Ayesha Banerjee takes you to pet salons where stylists today are turning objects of their affection into things of beauty with aromatherapy massages, birthday and festival makeovers.
You have been a banker for 19 years, and one fine afternoon during the lunch break you step into a pet store to pick up biscuits for your dogs at home and get struck by an interesting thought. What if you leave the world of tellers and accountants and loans and fixed deposits and spend all your time with the furry objects of your affection?
Says Sanjeev Kumar, the ex-banker, who with his wife Preeti now runs Scoopy Scrub, a professional pet grooming parlour and dog salon in Delhi-NCR, “that very evening (after the idea struck) when I got back home, my wife and I discussed the pros and cons of opening a pet shop.” Within a month, with Preeti leading the way as Kumar still held on to his job, the couple opened Pet Bytes, their first pet shop. Its success encouraged Kumar to quit the bank and start a chain of pet shops providing pet-related services like boarding and lodging, dog training, guard dog and handlers, home bathing, fish aquariums and servicing and pet transportation. Then, sensing the lack of grooming services in Delhi, the Kumars did a grooming course in Thailand and opened Scoopy Scrub in early 2007.
For Yashodhara, who runs Yashbans Kennels and Fuzzy Wuzzy Pet Styling Studio and Spa with daughters Rishya and Radhiya in Bangalore, the idea of a pet parlour came up when she saw how difficult it was for families (especially working couples) to keep hygienically clean pets. The experience of owning and breeding show dogs also made Yashodhara notice that many outstanding specimens were losing out in dog shows as cosmetic grooming was never considered by their owners, either to enhance their pets’ looks or to camouflage their defects. “There are numerous breeds of dogs in the world but most people stick to the regular common breeds basically because they need the minimum grooming. However, people were open to the idea of keeping various breeds of dogs and cats and other pets, provided they get someone else to maintain their hygiene and cosmetic looks. As I already understood the intricacies of grooming pets, I opened the parlour,” she says.
Yashodhara started out with just Rs 50,000 in a place she owned. And then word spread.
Training has definitely helped. Both Yashodhara and Rishya are trained veterinary assistants and find it easier to identify various skin ailments in pets and treat these accordingly. “During my various trips abroad, I have always made it a point to stay with breeders who were specialists in certain breeds.
Watching them groom and experimenting on my own under their guidance, gave me that extra edge,” says Yashodhara.
Keeping in mind the expenses involved in training abroad, both Sanjeev Kumar and Yashodhara now offer training to potential groomers.
Where clientele is concerned, the Kumars say they cater to all and have something special like an aromatherapy bath for a small dog priced at only Rs 200. “The upper middle-class, upper class and the elite go in for specialised services like massages, and breed-specific cuts for their pets,” adds Kumar. Yashodhara has business people, entrepreneurs, and industrialists walking into her salon, “though I do get others like movie stars, models and teachers,” she adds.
Work can be fun. Yashodhara says she likes to to style pets as per their breed standards, but sometimes clients want the punk look for their pets or request that fur be trimmed to give their longhaired dogs overhanging eyebrows or a beard to make them look like old men. “The best styles that work for longhaired pets is either a teddy bear look, or a summer clip, with options like featherings on the legs or tufts on legs and tails,” she adds.
At the end of the day, “we feel there is nothing better than the wagging tails, loving licks and the happy ‘woofs’ of appreciation that our customers bestow upon us,” says Kumar.
What's it about?
Pet stylists have to make pets look good. Salon services include teeth brushing, nail clipping, trimming or filing, ear cleaning, anal sac cleaning, conditioning, shampoo, bath, blow drying, perfuming and finishing. Some groomers could also be trained to identify skin problems, and recommend treatments for general problems like ticks, fleas and mites. Those who want special pampering for their pets go in for hair colouring, birthday and festival makeovers, aromatherapy massages, clipping and styling and show grooming
7am: Wake up, take the dogs for a walk and get ready for salon
10 am: Open salon, attend to clients, send staff out for home services
9pm: Pack up for the day
Pet groomers who keep their parlours open for eight to ten hours a day can earn Rs 10,000 a day on average, and a quality pet stylist, with enough knowledge and creativity can earn Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 a day. With quality work, one should, in a city like Delhi, be able to earn about Rs 30,000 to R50,000 a month.
Opening a salon is not an expensive proposition at all. If you have the space, you can start off with Rs 1 lakh for all your equipment. An ultramodern, sophisticated pet salon will cost you about Rs 5 lakh. Yashodhara says she hires people with potential for training as assistant groomers on a stipend of about Rs 300 to Rs 500 a day. As assistant groomers, they earn about Rs 500 to Rs 700 a day
. Ability to handle pets safely and to keep them calm
. Creativity in ample doses and love for animals
How do i get there?
You need to be trained correctly in the usage of the equipment required for grooming, safe handling of pets, restraint of pets without the use of sedation or anaesthesia, be good at analysing animal behavior, understanding of the conformation of various breeds, safe and correct scissoring and creative styling of pets, etc
Pros & Cons
If you are a pet stylist then you are definitely in it for the love of animals - so there couldn’t be anything better than working with pets
There might not be many people who’d want to go for expensive styling so at times you might be left twiddling your thumbs
It’s easy to get attached to pets. Sometimes separation from them can be heartbreaking
‘Everyone wants our franchise’
Sanjeev Kumar has handled queries from Nepal too
Does Delhi have a market for pet salons?
It was not easy to establish (a business) as pet grooming was a totally new concept in India. We had to go over a lot of hurdles to be able to truly see it settle down after almost two years of hard work and constant push. Still, today we can say that pet owners are now definitely aware of pet grooming in the metros and major cities as demands for our franchises are pouring in from all parts of India and from cities in Nepal as well.
With the pet industry growing in India each year, pet grooming will definitely make its place in our country. Pet lovers now understand the need for and necessity of keeping pets groomed and clean. You and your wife trained in Thailand. Is training essential? Where can you train in India?
Yes, we are professionally trained groomers and yes, we do feel the same is essential for providing quality services. To the best of our knowledge, there are only a handful of professional grooming centres in India. Not all outlets or veterinary centres sporting a board claiming to provide grooming services can provide professional work. We were disappointed a few years back when we were unable to find a single pet grooming training institution in India for ourselves. Then we had decided that once capable, we will offer such training to all pet lovers choosing this profession. We offer courses in India for grooming and training of not only dogs, but cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and to some extent birds as well. Though we spend a huge sum on our training, the course we offer is hardly comparable to the costly courses abroad.
Can you tell us something about the styles in vogue? What about the equipment you use, is it expensive?
Each breed has a breed specific style, and generally the poodle is the only breed which can be given various kinds of clips/styles and we feel it is a groomer’s delight. The ‘lion’ look for dogs and cats, colouring and streaking are currently in vogue. We import all equipment from professional clippers, clipping blades, trimmers, scissors, tables, bathtubs, dryers, blowers from reputable manufacturers in the US.
Sanjeev Kumar, Professional groomer, animal welfare worker and owner of Pet Bytes and Scoopy Scrub interviewed by Ayesha Banerjee