By: Binoy Sahee, director of Creature Companion
I often hear foreign companies exploring the prospect of selling products in India. However, most foreign companies can’t see the wood for the trees. Since India is a kaleidoscope of contrasts, it is imperative to have more than one marketing plan to suit customer’s needs in different regions.
In the pecking order of popularity, dogs still lead the pack followed by cats, birds and small mammals. The fish market is growing, but limited to only a few regions.
India’s cat population has seen growth in Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. A recent development in many cities is that cat clubs are being established. The available cat food brands are Whiskas, Me-o, Regale meal, Maxx and other brands of Royal Canin and Drools. A variety of cat litters are sold in India including Pura, a domestic brand and well-known in the international market.
Pet food market
The value of the pet market in India is INR 8,165.9 billion (€113 million – $127 million), of which INR 6,366.4 billion (€88 million – $99 million) comes from dog and cat food. The market grew by 23.2% in 2014, according to Euromonitor International. The Indian pet food market has seen an increase in entrepreneurs manufacturing pet foods in India. Producing extruder food on a large scale is a big sign of change, considering the amount of investment required.
For example, Taiyo Feed Mill Pvt Ltd produces 1,400 tonnes of dog, cat and fish foods per month. “We launched Bairo dog food in 2014 and it has received good feedback from the market,” says Prabakar, CEO of the company.
Drools is another brand of the IB Group, which is based in Chhattisgarh, Central India.
They are aggressive in their marketing strategy and operate throughout India. Competitively priced, it looks as though they are here for the long haul.
Private label developments
Private labels are not new to India. A recent market entrant is Bharat International from Pune. An importer and distributor of Eukanuba for a long time, Bharat Pittie, Managing Director (Sales and Marketing) has acquired a lot of industry knowledge. “The market is ripe for launching new pet food. Private label provides the opportunity to develop own brands,” claims Bharat. It is safe to say that the Indian pet market is buzzing with new developments.
In the last two years, the size of pet shops has grown from 150 sqft to 15,000 sqft (14 sqm to 1,400 sqm) in metropolitan cities. Pet owners’ purchasing habits are mainly determined by apartment size.
Pet shops and vets remain serious players in retailing pet products across India. Pet shops stock Trixie, Savic, BioGroom and Petkin besides Chinese pet accessories, which marks a shift away from cheap, obscure brands. Although this presents an opportunity for supermarket chains, they have not shown much interest yet. Online retailing has grown by leaps and bounds in the last year.
Rana Atheya, CEO and founder of DogSpot, says: “We sell 1,500 units, which is a 300% growth from last year, but India has 4 million dogs. We have not even reached 1% of them.”
Amazon has convinced people to take notice of its pet category in the market, and nowadays a lot of companies are selling through this internet-based retailer. There are dozens of online pet shops. Non-pet online stores such as Pepperfry, Snapdeal, etc. also have a pet category. Looking at India’s internet penetration, it is apparent that online pet stores will continue to grow.
Responsible pet ownership
Awareness is one area where Indians are lacking today. Pet companies have to make a concerted effort to train pet shop staff and disseminate information about keeping pets in a responsible manner. The reality is that even today most shopkeepers are unaware of basic things and lack the knowledge to guide pet owners.
According to Linda Hawke, founder of the India International Pet Trade Fair (IIPTF), the largest pet event in India: “We have a pet counselling area and an adoption centre during the fair to educate pet owners, but more work has to be done in this area.”
The quality of veterinary services has improved tremendously. To name a few, Max Vet in Delhi and Cessna Life in Bengaluru are big and spacious and offer treatment for serious diseases such as cancer, kidney failure, etc. Pet owners are ready to shell out more on their pets to increase their life span. With veterinarians investing more and more in quality equipment, veterinary diagnostic equipment companies should jump at this opportunity in India. Prescription diets sold only by vets have increased recently. However, regular availability of prescription diet is a matter of concern in India.
We have a billion plus population and a large area; but what is holding India back from developing at a rapid pace like China? The mindset of pet owners is something that every company has to work hard to change. Cost is not the only reason why there has been slow shift away from home cooked to packaged pet food. Indians are price sensitive but given proper advice, they will spend money on their pets.
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