In 1987, Majid Rajaby, an Iranian-born animal lover who had come to Europe earlier that decade, was studying for his degree in veterinary medicine at the University of Nantes in France. At the same time, Swedish entrepreneur Tom Eliasson had just founded Husse, a line of pet food that was made from superior ingredients and designed to be more nutritious. Almost 20 years later, Rajaby would help the company make its first foray into the British market and introduce the Swedish line of pet food to four-legged creatures in homes across the country.
Throughout his career, Rajaby has channelled his passion for animals into working as a vet – with a specialism in fish – and consulting for companies like Biomar, which supplies feed for fish farming. His career has taken him all over Europe to the Netherlands, France and Belgium. And it was while giving pet owners advice on animal nutrition that he first came across Husse. “I’ve always been passionate about helping pets and making them healthier so Husse caught my attention – it was different from a lot of the other products out there,” he says.
But it wasn’t until 2012, after getting his masters in aquatic veterinary science from Stirling University, that Rajaby considered joining the Husse franchising family. “I saw an ad saying that the brand was looking for a master franchisee in the UK and, since I was already familiar with the product and trusted it, the opportunity excited me,” he says. Husse’s international reputation and long history also meant that while the brand wasn’t familiar to the average Brit, Rajaby was confident it would take off on these shores. What’s more, having spent several years in Scotland, Rajaby had established a life in the UK and was keen to stay on rather than return to France. All things considered, buying the master franchise seemed like the perfect fit.
Rajaby tentatively got in touch to request an information pack but rather than taking the details provided by the franchisor at face value, he did some investigating of his own. Having spent years as an academic combing through books on marine biology, he threw himself into the task of researching every angle of the opportunity. There were several reasons for this diligence: not only would he be introducing a European brand to the British market for the first time but he’d only spent a few years getting to know the country and had never worked in the franchising industry. “I really looked at the franchise model, the UK market opportunity and the business’s performance around the world until I was confident that it was a good opportunity,” he says. His deep-dive into the UK market threw up some encouraging statistics: as a nation of dog and cat lovers, Brits were spending over £2bn a year on pet food at the time.
What’s more, Rajaby noted that there was a wider health movement under way. Brits were starting to become more conscious of what they were putting into their bodies – and that healthy mindset extended to the nutrition of their pets. “Over the last few years, people have become increasingly interested in making healthier choices for their pets,” says Rajaby. “When people buy pet food, they look closely at the carbs, protein and energy.” And given that Husse promises a pet food range that’s crafted by nutritionists and made from healthy ingredients, Rajaby was sure that the timing was perfect for the brand to make its entrance.
And so after six months of thorough research, Rajaby took the plunge and bought the master franchising rights for Husse in the UK. But rather than staying on in Sterling, the master franchisee set up shop in London – which seemed like the natural choice. “It was obvious to me that London was the best place to be as it’s easier for people from across the country to visit us here,” he says. “It’s the centre of everything.”