Pamper your furry companion: Chew Central brings global products to Indian pet parentsLibza Mannan
The online pet supplies store has options under three categories, offering 3,000+ curated products from various destinations around the world, including the US, Europe, and Asia.
At a glance
Startup: Chew Central
Founder: Piyush Verma and Vikram Ramchand
Year it was founded: 2017
Where it is based: Mumbai
The problem it solves: The online portal gives Indian consumers access to global pet products
Sector: Pet supplies
Funding raised: Undisclosed seed funding
There are nearly 1.8 million dogs and cats as pets in India. What would you do if your little furry best friend had to endure extreme pain and several pricks due to low-quality pet treats available in the market?
This is a common situation, which I am sure many pet parents can relate to as India’s pet industry is highly fragmented and unorganised in India. Pet product industry in India is extremely unorganised with very little focus on quality or shopping experience. Indian pet parents spend anywhere between $50-$150 per month on their pet, and yet lack access to global brands or shopping perks that are common in other economies.
The inception of Chew Central is backed by a similar story. Thirty-two-year-old Piyush Verma’s (founder) pet Leo (a Labrador Retriever) fell extremely sick when he was only nine months old to the point that he was on IV drip twice a day for 10 days, and was pricked 46 times in this time period.
Piyush recalls that Leo’s condition had worsened to the extent that multiple vets suggested that surgery might be the only option if nothing else worked. Fortunately, with the proper treatment and medication, Leo was soon on his way to recovery. Later, diagnosis revealed that the culprit was a brand of treats that was very easily available in the market, and even recommended by many pet store owners but, turns out, was actually very harmful. This was the moment Piyush decided that something needed to be done about the pet products available to pet parents in India, as well as the information accessibility about these products.
Setting off on a mission to transform India’s pet industry, Piyush delved deep to understand the Indian and global markets, having one-to-one sessions with industry stakeholders, including leading pet store owners, vendors, vets and trainers. He also spoke to several pet parents to understand their needs and concerns. This extensive research gave birth to Chew Central.
The online platform offers pet products for dogs and cats under three broad categories – food, toys and supplies. Under food, pet owners can find a variety of options from dry and wet food to prescription treats and natural treats. A range of options like chew toys, grooming essentials are available under toys and supplies as well.
Listing several breeds, the platform also allows customers to shop by their pet’s breed. The brand, which ships pan India and has also launched an iOS and Android app, along with 24/7 customer support for convenient shopping experience. Delivering on its promise of offering holistic pet care, the platform also has 20+ veterinarians and trainers as part of its advisory council to help and give accurate advice to customers.
With less than two months of operations, the company claims to have catered to 100+ customers pan India (from Assam to Tamil Nadu). The platform has also garnered significant traction from pet lovers on social media and has Facebook following of nearly 30,000 in just two months.
Piyush claims that over 80 percent of the product catalogue has been brought to India for the first time, and the products are superior in terms of quality and functionality, in comparison to the alternatives available in India.
“All our international vendors have revenues of over $100 million, ensuring that they comply with global quality standards,” reveals Piyush.
The team behind Chew Central
The startup is led by Piyush and Vikram, who have been friends for over 10 years and decided to take a plunge into entrepreneurship as their domain strengths complemented each other. Piyush handles operations and finance, while Vikram leads the technology for the firm. The duo strengthened the Chew Central team onboarding Shifa Soomar to look after the platform’s marketing and branding.
Before starting Chew Central, Piyush (32) worked with a $500 million venture capital fund in India for nearly a decade, leading several successful investments in consumer and financial services companies. He was on the road to partnership before he decided to start his own venture. Vikram (35), an alumnus of Georgia Tech and London Business School, is a serial tech entrepreneur who has built and grown three successful companies. Vikram has created several technology-related enterprises. Shifa (29) is an alum of ISB Hyderabad and has extensive work experience in marketing and communications across industries.
After Shifa, Vaibhav Varshneya came aboard as the supply chain head to ensure efficient inventory management. Vaibhav has over 12 years of experience and has prior experience of working with Merck, managing their fleet inventory in India and Denmark.
Understanding India’s pet market
The pet Industry in India is highly fragmented and unorganised. The nation’s organised pet care market is pegged at $300 million and is expected to double by 2022. Organised industry has less than 20 percent market penetration but is growing at CAGR of over 35 percent.
Considering the booming potential of the industry, we have seen the rise of several startups in the pet industry in the last few years.
From subscription-based pet-care products to smart food dispensers, tech-enabled services are simplifying the lives of pet owners. According to management consulting firm CB Insights, between 2012 and 2016, a record $486 million was invested in pet tech across 172 deals around the world, despite an overall slump in VC fundings.
Startups like Nimble Wireless (the app-based service RVPetSafety helps monitor your pet’s environmental temperature on the go), Home4pet (a one-stop e-commerce and services portal for all needs), Woofbnb (an e-commerce and pet care aggregator), Dogsee Chew (makes human-grade food for pet dogs, made of yak milk and other organic ingredients), CollarFolk (online platform that facilitates holiday planning and booking for pet owners who are keen on travelling with their furry friends), and many others are bringing global trends of the pet industry to India and aim to disrupt the space.
However, Chew Central, which is just a couple of months old, is banking on its globally recognised quality products, 24/7 customer service aided by high-end app and website to deliver a truly unparalleled shopping experience for pet parents.
Chew Central’s future roadmap
Currently, the brand is backed by a small four-member team including the co-founders, and is self-funded. However, Piyush highlights that they are in talks with VC firms to raise Series A round soon as his former VC fund has invested seed amount to help the business setup.
Going ahead, Chew Central plans to expand its customer base, focus on continued research and update the product catalogue from time to time. The brand is also looking to diversify into other pet ancillary services and establishing an offline store in future.
“Chew Central is consistently working towards being a pioneer not just in the quality of the products offered, but also the shopping experience. Given Vikram’s tech expertise, Chew Central promises its customers a premium shopping experience using high-end data analytics and an easy-to-use user interface on its website and mobile app,” Piyush signs off.