There is a saying: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” A decade ago, families had dogs for merely protecting their homes, but today with the rise of nuclear families, dogs are being seen as companions, and the people adopting pets want to provide them with the best.
According to industry estimates, there are about two million domesticated dogs in India and the size of the industry is approximately US$278 million (INR 1700 crore). The pet care industry in India is growing at a sustained pace and estimates show that the pet population in India is expected to grow at a rate of 25 per cent year-on-year.
The love for animals, dearth of information available online, especially for the Indian pet owner and the tremendous opportunity in the untapped segment led to the launch of DogSpot.in as a community website in 2007, which eventually became an e-commerce portal in 2011.
It was founded by Rana Atheya, Ankur Tandon and Shailesh Visen with an initial investment of US$11,466 (INR 7 lakh) as a platform for pet lovers to communicate with each other and gain knowledge about better pet keeping. It received an initial funding from India Quotient in February 2013, which is being used for further development (new sites, apps, etc.) and expansion of its own range of products.
“I always wanted to work in the pet care industry but it takes a lot of courage and family support for leaving a comfortable job and wear the entrepreneurial hat. I have had tremendous learning in every field of business management, which is not possible in a job,” explained Rana Atheya, CEO, DogSpot.
Since DogSpot started in 2007, it has been able to influence early adapters in the target segment society. The company claims to have a community of 7,000 registered pets and the largest category of products with maximum customer touch points.
Not just for dog lovers Dogs are a big vertical for the startup, but it also caters to other segments such as fish, birds and cats. FishSpot aims to be a one-stop-online-shop for all the fish needs and follows the footsteps of DogSpot. It caters to the needs of aquarium owners, fish enthusiasts and breeders. “FishSpot is doing well but dogs happen to be a bigger retail market, and hence we focus more on dogs. We are also selling cat and bird products. Cat product sales have shown very fast growth,” said Atheya. Dog food is the largest selling category on the platform.
Euromonitor pegs a double digit increase in the retail value growth of the pet industry. The report shares that the growth in the pet care industry will be driven by several factors such as rising disposable income, higher awareness of the dietary needs of pets and the benefits of pet food. In pet food, the gradual shift from non-prepared to prepared food continues due to the realisation of the convenience and health benefits offered by prepared food. Within pet products, grooming products, pet healthcare and pet dietary supplements are expected to post strong growth in popularity as pet owners take a greater interest in providing comfort to pets and improving their health.
Ever heard of Wagpedia? “We at DogSpot firmly believe in educating our community members, and both Wagpedia and Wag Club are steps taken in that direction,” stated Atheya.
Wagpedia is a repository of information about various breeds. It helps the user to find the perfect breed as per their requirements, using various filters. It is a useful tool for those also who want a pet or just want to know about breeds. Wag Club, on the other hand is a social platform for all dogs and their owners. It allows pet owners to share pictures of their pets and post their activities. In addition to this, there are breed-specific clubs as well.
‘Appifying’ pet care The company is working on an app that will help dog owners find local information about the places to visit with their dogs. It will also connect with the best and/or nearest veterinarian. It will have a pet centre which will provide information at every life stage of your pet.
It is also working on a shopping app which will help in recharging your dog food, cat food and cat litter. “We have seen a behaviour pattern where people forget to order the dog food and they realise it at the last minute. This app will predict the consumption and would give notification to pre-order,” said Atheya.
How is DogSpot different? The pet care industry is growing rapidly with many players such as PetShopIndia, Pupkart and Petgenie emerging in this space; however looks like DogSpot has the advantage of being the early starter in this business. E-commerce websites such as Amazon, Pepperfry, Snapdeal, etc. also have a pets category and hence compete with DogSpot.
“You need to know the emotional connect that a pet lover has with his pet to be able to provide products and services that will be accepted and appreciated by them. Unfortunately, not many businesses can say that the people working for them are also pet lovers. However, in case of DogSpot, we ensure that every person we hire is either a pet owner or a pet lover. We have a strong team of people who believe in the work they do and ideate on new ways of how they can make a pet owner’s life simpler and better,” said Atheya.
He further added, “We will soon launch a unique and interesting dog tag that no one in the Indian market can claim to have. The product has been created keeping in mind the trauma a pet owner goes through when their pet gets lost and how can we as DogSpot help them.”
It has started a special product recommendation section to help consumers get the right product for their pets. The customers need to tell the breed and age of their dog and DogSpot will show a list of products that are handpicked for them. This allows them to give customised experience to the user.
Finding the right talent is a challenge The e-commerce industry is evolving and growing more and more as people go online to buy products. However, there are a few challenges when it comes to the business of pet care.
“Finding the right pool of people who are passionate about pets and pet care is difficult. The overall cost of transportation is a challenge as pet products are generally bulky and it becomes important for us to keep a close eye on the shipping costs and economics,” said Atheya.
“It is a challenge working with unorganised players. Some players have major setbacks and they are not open to learning or evolving. In such cases, we try and build those capabilities within our systems,” he added.
CatSpot and BirdSpot to come soon DogSpot has recently launched its private label product line. The new line features hand-selected pet supplies for dogs, cats, birds and small animals.
It has added a number of products to its private label line under various categories. In addition to dogs, products such as cat toys, bird toys and bedding for small animals have also been added.
It plans to launch 1000 products under its private label by the end of FY 2014. The firm plans to add new products every month. In addition, it is also working on establishing websites such as FishSpot, CatSpot and BirdSpot.
“The pet care industry is poised to grow exponentially in the next five years and we want to lead the growth by being a one-stop destination for pet lovers to fulfill all their needs,” concluded Atheya.