“Children do not catch bacteria from dogs. It’s a myth. On the contrary, their presence increases immunity.”

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Priya Poduval’s is a story of ordinary people who turn their passion into a profession. Rejecting the safe option of a regular job, she has now found happiness in her 60,000 sq ft. Peppy Paws Resort. Located on Phursungi Saswad road in Pune, it boasts of a 10,000 sq ft. indoor boarding centre, 5,000 sq ft. rooms for office/ kitchen and pet salon, and 1,000 sq ft. for a pool, the biggest in Pune for dogs. The rest is fenced play area and an outdoor garden play area for pets. Peppy Paws is intended to be a one-stop shop for all pet needs. Priya Poduval spoke to A. Radhakrishnan about turning her passion into her profession.

What does Peppy Paws Resort represent?
It is the culmination of my extreme love for animals, as I have a will power to go against the tide (mostly even without oxygen). One fine day, I chucked a high paying corporate job to follow that dream. I was just 20 years and 245 days old! Finally on 21 February 2009, I started Peppy Paws by pet sitting from a 1- BHK (Bedroom-Hall-Kitchen) rented apartment.

Roshan Poduval taking care of pets at the Peppy Paws Resort

Roshan Poduval taking care of pets at the Peppy Paws Resort

I faced much opposition as nobody could understand my passion. But since that day, there has been no looking back for me. Many hardships later, Peppy Paws became a brand and people started appreciating the concept. On 15th August, we officially started our first branch of Peppy Paws pet resort. In seven years, we have grown to be the biggest pet resort in India, catering mainly to pet dogs and cats. With a 2,500 plus client base that trust us, it is growing at the rate of 22%.

I strongly feel the key to success in life is not just getting a degree or having a highly paying job. How content you are is paramount. If every day is filled with excitement, doing what you love and you can go to sleep peacefully, you are at the right place. If not, something is not right. There is no short cut to success. If I have not taken a single day off or had a vacation, it speaks volumes about my ardour.

Is it one of a kind in the country?
Officially we don’t have any data to back this claim, but yes, we were the one who introduced the concept of a ‘pet resort’ in India and as of now, we have the only pet old age home.

How did you develop this passionate love for the furry friends?
I have grown up with four to five pets; so the love and affection started from my childhood. But the reason for Peppy Paws is because of my first self-owned dog Tyson, a most loving and affectionate dog. He gave me the strength and courage to move ahead to start a facility.

The swimming pool at the resort

The swimming pool at the resort

What motivates you to so do so much for them?
It’s their ability to love unconditionally without expecting anything in return. The more time I spend time with them, the deeper I realise they are amazing living beings in the world.

How does the resort cater to dog lovers?
We have several activities catering to the owners or dog lovers, like weekly socialisation sessions where they can interact with other pet lovers and their pets; get into group play games and swim with the pets, in the 1000 sqft pool which can cater to both the two and four-legged.
Also, we have school groups coming with their kids for their pet activity weeks. Last month for instance, 135 kids from Vibgyor, Magarpatta, Pune had come for their field trip, wherein we introduced our friendly pack of dogs that gambolled with great fun. (See box for the full range of pet services)

Is this industry a booming one?
The pet industry is certainly a booming industry in India and growing by over 15 to 18 % per annum, as per reports. We are happy being ‘at the right place at the right time’.

Priya’s son Vannsh, who is very comfortable with the animals

Priya’s son Vannsh, who is very comfortable with the animals

What are the challenges you face running this resort?
After the initial challenges, now we breathe, sleep, eat ‘peppy paws’. But what saddens me is that our business is not listed anywhere in India and hence even banks don’t finance. But then each moment is a learning day. Like everyone, we are also not perfect; we also do make mistakes, but try not to repeat them.

How did you then get the finance?
As mentioned earlier, we have been running around trying to tap all possible ways to generate funds. As banks didn’t help us, we became ‘corporate beggars’ (who can speak English and have a bright vision). After tapping more than 50 to 60 known and unknown sources, with every rejection making us stronger, we finally found an angel investor who funded us.

