By Amol Sharma*

For decades, pet retail in India has been largely fragmented and driven by stand-alone stores. But something is changing. The rising population of pets along with the increased awareness among pet parents, coupled with the increased adoption of e-commerce is changing the entire landscape. The category is now growing at almost ~35% CAGR and is poised to be the fastest growing consumer goods category in the next decade. The advent of large e-commerce players such as Amazon has further ensured access to customers in non- metro locations and also helped smaller home grown brands to establish a footprint in the market. This too is shaping the consumer behavior as pet parents now seek assortment, which their local stand-alone store may
not be able to offer. It is a virtuous cycle with increased and better assortment driving awareness, which in turn drives the need for even better products.

The Indian pet retail industry has already started witnessing first signs of the changing landscape with small retail chains mushrooming in major metro cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, besides a few mini-metros too. Besides the giants of e-commerce, small pet care e-commerce companies have also started catering to the Indian consumer. Sooner or later, we are going to witness both these channels merging together into Omni-channel entities with greater access to pet parents, both in-store as well as remotely.

How will this impact the Industry?

While buying power of these Omni-channel entities will certainly increase, this also augurs good news for pet parents and brands. While pet parents will start getting a better assortment of pet care products, brands (both existing and new) will be able to penetrate the market better with greater access points. This will also imply the need for skilled salesmen with subject matter expertise on the nutritional, lifestyle and behavioral needs of pets in order to ensure a better retail experience for the pet parents. And brands will have to play a big role in up-skilling the sales force, but it would be an easier task than today. Today, stand-alone stores lack these aspects, and in many cases, the staff would not even be aware of the attributes and benefits of products, but this is all set to change. Merchandising will become key to ensure brands stand-out and in-store shopping will change from just being a chore to being an experience.

Besides, a lot of stores are poised to open with facilities for grooming, as that would significantly drive the Customer Life Time Value, and further strengthen the initiatives of experiential marketing. These retail chains will have to focus on also connecting pet parents to the right canine behaviorists, dog walkers and other service providers as trust will be key to drive loyalty.

The product assortment will also change and while Food shall remain the largest category as is globally, supplements, toys, accessories and grooming products will grow even faster as the overall well-being of the pet will become key to the consumer’s mind.  The interesting aspect of India is that pet parents in many cases choose a diet in line with their dietary preferences so Chicken, Mutton and Fish based diets will be the major growth drivers, and even Vegetarian diets would find a place.

Should you be looking forward to enter the pet retail industry in India?

Absolutely. With ~75% of revenues from the Top 10 cities and their catchment areas, a pet retail chain with an Omni-channel approach would find India to be a very high growth market. The key would be to select stores at strategic locations with a prudent trade off between cost of real estate and in-store footfalls. Hence, the Omni-channel approach. It would be advisable to work with a local partner to understand the customer segmentation, as the market is clearly divided into the premium, mass premium and mass segments.

Does the future look bright for pet retail in India?

It’s a no-brainer, and the answer is a big YES. With calorific consumption of pet food at less than 10% (as compared to the high 70s in mature markets) and close to a million pets adopted each year, this industry has the potential to register high growth rates for decades. Further, the rise in nuclear families, working couples, high rise buildings, and higher disposable income will increase the demand for both quality and consistency of products and services. And not to mention, the increased awareness with high mobile penetration with further drive growth. At the current growth rates, the Pet Care Industry in India would be a Billion dollar strong in 5 to 6 years, a formidable market and an opportunity not to be missed.

* Founder, PetSutra, LinkedIn profile (https://www.linkedin.com/in/amolsharmapetsutra/)