Mr. Akash Murali, Founder of Urban Animal & Entrepreneur

Akash Murali-Founder-Urban Animal

Interview with Mr. Akash Murali, Founder of Urban Animal

Mr. Akash Murali is the Founder of Urban Animal. It is a first-of-its-kind preventive healthcare provider for dogs in India, promoting early detection of genetic ailments to increase their lifespan by up to three years.

In his current role, he spearheads various key roles at the firm and majorly supervises operations and Business Development.

Akash comes with significant experience in Business Management and marketing fields. After completing his Bachelor’s in Business Management at Warwick Business School, he went on to work as a student and marketing intern in various renowned firms including Ernst & Young, Shriram Properties Ltd. and UiPath.

An animal lover at heart, he adopted Milo (his pet dog) when he was a little puppy. However, Milo got diagnosed with arthritis when he was just two years old.

This was the turning point in Akash’s life as he realized that he was unaware of his pet’s genetic history and the potential health complications Milo could face in the future.

This motivated Akash to come up with a solution that would make DNA testing accessible, accurate and affordable for all pet parents across the country. As a result, Urban Animal was born and Akash initiated his entrepreneurial journey.

Urban Animal aims to improve the quality of dogs’ lives by ensuring early diagnosis of diseases and targeted preventive healthcare.

Initiating the venture from his personal experience, Akash is making concerted efforts to help out the other pet parents sailing in a similar boat. Under his leadership, the company is growing rapidly and plans to scale further in the future.

Akash believes that adopting Milo and kick-starting Urban Animal have been some of the notable achievements in his professional journey so far.

He envisions the company reaching the zenith and emerging as the one-stop solution for all pet parents in the future.

Five years down the line, he desires the company to be halfway through its mission of increasing the lifespan of pet dogs by up to 3 years.

In his leisure time, Akash often spends quality time with Milo. A sports fanatic, he also prefers playing football and cricket in his downtime.

He is also actively involved in social work and is a part of Charlie’s Animal Rescue Centre (CARE). Akash even studies dolphins in their natural habitat in association with African Impact and has also sponsored a tiger through WWF in the past.

Additionally, Akash even started Milo’s Club, a pet parent exclusive community to build a culture of proactive care in India.

Tell us a little about yourself

Akash Murali: Well, I hail from a family of professors and my dad was the first one to break the cycle by becoming a first-generation entrepreneur.

His work ethic has been a highly motivating factor for me throughout Urban Animal’s journey. And I have to say, my parents have supported me in all my decisions, even when I expressed my interest in exploring the entrepreneurial pathway.

As far as my educational background is concerned, I am currently completing my BSc from Warwick Business School, the University of Warwick.

Throughout my career span, I have worked with various companies including Ernst & Young, UiPath and Shriram Properties and my expertise lies in marketing.

However, soon after,  I realized that I wanted to be something different yet meaningful. Seeking inspiration from my pet, Milo’s medical condition, I established Urban Animal with Arunav Vaish last year. Now, my entire focus is on growing the company and helping dogs lead healthy, happy lives. 

Please tell us a little about your entrepreneurial journey

Akash Murali: Since our first year at college, Arunav and I were always interested in exploring entrepreneurial opportunities.

A few days after one of our discussions, my dog, Milo, had a sudden onset of arthritis. At that time, he was just two years old.

The vet treating him mentioned that this could be due to genetic factors. And this is how we came up with the idea of Urban Animal and established it as a first-of-its-kind preventive healthcare provider for dogs in India, promoting early detection of genetic health conditions.

We did nearly 2 years of research to ensure that the testing is accurate and affordable for all pet parents in the country. Our sole vision is to increase the lifespan of dogs by up to three years within the next decade.

What service(s) or product(s) do you offer Urban Animal?

Akash Murali: At Urban Animal, we offer genetic testing services for dogs. Through our tests, we help pet parents identify potential health issues their pets are likely to face in the future. Along with the early detection of diseases, we also assist pet parents with management strategies to improve the quality of their dogs’ lives.

Tell us about Urban Animal

Akash Murali: Urban Animal is a first-of-its-kind preventive healthcare provider for dogs, promoting early detection of genetic ailments to increase their lifespan by up to three years.

The company’s core USP lies in providing the country’s first predictive test for proactive pet care and the convenience of pet genetic testing, with its free, doorstep test kit delivery and sample collection services.

Incepted in 2021, Urban Animal is the brainchild of Co-Founders Akash Murali and Arunav Vaish with a vision of ensuring that DNA testing of dogs is easily accessible, accurate, and affordable for every pet parent in India.

The company aims to improve the quality of dogs’ lives by ensuring early diagnosis of diseases and targeted preventive healthcare.

Ideal for all breeds and ages, the DIY, pain-free tests can be conducted from the comfort of people’s homes and help map dogs’ healthcare against 130+ genetic conditions.

The company also offers free vet consultations with its in-house veterinarians to help pet parents understand the reports better.

Operational pan India, Urban Animal specifically targets pet parents in Tier 1 cities. It is currently associated with 30+ vets across five cities.

Its lab partner, GeneTech has over 20 years of experience in human and animal genetic testing and is certified by various national and international bodies after several sample tests, including the International Society of Animal Genetics (ISAG).

Grown significantly in a short period, Urban Animal is planning to scale further in the times to come. The company wants to expand its product portfolio and introduce genetic testing for cats and breed purity tests for pets.

