In 2017, Afifah and Shifa’s Pet Boarding Service was recognized as the first pet hotel in Malaysia to implement a 100% online reservation system. Their efforts earned them awards, including Site of the Month and Site of the Year for the e-commerce category in 2018 by Exabytes Group.
The duo got into the pet hospitality business in 2017 only because they wanted to surround themselves with cats. With limited funds, the workforce remained meager, so they needed a system that could handle the operations of the Meowclass Cat Hotel & Grooming (Meowclass).
After researching, they were unable to find an existing booking platform to use, they claimed. So, with Shifa’s self-taught knowledge of Python, she created a comprehensive website with simple reservation and service management systems to help run the hotel.
âWe saw the potential to expand our physical activity and we were seeking the advice of a successful entrepreneur to raise funds from investors,â they recalled.
âWe totally ignored the fact that we had a potential technological solution, and [we were] advised that we focus on growing our solutions so that we can help other pet hotel operators run their businesses the way we have.
After visiting other pet hotels to validate their idea, Afifah and Shifa closed Meowclass in June 2019 to focus all of their efforts on a digital pet platform, Petotum.
From IRL to URL
Malaysia has no shortage of pet boarding markets, with popular names like JomPaw and Petbacker. Although Petotum started as a direct competitor in January 2019, Afifah and Shifa were still trying to find their product market before going public.
They were able to do this after joining MaGIC’s Global Accelerator Program (GAP) to identify gaps they could fill. The result of this was the creation of Petotum as a SaaS for pet boarding and grooming businesses to run their operations.
While participating in GAP, Petotum won TERAJU’s Superb competition which awarded them a grant worth RM500,000 in November 2019. This was the duo’s first argument for funding under MaGIC.
Due to the pandemic, this funding has been delayed, in turn delaying the official public launch of Petotum until December 2020.
But since then, the digital pet platform has not slowed down and has expanded its team, products and services to serve consumers as well.
Developing within MCOs
One of the features of Petotum that users may find interesting, besides its reservation services, is its digital database for tracking a pet’s medical, dietary or behavioral information.
This is more beneficial when a pet is taken in by someone else or when a rescued animal is relocated to its new adoptive family.
Link and QR code are provided in the app for users to share the details saved in the app. Petotum does not limit the number of animals listed per user and the app is free.
This feature appeared during the MCO when Afifah was hosting 7 cats, in addition to the 6 others she already owned.
âWhen we relocate our foster cats to their new families, there is no way (other than on paper) to document the animal’s information that can be shared with the new owners. So we thought we had to do something and we did it, âthey told Vulcan Post.
Additionally, to support pet and stray animal services within MCO, Petotum has launched its Boulou-Boulou Initiative to feed the wanderers. The pet food is funded by donations within the community, where Petotum volunteers will help feed the stray animals.
In July 2021, Petotum also launched the Petpreneur program to help pet services digitize their business. He had allocated RM 1.5 million worth of pet care management solutions to more than 500 petpreneurs across the country.
These initiatives were part of the startup’s efforts to ease the burden on pet-related businesses affected by the pandemic, while reducing infection rates through digitization.
Already explosive growth
In 2 years of its conception, Petotum has grown to offer 3 products. They include the digital pet database mentioned above, as well as appointment and payment systems called PetotumBIZ (for groomers and hotels) and PetotumVET (for veterinary clinics).
The platform monetizes thanks to the service fees of transactions made on the Petotum application.
âIf we take a step back and look at our accomplishments over the past 2 years, we have moved from a simple market platform to an integrated platform for the companion animal ecosystem. We hired every member of our team, built and launched our solutions, all during the pandemic. This is our greatest achievement to date. Â»Afifah, co-founder of Petotum.
To date, Petotum is currently serving nearly 10,000 pet parents since its official launch in December 2020.
Petotum’s app saw its highest growth rate of 174% while PetotumBIZ saw 250% month-over-month growth in August 2021 since launching in March 2021.
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In recent times, we’ve seen the public interest in pet ICs, pet insurance, and even gourmet meals for pet celebrations more and more. It shows owners’ willingness to spend more money on their pets and find new ways to care for them.
Petotum came at an opportune time for pet parents and pet-related businesses, which likely led to its explosive growth when it was launched to the public.
However, to retain users, the platform would require some form of retention element to keep users active on the app, as opposed to a one-time download, try, and delete situation. Perhaps having some form of membership system with loyalty rewards via collected points might be the way to go.
- You can read more about Petotum here.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups here.
Image Credit Featured: Afifah Basir and Shifa Azahar, Co-Founders of Petotum