Kanpur-based Forfurs is tapping into India’s growing petcare industry with its premium products
The year 2015 turned out to be an eventful one for Vanya Chandel, as Hugo, her pet dog, came into her life.
The same year, after a year of working as a Human Resource Officer with the Future Group in Gurugram, the MBA grad from Delhi School of Economics decided to fulfil her entrepreneurial dreams.
Back in her hometown Kanpur, also known as the leather city of the world, Vanya began exporting equestrian products to the UK, and soon started taking part in international trade fairs.
Whilst in the business, she often found herself either customising certain accessories for Hugo, or asking friends and families abroad to bring certain toys or accessories for him.
“I just couldn’t find a suitable product in India. Eventually, I realised that the Indian market is exporting good quality products overseas, and keeping the inferior quality products for sale in India. This was a huge gap to fill,” she tells HerStory.
In 2018, she launched ForFurs, a D2C petcare brand that claims to make “export quality pet products for the Indian market” while continuing her export business.
From one pet parent to another
Vanya says being a pet parent herself helps in understanding the market needs.
"I also got a sense of what kind of products people want for their dogs because there are no pet owners anymore, but only pet parents. They need good products for their pets just the way they would take care of their baby."
Working from a 3,000 sqft workshop in Sarojini Nagar, Kanpur, with a team of five people, Forfurs offers a wide range of accessories for pet animals like cats, dogs, and horses.
Manufacturing in small batches, the brand sells around 2000 products per month. The products are available on ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, and Snapdeal, besides its own website. In FY 2021, Forfurs clocked Rs 60 lakh in revenue.
Most of Forfurs’ customers hail from metro cities Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi. So to penetrate the market in Tier II and III cities, in the next four months, Vanya plans to launch an economical range without compromising on the quality of products.
According to her, having a user's perspective of good and harmful quality helped her make quality products in small batches.
For instance, she says her dog Hugo, being a Labrador, is incredibly strong and manages to break free from most leashes.
"So, I built something strong by introducing brass hardware instead of nickel, and have been using it for two years now. Other pet parents have also felt the difference," she adds.
For Vanya, the challenge lies in long established consumer patterns. “We are trying to sell products of higher quality in a market where people are used to buying lower priced products, which often do not last and need to be replaced every two months or so. Getting customers to invest in Forfurs products that would last them longer is a challenge," admits Vanya.
Educating potential customers continues to be a difficult task, so Forfurs resorts to organic Instagram marketing to create awareness and brand presence.
Although the pandemic posed a logistical challenge in shipping products, the demand for Forfurs products did see an increase, with more people adopting pets for companionship during lockdowns and extended isolation periods.
According to dog food company Pedigree, Indians domesticate approximately two crore pet dogs as of October 2019, and the food consumption alone makes for about Rs 1,200 crore annually. The country is also expected to account for a market share of more than nine percent in the pet accessories segment globally, as per ResearchandMarkets.com
Vanya believes that only a few names like Heads Up For Tails have marked their presence in the petcare and accessories brands, and many new entries are to be expected.
Amidst the growing market opportunity, she says Forfurs’ offerings will be unique as Vanya manufactures her own products with a good quality control system in place “while most other brands either source from China or local manufacturers and resell.”
Speaking on her pivot from supplying to foreign brands to launching Forfurs in India, she notes,
“The US and European markets for pet care have evolved with hundreds of established players. I can supply to them - which is still a major revenue source - but as far as starting my own brand, Indian market is the place to be.”
In the future, the brand aims to introduce designer products and accessories, and other product ranges that are more affordable.