Creature Companion team got an opportunity to have a conversation with Dr. Shashank Sinha, National Sales Director. Being a Vet Graduate himself and having more than decade of experience in Global Pet Industry, he discussed about the growth and challenges of the industry and his valuable learning. Excerpts…

Drools is an Indian home grown brand. How has been the journey so far?  

Drools started just 10 years back and we are youngest player in the pet food category. Back then, we were the only Indian brand to have started a pet food business. In India pet food category is flooded with imported brands whereas Drools is completely Made in India and today standing tall among the big global brands. We have seen lots of ups and downs during this decade long journey. The Company has been very much adaptive to situations. Strong leadership and a young team has always been agile to learn, improvise, and move ahead. Today Drools is having a market share of 36% in volume and we are the second largest pet food Company of the country. With a presence in more than 12 plus countries, we are on the path of making Drools an Indian multinational pet food Company. Drools is the only brand exported from India at present.  We really feel proud about that an Indian pet food company is making its presence felt in the global pet food market and will be surely emerge as an Indian multinational pet food giant.

How do you describe Drools? Is it a premium, middle or economical pet food?  

Drools portfolio has a beautiful selection which ranges from Ultra-premium Grain free formula like Canine creek, Super-premium single grain formula Focus, Drools Daily Nutrition to the India`s only Prescription Diet for Dogs Vet Pro.  Drools also has a wide range of supplements and treats for our beloved pets. Drools being an Indian company always keep the Indian family at the center of which pets are an integral part. Providing balanced nutrition for pets at right price point is our primary objective so that the calorie conversion can be increased and pet food penetration increase in India. Drools product portfolio can be checked at http://www.drools.com/.

How many SKUs do you have? What is your plan for the launch of new products?  

Our complete portfolio is divided into premium, economy, prescription diets and pet care treats. We have more than 200 SKUs with many firsts for the pet food category in India. We are the only pet food company to manufacture cat food in India, first to manufacture wet food for pets, only company to manufacture calcium bones for dogs in India. We are looking to foray more into care and treats segment, where we want to have more presence and offerings for our pets.

You have a category with the name ‘prescription diet’ in your list of products. Tell us about this category and your Vet-Pro range.  

Indian pet food market is growing in double digit in the past and will be doing so for the coming years as well. With this growth, the requirements and expectation to provide quality products will keep increasing thus to fill this need gap is our responsibility. Prescription diets are mostly recommended diets and linked to some illness or condition like obesity, skin rashes, allergy etc. Our Prescription diet Vet Pro has diets for obese dogs, dogs with renal disorders, skin and coat issues, joints problem etc. We launched our Vet Pro brand of prescription diet 6 years back in 2014 in WSAVA, Gurgaon. Vet Pro is the only prescription diet in India which is available only through veterinarians.

How has marketing and communication changed over time? What have been the learnings?  

Drools marketing has been always around the thought process of making the customers more aware and knowledgeable about their choices which they make for their pets. One thing you will realize is that pet category is the only category where the PET OWNERS call themselves PET PARENTS. Thus we at DROOLS always try to keep the pet parents aware what is good for their pets and how they can make right decisions while buying products for them. You will see our marketing campaign “Read the Back of the Pack” talks about the importance of reading the label of the pack before buying any products. Lots of pet owners will say my pet food has 30% protein but point is are they aware what is the source of the protein? Drools USP is real chicken and eggs which provides the best quality of protein, with high digestibility and helps pet to grow in early years, not just the protein percentage.

What are your thoughts on the dynamic and ever changing Indian pet industry? Where do you see the industry in five years?  

Pet industry is growing multifold over the years and one will be amazed to see the way this industry is shaping up. Different variety of products now available and how new concepts are coming up are really exciting. Use of technology is also very well being used in our industry. Factors like awareness about benefits of owning a pet, high disposable income, humanization of pets and pets becoming a part of every family are going to drive this category to new levels. Coming years are going to be more exciting for this category as more and more adoptions are happening and this pandemic has shown the world how pets can be great stress busters and a great companion to their human friends.

Which are the Countries where Drools exports and which ones are yet to be added to the list in future?  

We started with our Indian subcontinent countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka. After establishing ourselves in Indian Subcontinent we have started focusing in South East Asian and Middle East countries. At present Drools is present in Maldives, Oman, UAE, Myanmar, Mauritius and few African nations. We have a dedicated team for exports. We have been associated with Pet Shows and other marketing initiatives in many countries to make the brand more aware to pet parents.

Tell us about the pet parents buying habits and their approach towards processed pet food?  

Biggest challenge in Indian pet food market is that the exit barriers are very low for the pet parents. Our biggest competition right now is homemade food, which is readily available. Whereas, the acquisition cost of new customer is very high as it involves reaching out to each pet parents, spends on samples for trials, right information for changing from home food to packaged food etc. This is because as a customer a pet parent is a buyer but ultimate ‘consumer’ is the dog, whereformer cannot eat and see whether it is right for the dog or not. Eventually, his pet is the one who is going to eat it. Customers feel reluctant to buy or spend money on new products because if the dog doesn’t eat, then money gets wasted. So he thinks a lot on those parameters.

Challenge here is how we make it more affordable and gain more trust of customers on the brand that it would be loved by their pets and at the same time, will be a nutrition filled balanced diet for pets. We have to fit in the requirements of consumers as well as customers.

Drools has been doing a lot of work with strays. What is your mission? Have you set any benchmark?

Looking at the challenges this pandemic has thrown in front of all of us, Drools team stood firmly to help the strays. We initiated a campaign called ‘Feed the Strays’ where we participated with around 12 NGOs across the country. In this campaign we raised funds from fellow pet owners and general public. Whatever donations were raised, Drools contributed 25% extra amount and donated food for the strays across the country.

We also partnered with many feeders who are not part of any NGOs and provided them free food or at the cost price so that can take care for the strays in their respective areas.

‘Feed the Strays’ campaign has been a very close to us. Drools employees have donated their one day’s salary for thiscampaign.

In India, we have 3–4 million strays on the streets, and their management is big challenge and as a responsible pet food company, it is our duty to take care of them as per our reach and capacity. Feed the Strays has been a successful program from last 4–5 months where we have donated meal for more than a lakh of strays. Most of our celebrity partners have endorsed this campaign.

What has been your biggest learning as the Head of Drools operations?

I have been strong believer that one should keep learning and evolving throughout his/her life. I believe that the learning curve should never get flat. I have worked for many organizations, but Drools has given me great opportunities of learning, over last 7 years, while managing different segments hereI have learned different facets of business not only in India but abroad as well. Leading multiple teams, supply chain, managing channel conflicts etc. and many multiple dimensions of business exposure has helped me to learn a lot at Drools.

When you work for a brand that is trying to stand up and build a business from scratch, it is always a great learning experience. I am very thankful to my team for their passion and cooperation. One of the best things about Drools is its agility and the kind of decision making and implementation it has. I personally believe that this Company belongs to its employees.

Your message to new Indian pet food companies

India is a very unique market comprising several different markets in itself; the north eastern market is different, western Indian market is different. One has to be adaptive to situations and local challenges. Every market within Indian will work in a different way. One should take these factors into consideration and then further initiate his business.

Pet food industry has huge growth potential but every company needs to hit the right balance between channel and end customers. At Drools we have always given special attention on these two important factors.

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