What is your husband’s role in this venture? How has your child taken to the resort?
My husband Roshan is my guide, my breath and my backbone. We share a common love. He even left his job to help realise my dream. He assured me that he would always be there holding the ladder when I climbed each step. His approach to life amazes me. He treats me as a business partner during working hours, and we are a couple only after that.

Our little prince, Vannsh, who came into our lives in 2014, has an approach towards animals which is at another level. At this small tender age of two years, he has already learned the meaning of ‘sharing’, be it an ice-cream or a chocolate. We call him an ‘urbanised Mowgli’, as he trusts animals more than human beings. In fact, the first word he said was not ‘mamma or papa’, but ‘Sheeba’, who is our female Labrador.

The field where the pets run and play

The field where the pets run and play

How much of a risk taker are you?
Ha! That is a million dollar question. As an entrepreneur, there is nothing to lose, but an entire world to conquer! The definition of risk changes from time to time. In 2008-09, the biggest risk was to dream big and leave a white collar job; but in 2013, it was to decide about having a family, keeping the busy schedule in mind.

By 2015 end, it was taking a loan of 50 lakhs at a 30% interest rate, with a resolve to ensure double gains in just 2.5 years. And also to introduce another little one to the family. It does prove I am a risk taker!

What do you feel about the several incidents of stray dogs biting people in Kerala?
The fault lies with urbanisation, lack of open spaces and uneducated people. I personally have adopted and rescued 15 stray dogs. There is no difference between a pedigree and a stray, once you give them what they need – food, open spaces to run around, and a shelter, with a loving atmosphere.

A school of thought says when so many humans are dying, why keep dogs as pets?
Well, because we can’t keep humans as pets, I must say!

What is the difference between dogs and cats?
Well, dogs are loyal, while cats are selfish. Cats will only come to you when they need something. But dogs are just the opposite (cat lovers please excuse me, but that’s the bitter truth). But both creatures justify their existence in their own way, depending upon how they have been brought up.

The range of services offered at Peppy Paws

  • Cage free boarding, unlike the traditional kennelling or chaining the pet
  • A dedicated place for senior pets; sort of an old age home for pets
  • The only ‘cattery’ for the cats
  • Critical care centre with 24 hours service
  • Peppy Meals… We serve fresh homemade pet meals which are also home delivered
  • Organising of various events for pets and ‘pet parents’
  • Provision of swimming pool for dogs. Human beings can get into it on request!
  • Special introduction sessions for kids, where we introduce our most friendliest pack of dogs and present a small demo on how to take care of them, what to expect, things one should not do, etc. Schools approach us for outdoor activities.
  • 30 days of boarding valid for a year
  • 12 complimentary baths in a year
  • Free passes to all our pet events and dog socials
  • Free swimming sessions for dogs
  • Do dogs help you in stress alleviation?
    Yes of course it is a proven fact. When kids grow up with dogs, their immunity increases 33 percent. Our little Vannsh is a living example. And if it’s a cat, then it will be 15 percent. Children do not catch bacteria from dogs. It’s a myth. On the contrary, their presence increases immunity.

    Are their unlucky dog names?
    No, but those dogs, which have names with a negative meaning, end up being like that. I had a client who named their dog Devil and it literally behaved like one. (Just a personal observation)!

    Have you received any awards?
    In 2013, we were adjudged the best pet resort in India category by IIPTF (India International Pet Trade Fair), South Asia’s premier annual trade fair.

    What are your future plans?
    With our foundation ready, we now have to merely build the floors. The road map is to by 2020, have branches in all the metros in India and by 2022, we want to make Peppy Paws an international brand and go international!


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    A. Radhakrishnan

    A. Radhakrishnan, Pune based freelance journalist, with close to four decades of experience in mainstream print journalism, is aiming for the digital platform. Making friends interests him and for company, he loves music and books. He also writes short stories and indulges in poetry.

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