Bhupendra Khanal quits Simplify360 to follow his passion for food (especially Nepali and North Eastern food). Soon he started exploring ideas in this area and suddenly discovered this product – hardened Yak milk cheese, which was getting popular as a dog food. Then he started talking to people in the industry and found that dog food industry needed someone who can disrupt with innovation on product (especially organic) and design.
“My love for dogs, passion for organic food, and my close affinity with the Himalaya played the remaining role in deciding the next venture,” says Bhupendra.
Story behind Dogsee Chew
It was while on a trek in Elam, a small district in Nepal, he found local stray dogs with shining furs, perfect teeth and overall with a great amount of energy. When he interacted with the villagers, they revealed that these dogs often chew on ‘Churpi’ that villagers sometimes throw out or don’t use.
This came as quite a surprise to Bhupendra as Churpi or hardened yak milk cheese is something that he has known and ate all his life but never thought of as dog food. A little more research later, ‘Dogsee Chew’ was born.
Sourcing and Himalaya connection
Dogsee Chew is helping farmers of the Himalayan region with basic instruments of cutting the chews and mats for drying it up. The processing and packaging is done by Khanal Foods.
The product is prepared by the farmers in the upper Himalaya as they cannot directly sell milk or other milk products to the market because of the travel time. The villagers make the cheese and dry it in the sun for about 10 weeks, which becomes hard and durable.
“I am helping these farmers by directly buying from them, and buying in bulk, thus giving them good earnings timely and quickly. Dogsee Chew is also helping them produce more by providing them support on buying mats to cutting machines,” adds Bhupendra.
The product is sourced from the high hills of Sikkim, Nepal, and Bhutan. The consortium of about 1,500 farmers make these hardened cheese from yak and cow milk, lime juice, and salt.
Presence and traction
Bhupendra claims that the product is highly appreciated by veterinary doctors and dog behaviorists. At present, it’s being sold in five stores in Bangalore including Cessna, Paws The Pet Store, Paws Nation, and Pet Shoppe. It is also available at Amazon, Paws The Pet Store, and DogSpot for supply throughout.
The startup has received over 150 orders in the first 10 days averaging 15 orders a day with an average ticket size of Rs 600. Dogsee Chew plans to do sales of USD 100k in next three months and USD one million by 2016. The company is close to raising angel fund, and will be looking for series A in the second quarter of the next calendar year.
USPs and differentiators
The product has three major USPs – this is the only all organic 100 per cent vegetarian treats/chews for dogs that words as an alternative to bones. It’s high in protein and low on carbs making them ideal for dogs, and lastly Himalayan connection that brings rare minerals along with all organic alternative to the processed treats.
Key learning at Simplify360 – passion and speed more important than huge investments
Bhupendra and Simplify360 are inseparable, he says, “The company has taught me three great things – how patience and resilience can make a market leader, passion and speed more important than huge investments, and value of amazing and united team. We remain together for six and half years, and overtook the hurdles.”
Also during the last few months at Simplify360, he learnt that ownership and operation are two different things. This
helped him take the decision of coming out with professional management set up.Size of opportunity
The size of the dog food industry is about Rs 800 crore and is growing at over 30 per cent annually. Among the overall market, snack or treats is about 15–20 per cent, which makes it at Rs 120–160 crore. Dogsee Chew is expecting to have around 10 per cent market share in next three years and grow to 25–30 crore in India. The bigger scale comes from export, which will have higher numbers.
Bhupendra comes from Nepal and have deep understanding of the product and the life cycle as well as he is avid dog lover understanding the needs of dogs. The company's strong relationship up the hills and building supply chain is the primary strength.
This is combined with strong product design and packaging, pace to hit the market and continued innovation (more products on same lines are coming up), and ability to quickly build partner and evangelists network.
At present, there are no organic and vegetarian foods for dogs available in the market. Processed non-organic foods are not healthy for dogs in the long run and lack of vegetarian treat cause huge discomfort in vegetarian families. Dogs need hard chews to clean their gums.
Having Dogsee Chew is not only going to help those organic lovers and vegetarian pet parents, it will also increase the adoption of dogs by this segment. Currently, there are several competitors in the market – Jerhigh has good leadership in dog treats, while Mars international has dominated overall food business with Pedigree and Royal Canin.
The startup directly competes with Himalayan Dog Chew in the US and few other markets. There is K9 Chews in the UK and few other smaller players around the world. Dogsee Chew appears to be a promising play as it focuses on pure-play organic and vegetarian chews, snacks, bar, etc.