Mr. Ashwin Kashyap Raghuraman, Founder and Proprietor of BowChow SuperDog recently sat down with Ms. Priyanka Tanwar, Editor of Creature Companion Magazine to discuss about his company’s inception, USPs, products, laboratory accreditation and social welfare initiatives. Excerpts . . .
Tell us the story behind the inception of BowChow SuperDog. What challenges did you face while setting up your venture?
After over a year of scouring the internet for recipes, discussing with vets, understanding how a dog’s digestive system works, which ingredients aid in growth & development and more research, I officially launched BowChow SuperDog in March 2017. At the launch we only had a handful of clients, all from our circle of friends and family. During our initial days, we were a subscription only model, it proved to be very challenging for us as people would not prefer subscription for themselves let alone for a dog food startup. Several changes had to be made in the original plan to ensure our continuity and sustainability in the pet food startup space. Today we serve our yummy chow to several pets across the country. BowChow SuperDog was started with the idea of providing best and natural nutrition to our furry friends using only real and whole ingredients. Competing and popular brands not only lack nutrition but also use inferior quality ingredients in their pet food products. Being a pet lover myself (I have 3 dogs), I set out on a mission to figure out what was the best way to feed my pets. I came up with the idea of BowChow SuperDog (best chow for your best friend) along the way.
Coming from an orthodox TamBhram vegetarian family, my first challenge was to figure out how to handle meat myself. This was followed by understanding how and why it was very important to our pets. During the initial days, I had the help and support of a dear friend – Raghuraman Uncle (not my father) who taught me everything I needed to know about cooking with chicken for pet food. After several months of trial and error and multiple recipes, we locked on to the existing recipe which is now loved by every pet.
Trying out recipes from home and delivering them to approximately 29 dogs across the length and breadth of Coimbatore was another challenge. And that too daily, and follow it up with phone calls to find out if the pet liked the food, understanding whether there was any change in its daily activity, the vigour with which it ate the food etc to understand the palatability of my preparations.
If one of the pets refused to eat, then we had to come up with an alternative recipe. In this way I would figure out how to improvise on the previous one.
After close to a year of research and development we finalised the existing recipe. The next challenge was obviously scale. Luckily, I came across a friend who knew about food processing technology and told me about the current technique we are using, which does not involve any chemicals or preservatives, it just uses temperature and pressure to sterilise the sealed precooked pouches thereby giving us the desired shelf life.
How did you zero in on the name ‘BowChow SuperDog’ for your brand?
While on call with my mother, I heard my dogs bark in the background and during that time my mind was fully occupied with the product, branding and everything related to it. Suddenly it just clicked and I came up with the name BowChow, then later added SuperDog.
What are your USPs that set you apart from your competitors?
Our ready-to-eat tear and pour packets can be shipped anywhere in India and can be stored under room temperature for up to 45 days without the use of any chemicals or preservatives.
What makes your product appeal to pet parents who travel frequently with their pets?
Our ready-to-eat tear and pour packets can be stored at room temperature and come in different sizes so they can be taken along with you anywhere during your travel. You can carry the single pack meals along with you for the exact number of days you travel and the number of meals you plan to feed your pet.
Why should pet owners replace packed food with home-style RTE meals for their dogs?
Packaged food products start losing their nutrition value and flavour from the time the bag is opened. You must have noticed that your pets don’t eat the packaged dry food with the same vigour as they did on the day of opening the pack. This is where BowChow SuperDog, single serve packaged RTE meals help pet parents – our packs keep the flavour, freshness and nutrition intact for each and every meal.
What kind of customisation options do you offer to your end users?
At present we offer only 1 recipe – chicken and rice which can be customised in 4 weight options depending on your pet’s breed and size. We offer 400g packs, 600g packs, 1 kg packs and 1.5 kg packs.
What is the shelf life of your ready-to-eat products? What kind of packaging do you employ to make sure that your meals remain fresh during this time period?
Currently our shelf life is 45 days, although lab testing is going on for extending the storage life of our products. We use standard aluminium composite pouch for packaging, and sterilise the pouches after cooking and packing, hence we get the desired shelf life without the use of any chemicals or preservatives.
BowChow SuperDog recently organised a #HearTheirFear campaign along with music sessions in major cities across South India. Tell us more about this wonderful initiative.
#HearTheirFear is a year on year campaign by BowChow SuperDog to help raise awareness about how bursting loud firecrackers causes discomfort in pets. We teamed up with Mr. Ago, a friend I had made during the Cochin floods. Mr. Ago (Abishek) was harbouring close to 30 dogs in his house during the floods. He had sent out a message on social media that he was looking for help. Since I had just launched the brand, I ran a campaign especially for him saying that the total number of packets I sell that month I’ll match that and donate the same number for pets affected by Cochin floods. We raised close to 200 packets which were then shipped out as relief for pets during the deluge. Few years later we decided to team up again and spread the awareness for #HearTheirFear together.
Which pet stores and online portals retail BowChow SuperDog packaged meals?
At present we retail only through our website.
Are you associated with any NGOs? What are your initiatives for the betterment of street animals?
We provide incentivised price to all NGOs across the country. On the last Sunday of 2018, we organised a food drive in Chennai where we fed street dogs across the city. During the Christmas week in 2019, we shipped out 100 packets of BowChow SuperDog to people across India so that they could feed street dogs in their respective neighbourhoods. On the first Sunday of 2020, we fed street dogs in the city of Coimbatore with the help and support of volunteers from The Pawsome People Project. All of these will now be year on year activities by BowChow SuperDog to help street animals.
What motivated you to get your food preparation tested in the laboratory?
My goal is to provide the best nutrition to our pets by using only good quality ingredients. But this is a food product, sometimes due to various external factors, if a pet refuses to eat or falls sick I would like my clients to know that no compromise has been made in preparing the product. And hence to prove this I got all my certifications and testing in place even before the launch.
How do you make sure that the pricing of your products stays true with your philosophy of ‘Pets over Profits’?
BowChow SuperDog is prepared by using only good quality ingredients procured through trusted suppliers. In spite of that we are the most affordable wet dog food company that offers completely balanced nutrition for pets that comes along with supplement packets. Our product offerings can be delivered to your doorstep anywhere in India.
What lessons have you learnt along your entrepreneurial journey?
HARDWORK, DEDICATION & PERSEVERANCE
Share your views on the future of the Indian Pet Industry.
Boarding, health care, training and grooming have huge potential in the Indian Pet Industry, while products such as Pet Food are met with huge competition from giants in the market. Although being a completely different product, we are constantly being compared to dry food with regard to price. But eventually with more people entering the space awareness will hopefully be created.