For This Startup, It's a Dog Eat Dog-treat World!

Dogsee Chew produces healthy dog food and treats from natural substances procured from as far as the Himalayas

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In the age of animal rights and environmental awareness, 'owning' pets is all about 'parenting' them just like one does for a child. With experts routinely highlighting the importance of a healthy diet, recreational activities, prevention of diseases and emotional wellness, caring for your furry friends requires thoughtfulness and even in-depth research. But who has the time, you must be wondering. Here's where Bhupendra Khanal and Sneh Sharma, the proud parents of a Golden Retriever named Mowgli, shine! Their Bengaluru-based startup Dogsee Chew produces healthy dog food and treats from natural substances procured from as far as the Himalayas. What's more, they do all of this sustainably too, aiming to turn carbon-neutral in the future.

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All entrepreneurial journeys begin with solving a problem. For Dogsee Chew owners, it was the use of rawhide, a byproduct of the leather industry, in the majority of dog treats. "Rawhide is frequently treated with harsh chemicals and preservatives, making it extremely toxic," said Khanal, adding, "Our search for a solution carried us to the furthest reaches of the Himalayas, where we came across Chhurpi, a very hard Himalayan cheese that is commonly consumed by humans as a rich source of protein. During our journey, we noticed that dogs would take and munch on these snacks. With its bone-like firmness, we recognized that this cheese could be a healthier alternative to rawhide treats. That's when we decided to introduce this healthy treat to pet parents across the globe."

Dogsee Chew products are currently available in over 5,000 retail locations in 30 countries and their monthly sales volume is over 100 tonne. The company does about 10 per cent of its business domestically and the remaining 90 per cent internationally, namely in the EU, the UK, Japan, the US and China.

So far, Dogsee Chew has had two investment rounds, having raised $7 million in a pre-Series A funding round from Sixth Sense Ventures in November 2021 and over $5.6 million in a Series A round from Mankind Pharma and Sixth Sense Ventures in January this year. "Our goal is to provide natural food and treats to all animals, and we will be expanding to the cat and small animals segment this year," stated Khanal.

With regards to the research and testing that go into their production processes, Khanal said, "We work with leading pet nutrition experts and also co-create our products with pet parents... We have very stringent quality methods in our facilities and are certified for HACCP, ISO 22000, BSCI, etc., with a few other global quality certifications in the pipeline. We do rigorous testing before launching any products on product quality and nutrition."

Despite this intensive research, it would not have been easy to persuade initial consumers to feed their dogs natural and vegetarian products, given that past scientific scholarship on the subject has advocated for the consumption of non-vegetarian food for the acquisition of the necessary nutrients. "The majority of pet owners, even veterinarians, disagreed. We convinced them all scientifically by focusing on nutrition and the fact that every mammal survives on milk for the first few months after birth. All mammals, including dogs, benefit from milk products," Khanal said.

What advice would he give young entrepreneurs looking to break into the pet food industry and survive competition? "To adopt a pet and be a pet parent before entering this industry is the best advice I have," said Khanal, adding, "We are the undisputed leaders in India but have a lot of global competition. Most notably, Endless Private Equity-backed Yakers is our main competitor in the UK, while Kinderhook Industries-backed Primal Dog in the US competes with us as well."

Embracing sustainability is another mantra he swears by to run a successful business. "We are aiming to be a carbon-neutral brand now by going 100 per cent solar, and we are working on reducing plastic usage by 50 per cent by this year's end," said Khanal.