“I can’t leave him alone even if we go away for just two days” – “But what if she hates it there?” – “Will he be fed well?” – “I don’t know, I’m quite skeptical!” – here are all the concerns raised by doting pet parents when asked about pet boardings in Mumbai.
Manali Mohite, the Marketing Head of The Bark Club shares her journey in conversation with Netra Venkateshwaran. She gets candid on how The Bark Club came into existence, thanks to the founder, Shyamax Presswalla. The aim behind the boarding service was to build and provide premium facilities for all pet parents.
Netra Venkateshwaran: Tell us about your association with The Bark Club, a bit about the brand and the services you offer
Manali Mohite: The Bark Club is a premium boarding in Mumbai and we’re the first pet boarding to launch on a premium level with international standards. So we have 25 glass airconditioned rooms for every dog who comes and stays individually, with us. We have a 2,500 square feet indoor play area. We have a 600 square ft grooming area and a 25 ft long hydrotherapy pool. We have also side by side tied up with NGOs to also assist in any rescue procedure for pet abandonment cases.
Netra Venkateshwaran: What prompted you to enter this space and why pet boarding?
Manali Mohite: So the founder, Shyamax Presswalla has a golden retriever whose name is Shaan. Everytime he had to go abroad for trips, we didn’t have an appropriate place to keep him. So that’s when the question propped up “what do we want as pet parents? and where would we want to keep our pets? and what environment will we keep our pets in?”. So our edge over the others, is the quality of service that we give and provide as well as we have something called pet cam access. So you can see your dog live 24X7 from anywhere in the world. The entire property has this access so you can see your dog playing or eating, swimming, getting groomed as well. So it’s the kind of service any pet parent would want for their dog. In today’s generation, dogs have become equal to children, so I have met a lot of pet parents obsessing about – they don’t have a good place to keep them or the rooms are not proper, their shelters, their kennels – so those do not come up to an international standard. So that’s how the idea came about. As pet parents, what would we want for our dog – ?
Netra Venkateshwaran: As Mumbai has been rated as the second most friendly city in the country, how would you describe the reception you’re experiencing from the pet parent community?
Manali Mohite: So we’ve been in this space for about 3 years, we will be completing the third year this December. The reception when we first launch was a little low, because people were skeptical about how to leave their dog, whether they can leave them not leave them. This idea was absolutely brand new to pet parents and now after three years, after building a relationship with the pet parents, connecting on that level, that we ourselves our pet owners, we are doting parents to our children, our dogs – so connecting on a parental level and understanding their needs that’s how we got ahead in the business. So I wouldn’t call it a business but more like a family. We take care of the dogs like our own children and that’s something any pet parent would want for their dog.
Netra Venkateshwaran: So what are your expansion plans?
Manali Mohite: So, as of now we are at Byculla at Reay Road. So the space constraints, noise restrictions and licensing is extremely strict in Mumbai. Getting into a commercial space for dogs is very very difficult. So we found a place that suited all the requirements and pre requisites. So we’re in Mazgoan at the moment and that’s how we could build a 4,500 square foot area only dedicated to dogs. So a little bit about our expansion plan is that we want to open another outlet in the city itself. Something more in the suburb area. Even though we offer pick up and drop, but we have noticed that people would like the pet boarding a little close to their homes and you know also just for that comfort level. So we’re starting another one very very soon and we’d like to invite everybody to the launch!
Netra Venkateshwaran: So how does The Bark Club work and what is a day like at the boarding if I were to bring in my pet dog Cookie?
Manali Mohite: The dogs wake up by 7:00 am -7:30 am. In fact that’s the time they wake up even at their respective homes. So we try to keep their schedules more homely. They’re taken for a walk in the morning after which it is breakfast time around 8:30. So we have four caretakers who live on the property. They are there 24×7. One person is the walker, the other person feeds the dogs. The other two are the cleaning staff. We have elaborate cleaning processes as we have to maintain a particular hygiene level and to maintain our licenses. They are then given a bath based on their grooming schedule. Every dog has its own particular grooming schedule and then they’re left to play in the open area to play and interact with the other dogs. So having been trained and taught by a behaviorist, I’ve also learnt to understand different dogs and their character traits and behaviors. Every dog comes with their own set of traits, you can’t force an interaction between two dogs. So that is why we study the behavioral patterns of the dog during our consultation between the pet, pet parent and ourselves. It depends on the dogs likes and dislikes, whether he or she likes to play with toys or play with other dogs or even humans. Based on the dog and their behaviors, we plan a play schedule for them based on their needs. So playtime is from 10:30am until 1:00pm. We have also boarded some aggressive dogs in the past as well. So before the dog comes in we sit down with the pet parent and ask if they’ve noticed or faced any behavioral challenges with their own dog. Any dietary requirements, restrictions as we need to ensure we are giving them utmost attention as they are like children and most importantly need to be kept in a place that resemble their homes. That’s the basis of the service we provide. We offer the homeliest service possible. It is also to make sure that the dog doesn’t get anxiety or stressed out when he’s kept in this new space far away from his or her parent. After sleep time, the dogs are taken out for a walk. Again this depends on what the pet parent has instructed us. Either the dog is used to going three times a day or four times a day, accordingly we schedule the particular time. Also before the dog comes into the boarding there is a consultation done with both the pet and pet parent and there is a trial that’s offered to them. We do offer a schedule to them and then ask to incorporate their own changes, tweaks to it. So after three years we have also studied dogs and how they react in a place like this, away from their home. And again, exercise is key. So 4:00 pm-7:00 pm, is again exercise time/play time. Then around 7:00 pm is dinner. Dinners are freshly prepared at the boarding so depending on what the dog eats, the dinners are prepared. After dinner we take the dogs out for a walk again after which they go back to their own rooms for sleeping time.
Anchor & Correspondent • A part time journalist but a full time animal lover. Netra is an avid traveler, a caffeine addict and a food enthusiast. She also has a keen interest in fashion and luxury designer wear!