Every startup has a story behind it. Similarly, Dogsee Chew too has a story but with a ‘ting’ moment experienced by its CEO, Mr. Bhupendra Khanal whilst trekking in Nepal.
It was while on a trek in Ilam, a small district in Nepal, Bhupendra found local stray dogs with shining furs, perfect teeth & 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 Bhupi as Churpi or Hardened 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, ‘DogseeChew’ was born! We are publishing an interview with Mr. Bhupendra.
Q.: What is the problem you are trying to solve? Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Ans: Rawhide is a billion dollar industry at present. Rawhides and by-products of leather industry and undergo heavy chemical processing before being placed on our dogs’ bowl as a chew. Many studies have claimed rawhides to be very harmful for dogs to chew. Hydrogen peroxide and sodium sulphide liming are not the only used in rawhides.
On testing, rawhides have been found containing elements like Lead, Arsenic, Mercury and formaldehyde. Hence, a dog’s natural instinct to chew is being abused rather than being satisfied at the moment. Dogs die because of choking caused by consumption of rawhides. A research published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association claims the mortality rate for animals that block on rawhides to be about 25%.
Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Ans: Dogsee Chew is a 100% natural product. It is free of chemicals of any sort. They can be used as alternatives to rawhides since Dogsee Chews are long-lasting and keep your dogs engaged for a longer time helping them fight plaque and tartar. Dogsee Chews are very rich in protein; exactly what dogs need. In addition to that, these chews are not mass produced in leather industry but are carefully handcrafted in the Himalaya which differentiates them from every other product in the market. .
Q.: Please tell us about the investors (if any)
Ans: Mr. A.K. Balyan, CEO, Reliance Oil and Gas
Q.: What is your USP?
Ans: 100% natural, Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, Helps fight plaque and tartar and Vegetarian.
Q.: What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learnings that you have? Who in your mind is your ideal customer? Do you have at least one of them signed up?
Ans: Listed below are actual facts rather than just being assumptions.
- There are lots of products available in the market but a very few of them are actually good for dogs.
- People are bound to feed their dogs with such mediocre products because of the unavailability of good products in the market.
- People are in search of products that are good in both taste and nutrition.
- The demand is pretty good for a pet food brand that addresses both taste and nutrition.
An ideal customer for us is somebody who treats their dog like a family member and is very much concerned about their dog’s health, is aware if the products available in the market is going to do any good to their dog and is conscious of what they are feeding to their dog. Yes, we have many such customers.
Q.: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
Ans: It was in 2009-11 period, when I (along with 5 of my friends) were running InRev Systems, an Analytics Product company, we thought we were a team of 6 founders and some very amazing colleagues, we ventured into 3 products at once – Buzzom (social media analytics platform), FCube (Economic Research platform), and Scoop (BI tool). They were mildly complementing each other but we went ahead with 3 products, only to realize later that we can only do one if we are to taste success.
We later killed all of these 3 products and built Simplify360 – Social CRM Platform, and got good success with the product. Hard but necessary learning – success comes from extreme focus.
Q.: How are you pricing the Product? What is the logic behind it? What is the model you are following – Free / Freemium / Premium etc. ? Explain your thought process.
Ans: Our products come under premium category. The products are handcrafted in the Himalayan region by the natives and involves a lot of time and dedication from their end. In addition to that, this product is made using yak and cow milk. Yak milk is not readily available in that region and the amount of milk the animal produces is very low in comparison to a that of a regular cow. Hence, the amount of cheese we get is very low in comparison to the amount of milk that has to be used to prepare these chews. The wastage is pretty high during the preparation of this product but the farmers have to be paid for what they deserve considering the hard work they put in to prepare a single chew. Also, this product, not being mass produced, is not very abundant in the market. Hence, it is premium priced.
Q.: How did you get your first customer?
Ans: Back then in 2015, we’d visit pet stores across Bangalore and promote our products every day of the week. In our campaign at Bangalore Pet Hospital, we met a pet parent who also was from Darjeeling. She was well aware of Churpi being native to the area from where the product comes from. She was not surprised when we told her she could feed that to her dogs too as it is pretty common up north. However, she did think about giving it a shot and hence bought Dogsee Chew Small Bars for her Spitz.
Q.: Is there any interesting success story? If yes, please write about it. ?
Ans: After running Dogsee Chew for a year, I knew that if I have to make it big very fast, I need to start exporting. At that point Pet Food exports were new for India; there wasn’t any Pet brand selling globally (even in few nations). Experts told us we can’t make it as there are regulations difficulties, and perception about Indian manufacturing is not well perceived in the world, and selling food was hard.
We went against the wind and started to build an international business. We did visit several countries to meet importers and distributors, participate in trade shows in UK, Netherlands, Japan, USA etc with a clear message that India is good with natural food and we are country of Himalaya, Ayurveda and Yoga, which made us the natural choice for the source of natural pet treats. The result was very exciting. People believed us; hence, we could convince buyers and launch in over 11 countries in next 2 years.
Q.: What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product leading to something bigger? If so, how?
Ans: Dogsee Chew products are 100% natural, preservative-free, color-free, grain-free and gluten-free. There is hardly any product in the Indian market at present that has such qualities. Dogs, like humans, are also allergic to certain stuff. For example, some dogs are allergic to grain and gluten. Hence, pet parents look for products that refrain the usage of grain and gluten. However, there aren’t many products that address these concerns. Dogsee Chew is one of the very few. Similarly, the rise in ‘natural and healthy’ wave has pretty much impacted the human food market. With the rise in pet anthropomorphism in India, pet parents now look for products that are 100% natural and preservative-free. Dogsee Chew perfectly addresses this concern too. Hence, in the near future, we strongly believe that Dogsee Chew will be a leader or a pioneer in the Natural and healthy wave that is bound to hit the pet food market.
Q.: What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? Uniqueness about your Startup.
Ans: We are unique from other startups in terms of our USP and pet philanthropy. Our products are 100% natural, free of preservatives, no additives, no colors, nothing unnatural. Our products are handcrafted by farmers in the Himalayas and thus are not mass produced, something that is very common in this industry. Speaking of pet philanthropy, we have worked together with a few animal welfare organizations supporting them in their adoption campaigns across Bengaluru and Mysore. In addition to that, we also provide our products to such organizations and people who feed stray dogs on a daily basis free of cost.
Q.: List all the names of the core Team Members, along with their Designated Roles.
Ans: Diwakar Yadav – Chief Operations Officer
Mayank Sohar – Marketing and Sales Director
Q.: Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
Ans: Rawhide product is our biggest competition. Rawhides are the by-products of leather industry that are heavily processed with chemicals and thus are not good for dogs. They are also very hard to digest. Because of this, dogs are at risk of falling prey to choking and digestive disorders as well. However, Dogsee Chew products are totally digestible. These chews are also free from preservatives and chemicals of any sort and thus are 100% natural unlike rawhides. Hence, Dogsee Chew products are both better and different than rawhides.
Q.: What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months?
Ans: Till date, we had focused on international markets and we have been successful so far. Dogsee Chew can now be found across 16 countries. Now, we want to put our full focus in the growing Indian market too. We have recently launched a 100% Natural, Single-ingredient dog treat brand ‘Dogsee Crunch’ in the Indian market. Using these two brands we are going to expand Dogsee Chew not only across Mumbai, New Delhi and Bengaluru, our current strongholds, but also across other major Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities.
Q.: What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
Ans: Don’t be afraid to dream big, but do have your feet on the ground.
Thanks Bhupendra. Best wishes!