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Prim, proper, paws

If you thought options for luxe relaxation were available for only two-legged mammals, you were mistaken. People are spending big bucks on their furry friends

The sound of water pouring in slowly. Lavender freshening up the room. Scrubs are ready, gloves are ready, arranged nicely on the table, adjacent to the bathing station. No, it’s not a bath laid out for a nawab, but a spa routine in progress for a beloved pet dog.

In your line of vision are four stations — two each for hair dressing (yes, it’s called that) and bathing. The bathing station is equipped with a hand shower, shampoos and conditioners. The hair dressing station awaits a coveted client: could be a dog or a cat.

Your visit could set you back by Rs 800 to Rs 4,000, which includes conditioning, blow dry, nail clipping, ‘pawdicure’ and mouth freshener.

Red Paws Pet Spa & Shop in Hauz Khas Village is one such place where your poodle or retriever can get that luxurious bath, filled with body wash, available in different scents, leaving your pet looking as good as the corgis belonging to Queen Elizabeth II.

As one enters the pet spa in Hauz Khas Village, one is welcomed with two street dogs — Minnie and Bobby — who are lazing comfortably in air-conditioned comfort. “They come and go as and when they want. It’s too hot outside so they come and lie down in the shop. We never shoo them away,” says Sakshi, the spa owner.

Sakshi says that on an average about 10-15 people come with their pet to avail the grooming services the spa shop offers. The customers not only avail the spa services, but also buy the variety of grooming products available for the pets. “If a person is here to look for accessories, then he or she usually spends an average of Rs 1,000,” says Sakshi.

And it’s not just accessories they spend on, the product which garners most customers and bucks is pet food. The variety available at the store may confuse a newbie, but the salesmen are there to help. There’s a basic choice between veg or non-veg options, and within these categories a mind-boggling variety.

Each food pack targets specific needs of the dog or cat. For example, under the Gastro-Intestinal category available at the store is “a complete dietetic feed for the nutritional management of dogs and formulated to reduce acute intestinal absorption disorders, and promote nutritional restoration and convalescence.” The marketing spiel continues: “Highly digestible ingredients. Increased level of electrolytes and essential nutrients. High energy level.”

Likewise, the Cibau mini-breed sensitive lamb food, “has been specially designed for all adult dogs, so that the digestive issues and different skin allergies can be taken care of.” It claims that it helps a dog who is prone to dry skin or infections, and the product helps preserve the lustrous coat.

These products also come with a price, for the lamb food costs Rs 1,400 for a pack of 2.5 kg.

Flavour is an essential part of the food any living being consumes, so for the pets too, the food products come in a variety of options. From tangy orange to tantalising blueberry to juicy pomegranate, so that the dogs and cats designed to make their taste buds tingle.

Since the pricing of these products is not moderate, and the demand is high, it establishes the fact that the pet grooming industry is booming.

A 2018 report by New Era MarketMonitor Consultancy states that the “Indian pet care market continues to grow in double digits despite headwinds like demonetisation of 2016 and GST implementation in 2017. Though, its whopping growth was impacted in late 2016 as well as early 2017 and could only recover after March 2017. “

The report also shows that the Indian pet care industry “advanced with a value CAGR of 23 per cent during 2012-2017 and its outlook for the forecast period remains bright.”

Dog food alone is the engine of pet care market in the country, and the category accounted for over 80% value share in 2017.

Coming to Lutyens Delhi’s upscale market — Khan Market, as one takes a stroll, about two-three pet shops come in sight.

One of them is Heads Up for Tails. The storefront is in tune with the posh look of the market, nicely designed with fancy shelves and lighting, highlighting specific products.

The store manager tells that a customer spends about Rs. 5,000-6,000 on each visit. That’s the kind of clientele the store caters to. “Toys and food sell the most in our shop,” tells the store manager while pressing a squeaky toy, which he says “dogs and cats love.”

In fact, new pet owners spend about Rs 20,000-25,000 in their initial visit. This, he says, only takes care of the essentials. Gradually, once the pet is equipped with basic needs, the bill comes down.

Although the store sells imported and domestic bathing essentials, it also manufactures its own line, which is “organic and free from any chemicals.” Almost 60% of these bathing essentials comes from in-house brand.

He says, “The craze amongst Indian customers is much more than before. Hence, they are spending on these products.” While also adding that the cost of the products also increased over the years, and Pedigree, one of the oldest brands in market, was overtaken by other foreign and Indian brands.

One interesting thing which can catch any customer’s attention in the shop is the sherwani, yes, the shop also takes orders for customised clothing for pets.

A black sherwani, with the traditional red dupattas, shimmers, awaiting a handsome dog. None need go disappointed because the sherwani can be custom-made for any breed dog and of any size.

Predictably, the store witnesses huge demand during the wedding season, the store manager tells.

If the occasion is western, then a bright black tuxedo is also available in the store, along with shirts starting from Rs 999, available in different colours and patterns. Because why should only humans have all the fun?

Amid all this, a lady customer in the store says, “I don’t really believe in taking my dog for spa service because the pet is used to your own hands and company and he or she may not find it too satisfying getting bath from a random person.” Clearly, luxury is not something pets themselves want – it’s what humans want for their pets.          n