DogMyCats - An E-commerce Way To Offer Best In Brands For Pet Supplies
DogMyCats is a public company in the veterinary sector founded by Varun Yagain in the year 2014. DogMyCats offers best brands in pet supplies at deep discounts to its customers.
Varun completed bachelors in Computer Science engineering from Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU) in the year 2003. Varun has worked for companies like Robert Bosch, Sabre Airline Solutions, Bredge, Kirazz Technology and many more before founding DogMyCats.
In an exclusive interview with CrazyEngineers.com, we got Varun to talk about his experiences at DogMyCats, his source of inspiration, his educational and professional background, how he gathered the initial funds and a lot more. Varun also talks about the most challenging issue he has faced and how he dealt with it. Read on!
CE: Hi Varun. Could you tell our readers something about DogMyCats that is still unknown?
Varun: This one has to be the name! DogMyCats (“DMC”) has been termed right from unusual and memorable to a confusing mix of grammatical numbers. The truth is, Dog My Cats! is a phrase of astonishment, a favourite one of Mark Twain’s character Huckleberry Finn. The astonished delight at finding exactly what your pet needs, receiving them on time and having every service whim of yours (and your pet’s) heeded to; that is what we want DMC to stand for.
CE: How did the idea struck you? What was the source of inspiration?
Varun: It was probably impossible to have not considered ecommerce with all the goings on and the immense potential that is yet to be realized. I do believe that the space for new players in horizontal ecommerce is diminishing. And for vertical players, self-sufficiency and cost-efficiency over offline retail cannot come after market share but before. The way to buck this trend seemed to involve at least the following - (a) an efficiently addressable target segment (choose a niche) (b) a market with unmet needs rather than a new one to be created (lower marketing spend) and (c) a segment with a high frequency of repetitive needs lending itself to high brand recall and true SCM efficiency. Very few ideas fit the bill – online grocery and pet care for example. And pet care just happened to be closest to my heart, giving me that last nudge of inspiration.
CE: Could you tell us a bit more about your educational and professional background?
Varun: I have an engineering degree in computer science and I continue to be very hands-on and love programming. After about 7 years of working in Telecom and Automotive navigation domains, I started working for start-ups for the next 4 years in a variety of roles – technology to sales & marketing to general operations. During this time, I also completed my executive MBA from IIM Bangalore.
CE: How difficult was it to gather the initial funds to setup your start-up company?
Varun: DMC is bootstrapped with my personal funds as of now. The more difficult is the journey we are undertaking right now – first round of raising money from investment funds. There is a very high level of interest in ecommerce but then there are numerous start-ups as options too. It takes more than a bit of energy in gathering that focused attention.
If I could make a wish, it would be the adaptation of a metrics-driven approach to screening investment opportunities specific to niche e-commerce businesses, more so now that the workings are a lot better understood. Operations metrics are available (should be!) from even day-1 of such ventures. These will perhaps lead to an efficient sifting of the good ones from the bad in the initial stages. Of course disruptive innovations come up right after this filtering for evaluation but I do believe the metrics play their part so they better come up earlier.
CE: Has your initial vision changed since launch?
Varun: Yes, certainly. I imagined DMC to be like any other ecommerce – all about website, app, payment gateway, portfolio and shipping-packaging costs. I realized early on into operations that the ‘e’ in ecommerce is probably the only comparable aspect (and the smallest one at that) across different markets. Right from acquiring a customer to make her repeat a purchase to increasing delivery success ratio requires profiling market specific behaviours of customers. We are fanatic about that now.
We now also learn that the stickiness in the pet care vertical comes not from conventional marketing but by community engagement. That just about rubbished every marketing idea we had started with.
And with this emerging closer engagement and our city specific operations, the picture of e-service (grooming, boarding, social events, et al) is getting clearer in our minds as the next logical thing that shall take up.
CE: What has been the most challenging scaling issue you have come across? How did you deal with it?
Varun: The most challenging aspect was in recruiting semi to non-skilled workforce for the critical delivery operations. Not only finding the talent but also designing the compensation structure and delivery infrastructure requires a thorough analysis. The only way I could tackle this was by being extremely hands-on with the operations – making more than 300 deliveries personally. From trying different vehicles to routing strategies to gathering meticulous data on deliveries – knowing exactly what we want out of this workforce turned out to be the way to actually find it.
CE: Can you convince the reader to start using your service in under 50 words?
Varun: If your pet is family to you, only the best will do for him. We make sure that come rain or shine; availability, price or matters of convenience won’t have to come between him and his needs. That is all we have to say.
CE: What makes DogMyCats a unique player in the online domain?
Varun: The existing online stores take anywhere between 2 and 7 days to reach the orders to customers. While this might be acceptable for toys, accessories, et al; it is not the best way to procure daily needs like kibble or cat-litter. In contrast, DMC offers the convenience and certainty of same day delivery by having a city-specific in-house delivery team. This isn’t only a matter of convenience to customers but a great business model too! One where repeat orders cover 68% of our monthly revenues. This helps keep our marketing costs low and the customer loyalty high. Over 70% of our customers order at least once a month! The horizontal market places offer no standardized services by depending on independent sellers. From having to pay shipping as many times as the number of units to receiving items in a basket as separate shipments, they are far from offering a consistent and reliable experience.
Besides this, our customers get to speak to the same person each time they call DMC and even place an order over phone, email, text or whatsapp. The relationship building this offers to both sides is probably as good as shopping from your neighbourhood corner store – if only there were to be one with as many choices.
CE: Thank you for your time. Any message for budding engineers?
Varun: Let me only share a trait that personally helped me a great deal. Any academic projects we picked, we always looked at putting it to practical use. We got an IDE that we wrote to get to be part of course work demos. The database project that we did, we convinced a scruffy hotel in the town centre to use for free. Both initiatives could not go very far when our academic priorities took over, but we emerged with a much clearer understanding of what it takes to go from engineering a solution and making it useful.