Creature Companion Magazine had an opportunity to sit down with Mr Bharat Pittie, Director of Orange Pet Nutrition formerly known as Bharat International. Amongst other things, he dwelled upon his strategy, vision for the company and the growth and challenges of the Indian Pet Industry. He, presently, deals in all kinds of high quality pet food for dogs, cats, birds and small animals.

Bharat International decided to change its name to Orange Pet Nutrition. What was the main reason behind that?

We want to be known as a brand that provides nutrition to pets and not just a trading company run by one person. That convinced me to change the name to Orange Pet Nutrition. The brand must resonate in the pet owner’s head. We want to move ahead and think of where we want ourselves to be in the next ten years.

How has your strategy changed over time from being a single brand company?

We have evolved from being a one-brand company to being a multiple brand entity. We are, of late, importing a lot of brands for dogs, cats, birds and small animals. We consider ourselves as a big distribution house. We have grown as a firm that has a huge appetite for world-class brands along with a strong distribution channel in pan India. We have opened an office and warehouse of 5000 sq. ft. in Delhi. We are catering to the northern part of India from Delhi. In Kolkata, we have a warehouse facility of 3500 sq ft to cater to West Bengal, Sikkim and all six sisters. Pune centre addresses the needs of all western states. This, in short, makes us an attractive company to work with for any international brands.   

What is your basket of pet food now?  

We have ‘Arden Grange’, ‘Taste of the Wild’ and ‘Fidele’. ‘Fidele’ is a medium-priced pet food brand, which is most popular in the B and C class towns as it is not an expensive diet. The thought behind ‘Fidele’ is to offer a good diet at a reasonable price. It is on par with some of the existing leading brands in the market.

The other brand that we have is ‘Arden Grange’ – a premium pet food. We are providing a competitive alternative brand to pet owners. In the last 2-3 years, we have seen that there has been a big change in the grain-free market whereby a lot of pet owners started to think of giving free of grain diet to pets. So, we have brought in one more brand on top of it that is ‘Taste of the Wild’ which is a US brand.

Fidele seems to be an interesting name. How did this come out?

Fidele means loyal in French. So, we thought that it would be an apt name for a dog food brand that relates to its attributes.

How long has ‘Fidele’ been in the market? How is it doing?

‘Fidele’ has been there in the pet food market for the last five years. It is steadily growing. It takes time and effort to create your own brand and to sell is an uphill task. Besides, we have to work on the other brands as well and do justice to them.

How has pet owners’ buying habits evolved?

Let me share my own experience. I had a dog while I was growing up, my mother never used to let my dog come into the house in the first few months. But with time he started living in the house and became a part of our life.

There is a growing global trend to consider pets as part of the family. More and more often, animals are included in family events and become important to all members of the family. Ten years back, pets were being used as status symbols, they used to keep dogs to guard their house. But now, they have become part of the family.

The retail industry in India is growing. Pet specialty retail chains are coming up with multiple stores. How does this impact the dynamics of business? 

Yes, it has impacted to a certain extent. Chains are still small in number. In pan India, we have 5,000 retailers that stock products for pets. Out of that if you consider a chain which is having 40 shops it is still very small. But yes they are well organized stores selling the most expensive brands and are growing at a healthy pace. It is a good sign for the industry. It helps to organise the sector better.  

The pet speciality retail chains can grow faster because they are plugging the gap that existed in the industry. This whole new look and feel has brought about a change in the way pet owners engage with pet shops now.

You focus a lot on small animals and birds, unlike other companies. Any particular reason?

We realised that there is a big gap in the bird and small animal market. Fight for the right place under the sun is going on and will go on but we have to be realistic about the existing pet food market for dogs and cats. Our venture on small animals and birds gives us the first-mover advantage. The smaller and manageable pets even with less maintenance has fuelled the growth. We have brands like Versalage, Vitapol and Zupreme. Zupreme deals with pelleted food like dog food. They are one of the first companies in the world who started with extruded diet for birds. Otherwise, it was seeds mostly. Verse Laga is a leader in avian nutrition and is the most preffered brand by avian hobbyist and has the most extensive range for all types of pets. In India still a lot of consumers feed their birds seed diets and this is a pre dominantly a trend all over Asia & Europe.

In the US, the extruded diet is very big for birds as it has all the ingredients mixed in one pellet. So, even if the bird is eating one pellet, it is getting all the essential nutrients required for its growth. A lot of bird farms and institutes would prefer this kind of a diet.

Which part of India has more population of small animals like birds, hamsters, etc.?

There are more birds in East and South India because it has more of a subtropical climate. For hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits, it is really scattered, you can’t really say anything. Bird is the biggest category out of small animals. It has not grown here, in India, but in other places, I see it is really big. In India, the small animal market is there but is not as big, like dogs and cats.

What kind of support do you get from the brands to increase their focus in the Indian market? Do you get people to come and speak to the pet stores, veterinarians and the pet owners?

Yes! A lot of brand representatives come here to talk and educate store owners, vets and breeders. This is an ongoing activity and I personally feel that we try to educate people not only at the store level but those who are related to the pet industry. We try to educate pet owners about dog behaviour and how one can change it. We did a roadshow six months back with two dog trainers based in South India. We also took them to around 12 cities and organised talks for the pet owners. We also have experts from abroad who come and teach pet owners.

So, you are targeting all of them in different ways?

Yes, indeed! We are also targeting pet owners online, participating in trade shows, ground shows, etc. We actively take part in all the events organized by FCI. In our sincere endeavours, we are making all efforts to reach out to the pet owners.

What are your plans for the next five years?

I would definitely like to bring in more brands as there is a lot of demand. Pet owners still have a steep choice in terms of brands. In the domestic market, customers don’t have a lot of choices and I think there is still a lot of space in the market for more brands. In a period of over 10 years, there is going to be more and more brands. It is not about me or anybody else, it is about the entrepreneurs like me who will make this industry grow at its fastest.