Urban Animal also intends to increase marketing for dog DNA tests and will target 50,000 sales of its tests in the first year. It further plans to offer add-on services, including consultation, supplementation, providing medication, food, etc., in the near future.

Mating compatibility based on genetic composition is another area where Urban Animal wants to expand.

What is unique about your label brand?

Akash Murali: We are the pioneers in providing preventive healthcare for dogs in the country. Our core USP lies in providing the first predictive test for proactive pet care and the convenience of pet genetic testing, with free, doorstep test kit delivery and sample pick up services.

We offer the most comprehensive tests in the market covering 130+ genetic health conditions and providing foresight into dogs’ healthscape.

Our DIY, pain free tests can be done with a simple swab at the convenience of pet parents. Additionally, we also offer free vet consultations with our in-house veterinarians to help pet parents understand the reports better.

What made you choose this type of business?

Akash Murali: Watching Milo dealing with arthritis at a young age made me realize the prevalence of genetic diseases and the importance of detecting them early amongst dogs.

Further, when Arunav and I researched, we realized that 75% of dogs are at risk of suffering from genetic diseases.

Considering all these factors, we wanted to help pet parents have all information about their pets’ health so that dogs could have the best care. I am a big dog lover and this provided me an opportunity to make a tangible difference in their lives.

What was your mission and vision at the outset?

Akash Murali: Ever since we launched Urban Animal in 2021, our mission has been to provide pets with a pain-free, long, healthy and happy life.

We envision increasing their lifespan by up to 3 years within the next decade. And to achieve this objective, we wish to promote awareness about dogs’ preventive healthcare.

How many employees in your organization?

Akash Murali: We are a start-up dedicated to promoting preventive healthcare for dogs. But we are actively walking on the growth path.

Currently, we have 8 employees in our team at Urban Animal. Additionally, we are also working with 22 people outsourced from agencies.

We intend to expand our team and are actively hiring experienced talent for divisions such as business development, marketing and sales.

What are your company’s goals?

Akash Murali: Our major objective is to increase pet dogs’ lifespan and provide end-to-end management of diseases through our platform.

Furthermore, we wish to achieve the target of successfully conducting 50,000 tests by the end of Oct 2023.

We also wish to establish our in-house R&D team in the future to increase our market reach and research better into specific diseases for developing new treatments for the genetic disorders faced by dogs.

What was the inspiration behind turning into an entrepreneur?

Akash Murali: My father has been my biggest motivation in my entrepreneurial journey. I was determined to pursue the path of entrepreneurship but at the same time, I had a vision of making a difference with my venture.

Milo’s medical condition gave me that push to establish my company, Urban Animal, through which I am now able to help pet parents know their dogs better and prevent them from any health issues in the future.

What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

Akash Murali: DNA Testing is a very technical and sensitive field. We cannot afford to have any lapses in the accuracy of our tests.

This is why we spent 2 years researching and ensuring that the testing is accurate before we even started offering our tests to pet parents.

Over this period, we faced several setbacks. However, we did not give up and worked day and night to ensure we have a product that will actually benefit pet parents!

We knew we were trying to create a new category in the pet industry in India. People are not aware of the existence of genetic diseases in dogs, let alone the advantages of genetic testing.

The core concept brought with itself a peculiar set of challenges. But we have been successful enough in overcoming the hurdles at all steps.

We are confident that the quality of our product and our hard work will culminate into tangible benefits for both pets and pet parents.

Key things to consider before starting a startup.

Akash Murali: I have to say my entrepreneurial journey has been a rollercoaster ride. I have learnt a lot, whether it is multitasking, taking critical decisions, or even building a team.

I advise aspiring entrepreneurs that before establishing your venture, you need to understand the value you will be adding and what impact you will be creating.

The value can have different forms but they will eventually define your business model. You can be providing a price benefit to the consumer, you can be providing convenience, enhancing quality or you can be adding value by having a unique product.

Whatever you choose, you should be clear about the value you intend to add and what your business model will be.

If you are confident that you have a viable model that will make a difference in people’s lives, then one should simply not give up.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?

Akash Murali: When you are working on building your venture, mistakes are a part of the journey. What matters is how you set things straight later on.

And we did what any entrepreneur would do- we learnt our lessons, retained them and implemented the learnings.

During the initial phases, we were actually confused about the exact scope of our services as there was not a well-defined structure to our ideas.

To be honest, we wanted to do too much without aligning the product with the real needs of the customers.

But then, we researched, imbibed the customer-first approach, brainstormed ideas and discussed those and eventually came up with the concept of providing preventive healthcare for dogs.

If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out, what would it be?

Akash Murali: I strongly feel that it’s never too early to follow your dreams and start your venture. You just need to believe in yourself and work hard.

At the same time, you should take everyone’s opinions seriously. Weigh each and every feedback and opinion you get and see how you can improve yourself and your concept.

Your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Akash Murali: I think to be an entrepreneur, one really needs to be passionate about what they are doing. Establishing a venture is similar to nurturing a seed so that it grows into a tree.

Hence, a startup demands your time and attention and you should be able to really enjoy the process.

Had I not been caring about dogs, then, Urban Animal would have been just a business for me. But since I am a dog lover, it’s my passion project and I am trying to support a cause that no one has even thought of in our country.

I also firmly believe that to be successful in the long term, you have to do honest work that adds value to the life of your customers. So, follow your passion and work hard, and results will eventually be visible!

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