SupportBiz talked to Sonia Sinha, founder of Tupples. Edited excerpts from the interview:
What is your background?
I have an extensive work experience in the domains of customer solutions, content development and instructional design, which has come in handy in giving Tupples the necessary structure and strategy.
Before starting Tupples, I was working as an Instructional Designer with Genpact.
Tell us about the different activities that you undertake…
We have an ‘Adopt a Pet’ section on our site, for which we have tied up with organizations like World For Animals to create more publicity for their adoptions.
Apart from this, we also have an active blog, on which we share our own experiences with our pets, and also common problems that pet owners might face.
How did you come up with the idea of starting Tupples?
At different times in my life, I have owned five dogs, a cat and a rabbit. Even though I have always had pets, I had no idea that there are so many useful and stylish products available for them. This is because in walk-in pet stores, supplies are usually stacked untidily, and the staff is not very helpful or knowledgeable. I wanted to change that and offer a different shopping experience, one in which the customer can sift through products in a leisurely manner and can find out all the information he/she needs about any product they would want to buy.
How did you arrange for the initial investment needed to start Tupples?
Our mentor/investor is Abhimanyu Rana, an experienced restaurateur and a graduate from IIT-Delhi. He offers us excellent advice about the practical aspects of our business and guides us through the technical challenges we face as well. He was the initial investor in Tupples.
What is your business model?
Tupples is an e-com website designed to service customers all over India. We work in co-ordination with different suppliers and importers and courier partners to deliver the best quality products in the shortest possible time-frame.
What have been the major drivers of growth for you?
We are very thankful to established e-com websites like Flipkart, because they have ensured that Indian consumers become comfortable shopping online.
Another seemingly obvious factor that helped our growth was the acceptability that pets now have in India. As families become smaller, more and more people are turning to animals for companionship and love. Moreover, a pet always stays faithful. This makes the markets for pet supplies larger.
How do you deal with competition from other pet supply stores? What sets you apart?
We believe that the market is big enough for our competition and us to exist, so we don’t compete with them directly. We know that as long as we sell quality products and genuinely care for our customers, our business will succeed.
Excellent customer service and stocking unique products has been the key to our business’s success and is our USP. A number of our customers are repeats, who tell us that they can’t find some of the things available on our website, anywhere else. We genuinely care for our customers, and it shows through our repeat sales.
What are the major challenges that you face? How do you overcome them?
Co-ordinating with courier services can be a challenge. Sometimes, some pin codes are suspended and we are not informed, and at other times customers don’t receive their packages on time. After a few disappointments, we have finally put a system in place that works for us. We follow up our courier partners constantly. Also, we have identified a few very responsible people in their organization and have developed a good working relationship with them. These people ensure they take ownership and help solve any problems we face.
How do you market your business?
The only paid marketing that we do is through Google Ads.
Other than that, we maintain a blog, write articles and participate in forums to create awareness around our brand and pet care in general. Our blog receives a lot of visitors, and a lot of them shop on our site as well.
We get most of our customers through our blog and through Google Ads.
What have been your major learnings from business?
A major learning has been that our most important asset is our staff. It is very difficult to find loyal, skilled employees, and when we find someone like that, it is our responsibility to make them want to stay and grow with us.
Another learning is that our procedures and systems are of utmost importance. If we have a strong, well-documented procedure for every task, it becomes very easy for an employee to become trained on it and follow it. This also ensures consistency of customer experience and expectations.
What are your expansion plans?
Our aim is to become a dependable brand that is known to stock everything a pet owner might need. We want to take our website to the next level by generating awareness and marketing it in Tier-2 cities, where quality products for pets are not always available.
We also plan to start an ‘Ask a Vet’ section on our website, in which pet owners can post everyday questions or worries about their pets and a qualified vet will answer these questions.
Also, we plan to open offline pet stores in which the staff is well-informed, patient and helpful, to deliver a happy shopping experience.
What is your opinion on the sale of pet supplies in India as a whole? What are the major trends that you are noticing?
My opinion is that urban, well-educated customers who value quality dominate the pet supplies market in India. There is endless potential in this field, as long as we ensure that our products meet their exacting standards of quality.
A trend that I have noticed is that people are now buying much more than the bare necessities for their pets. Therefore, the sale of stylish fashion accessories, inventive toys and trendy jackets and sweaters has gone up.