An idea to save the lives of stray dogs allowed Shantanu Naidu to work with industrialist Ratan Tata. The 27-year-old, an animal and a dog lover, designed reflective collars that help dogs survive road accidents.
The simple act of compassion
Shantanu Naidu came up with this idea when he saw a stray dog’s dead body lying in the middle of Pune’s Viman Nagar Road and as he went to bring the body on the side, another speeding car ran over it. The incident disturbed him so much that he decided to do something to prevent such occurrences. “It was horrible and would happen regularly. The cars would even run over their carcasses. The most I could do at the time was drag the carcass to the side of the road,” says Shantanu to The Better India.
After he graduated in 2014, Shantanu started working at the Tata group as his first job. Taking time out from his daily routine the 27-year-old decided to do something to prevent dogs from road accidents. Initially, he decided to take notes from motorists who had accidentally run over dogs or encountered near misses.
Most of the drivers had visibility and proximity issues. According to them, they saw a dog just five seconds before their cars advanced them, there was little they could do. These dogs had to been noticed at some distance.
“I called a few friends and designed a collar that had reflectors on it so that drivers can see the dog from distant. Since I was an automotive design engineer, I had access to reflective tapes that we use on cars. The next day, we went around and put these collars on the stray dogs,” he said.
Financial requirements a major obstacle
However, Shantanu had a problem to face, the fundamental money problem which was a major barrier. He was working in a basic job, and his friends were college students. None of them had enough money to buy huge amounts of the support material they would use for the collar. They had to get material that was cheap or free.
Shantanu’s father suggested him to write a letter to Ratan Tata as he loved dogs too. “I was hesitant at first, but then I said to myself, ‘Why not?’ So I wrote him a handwritten letter and forgot all about it!”
Two months later, his life was changed. He received a signed letter from Mr. Ratan who appreciated his job and was willing to help. “When I opened it, it said that he loved our work and would like to meet me — I couldn’t believe it!”
Mr. Ratan Tata was deeply touched by the work that he was doing when they met at the former’s office in Mumbai. “I met Mr. Ratan Tata for the first time at the end of 2015. My thoughts were swirling, but he put me at ease. He is a generous and empathetic person, and we connected on our shared love for people and animals. Also, he loves working with young entrepreneurs, so everything just came together,” he says.
In 2015, he and his friends had founded ‘Motopaws,’ an animal welfare NGO dedicated to dogs, especially strays. As the periods progressed, demand for these collars saw growth.
Today, the NGO has extended to 11 cities and three countries (India, Nepal, and Malaysia) thanks to the generous funding it received from Ratan Tata. Motopaws now make 1000-1500 dog collars per month but want to raise that figure. “We started this venture for altruistic reasons, and not to make money or profits.
They are also trying to collaborate with other animal rescue NGOs who are training volunteers to become rescuers themselves and understand the basics.
A dream job
After months, Shantanu went abroad for his higher studies. “As soon as I came back to India, he gave me a call and said ‘I have a lot of work to be done in my office. Would you like to be my assistant?’ — I didn’t know how to react. So I took a deep breath, and a few seconds later said ‘Yes!’,” he said.
Shantanu has been working as Tata’s assistant for 18 months. “It’s been 18 months since I’ve been working for him, while also running Moto Paws. Last week, we decided to upgrade the design—we won’t use denim anymore. Instead, we will employ super light industrial fluorescent orange, which is completely water-resistant. Even the retro-reflective has been upgraded. On 1 December, we are launching a new model of the collar, which will also have a new buckling mechanism to ensure they aren’t removed easily,” he said.