A trek to the Himalayas changed the course of his entrepreneurial journey for pet parent Bhupendra Khanal, founder & CEO of all-natural dog food Dogsee Chew. It’s not just fitness enthusiasts who are turning to organic, all-natural foods, but pet parents too, notes Khanal. He takes Indian Retailer through his journey and shares whythe pet food industry in India is ready for a change.
How did Dogsee Chew happen? What inspired you to think there was need for innovation in pet food industry?
I have two passions – data and food- and this sort of led to a series of other events. I set out to the Himalayas in a bid to discover North Eastern food that was largely unrecognized or more often never heard of. At the Himalayas, I shortlisted 37 products that I thought could get popular in other markets. However, what caught my attention was that the dogs in Himalayas were in the pink of health.
On probing, I found out that these dogs consumed Yak milk and the locals even complained that the dogs loved the milk so much that they stole it often! When tested and certified in labs back home and international labs, it proved that the milk was rich in amino acids and dogs benefitted the most. The product is naturally sourced and processed without any preservative and chemicals. Dogsee Chew, the Yak milk cheese chews as an alternative to bones, was launched in 2015 in Bengaluru.
Is sourcing and supply chain a major challenge considering they are brought from the terrains of the Himalayas?
Supply chain is a challenge but we set up the local infrastructure for the people to sell their milk. The locals struggled to find market for Yak milk as there was no recognition for this milk. We set a co-operative-like model for Yak milk farmers and arranged for transportation. As a result, more people are now breeding Yaks and the quantity of Yak milk is available in sufficient quantities.
Largely, pet food in India especially dog food is synonymous to big names like Pedigree. Since it’s a niche segment what have been your challenges?
From the start, we knew the market is very niche although the growth is very high and India alone cannot be our market. Now, to set foot in the international market as an Indian brand was the biggest challenge as the consumers there have quality concerns about our products and winning their trust was not easy. However, convinced with our international standard factories, our products were accepted in international markets. Today, we are present in 11 countries and Dogsee Chew products are high selling in UK, Netherlands and Korean markets.
But what is the market size of pet food, especially dog food in India?
According to industry estimates, the market size of animal food industry in India is over Rs 2,000 crore and nearly 70 per cent is dominated by dog-food, with a CAGR of 50-60 per cent. Since pet parents are now willing to spend more on their pets, there are estimates that pet startups in India both funded and self-sustaining are growing at a 14% rate and were pegged at Rs. 1,300 crore in 2016.Also, the India Pet Food Market Forecast and Opportunities for 2019 predicts that the pet care and food market in India is projected to cross $270 million by 2019.
How have you scaled since your launch?
Since the launch in 2015, we have grown 400 per cent YoY, while in the past 18 months we have grown 30 per cent QoQ and expect similar trend for the next few years. We sell over 1 lakh units every month and are present in 11 countries.
Have you raised funds or bootstrapped? Are you looking at raising more funds?
We had raised Rs 2 crore in angel funding in 2016 in a round led by investor AK Balyan. Now, we plan toraise Series A funding to expand in the US and Japan markets.
What are your expansion plans?
We want to foray into new overseas markets like US, Japan, France and Germany, while our main focus will be on US and Japan markets. We have realized innovation is the key and we are introducing products that are customized as per the requirements of local customers in foreign markets. For instance, in Japan, coconut is getting very popular and it is being adopted in local cuisines and we are planning to introduce coconut Yak cheese milk and similar other variants. In the US market, we would be launching products with turmeric as the key ingredient. All these products will be launched in accordance with the local, climatic conditions. Also, we will launch cat food and treats by the end of 2019.