? Anisha explains: “Just like young children, dogs take a day or two to get used to shoes. If a shoe fits, it does not interfere with a dog’s natural ability to walk or run. We can get most dogs to get used to well-fitting shoes by using positive reinforcement-treats. a compliment, or a game of fetch, or a quick walk outside (for outdoor shoes).”

spoiled for choice

The startup makes five types of footwear—Boots (the flagship product), Casual, Pullups, Grips, and Ethnic, each serving a different purpose.

The casual shoe is made of soft-touch canvas with a non-slip sole and double velcro closure. “These shoes are breathable and help keep dogs’ feet cool, especially during scorching heat,” explains Anisha.

Zoof Grips are non-slip indoor shoes that provide traction on slippery surfaces. “In modern homes, dogs and puppies tend to slip and fall on marble or tiled floors. This can lead to injuries and may turn out to be a problem with mobility.” Grips help prevent this, says Anisha. Zoof Grips shoes also help dogs with conditions like Hip dysplasia and arthritis.

The price for Zoof Boots, sold in a set of eight, starts at 799 rupees. The price varies depending on the size of the foot. Plops, Casuals and Grips cost between 1,499 rupees and 1,999 rupees and are sold as sets of four.

Check out Glado’s shoe collection!

Designing dog shoes is not an easy game

Getting the materials, design, and fit just right, while keeping the dog’s comfort and that of the parent in mind, is a challenging task. The design team also has to ensure that the shoes they design work across different breeds.

For every type of shoe that Zoof Pets decides to make, they draw on two main sources of information – research papers on dogs and hands-on experiences with dog parents and their pets. For every type of shoe and every iteration that takes place, the prototype is sent to at least 25 dog parents.

A dog’s comfort depends on factors such as the gait, the structure of the paw, and the position of the claws. From a parent’s point of view, here are some things to consider: Is it easy for parents to put boots on their dog’s feet? Is the shoe appropriate and does not come off easily? Is it easy to wash?

Zoof Plops – Waterproof Outdoor Shoes

bao numbers

Zoof Pets has sold nearly 10,000 sets of shoes in the past three years. The startup currently sells an average of 400-500 shoes per month, and is growing 20-25% per month. Repeat customers contribute 19-25% of sales each month.

The majority of Zoof Pets customers are parents to breeds such as Shih Tzu, Indies, Labrador, Golden Retriever, Beagle and Lhasa, from major cities in India. Bengaluru contributes 35% of sales followed by Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. Most of Zoof Pets’ sales come from social media and word of mouth, while a third comes from paid channels.

The Mumbai-based startup is running and generating enough returns for the founders to invest money back into the business to produce more products and iterations. “We are comfortable with our finances at the moment. We may raise capital in the future,” says Anisha.

The Zoof Pets team has 23 members, 17 of whom work in production and three on the customer experience team. One person heads the research and development. Seven freelancers help with marketing efforts.

How do I look?

What’s next on the way?

When Deepanti married the company’s first customer earlier this year, she asked Zoof Pets to make five sets of ethnic shoes for her dog Glado, which match her outfit. A video of Glado wearing ethnic shoes at Depante’s wedding went viral (he had over 4 likes on Instagram), and Zoof Pets soon launched another category of shoes.

After ethnic shoes, next on the list are adventure shoes. And Zoof Pets have a very precise plan for this. “Every dog ​​walks and runs differently. We plan to connect sensors to the adventure shoe prototype to understand where the pressure points are. The data will help us come up with good designs,” says Anisha.

Is Glado ready to add another set of shoes to his already huge collection? Do we hear “woof”?

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