Dr. Shashank Sinha, CEO of Drools, spoke to Creature Companion Magazine and shared his insights on how Drools is thriving in the international market, the challenges and lessons that come from it, and the future plans of the company.
BRIEF US ABOUT DROOL’S JOURNEY SO FAR. WHAT ARE YOUR EXPANSION PLANS FOR THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET?
At Drools, we believe in providing pets, food with 100% real ingredients. Our aim is to give them all the nutrition they need for a healthy happy and enriching life. We are proud that an Indian brand is making waves and is now part of the global arena. It has been rewarding to witness the response from product deliveries and performance of our products. This positive response is what has reinforced our drive to expand our footprint in the global markets.
We are now available in 23 countries apart from India and are committed to taking this number to 50 by the next financial year. Recently, I visited the markets of Malaysia and Thailand, and Thailand in particular showed very high potential being the fourth largest exporter of pet food in the world. At Drools, we aspire to raise the Indian flag as high as possible in the pet food category and make a mark in the global arena.
AS PER THE NUMBERS, WHICH ARE THE TOP FIVE COUNTRIES FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
The top market for us right now is UAE. Southeast Asia comes in a close second and is a large market as well. Last year, we started exporting to Australia and we have recently entered the markets of Israel and Palestine. Of course, there are challenges, but I would say that it has been a steep learning curve.
Whatever learnings we gain from these markets, we try to implement in our Indian markets. The aim is to make ourselves future-ready with these takeaways.
I can proudly say that we are the number one player, market share wise in Nepal and Sri Lanka. In Nepal, we have more than 60% of the market share currently. Bangladesh will always be a greater chunk of the market share.
I am happy to announce that our first international office is coming up in Dubai. We are not only a supplier of pet food there, but the business there is consistently evolving and expanding, and we are investing in the entire pet eco system of the UAE. We are also working on having a presence in Thailand as well.
THAILAND, AS WE ARE AWARE, IS NOW THE No 1 EXPORTER OF PET FOOD IN ASEAN AND THE FOURTH LARGEST IN THE WORLD. DO YOU FACE ANY CHALLENGES THERE? WHAT DIFFERENT AND UNIQUE YOU ARE OFFERING CONSIDERING THE COMPETIVE NATURE OF THE MARKET?
We have articulated our vision and we passionately own it.Our focus has always been originality, quality, service, and strength and it is on this foundation that we have built our brand.
Thailand is a cluttered market with so many brands, every small and big player has their own brands. Manufacturers are just OEMs there. Even the biggest group like CP Group, apart from owning their own brands are also third-party manufacturers for many brands.
We are primarily focusing on two avenues as a market entry strategy. First, to build a brand there. Secondly, Prescription Diets have a very strong potential in the South Asian markets which is where our Vet Pro range comes into play. Our veterinary nutritionists at Drools have spent years perfecting the recipes of our products to give pets wholesome nutrition with mouth-watering taste. These factors give us an upper hand over others and will help us make way into countries like Malaysia and Thailand.
CERTAINLY, YOUR PRESCRIPTION DIET IN THE VET PRO IS ONE ASPECT THAT YOU HAVE IDENTIFIED TO BREAK INTO THE MARKET. DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER VARIENT WHICH YOU ARE THINKING OF LAUNCHING IN THOSE MARKET?
Most prescription diets are manufactured in the US, which are then imported to Thailand and Malaysia. Our Vet Pro Range offers an edge, in the sense it is logistically and geographically easier to export, owing to the physical proximity. Pet parents and channel partners can expect a fresher product due to the lower shipping time.There is also a disparity in the duties while exporting. Thailand to India has no duty, whereas India to Thailand is an export duty of 10%. This adds to the competition of products available in the Thailand market.
Our premium line of products, Signature is our star line, with its grain free formulas. We are slated to have a mega launch of our Signature range of products in July, with a Malaysian importer that we have recently tied up with.
WHAT ARE THE HURDLES THAT YOU FACED WHILE TRYING TO EXPORT TO THESE MARKETS? WHICH WAS YOUR FIRST MARKET BRAKE-IN, LEAVING ASIDE THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT IN THE COUNTRIES LIKE MALYSIA,THILAND, ETC?
The most difficult to crack by far was UAE. I remember pet shop owners there, would tell me it would be a miracle for an Indian brand to crack the UAE market. Today, Drools biscuits are the No.1 seller on Amazon Dubai and Amazon UAE. And I’m very proud to say that we will soon be on par with Smart Hat and Mio in UAE.
We are also participating in Abu Dhabi Pet Festival, which is happening after three years, and are the main sponsors for the event.
ROUGHLY WHAT ARE THE PERCENTAGE PF THE BUSINESS COMES FROM THE EXPORT MARKET?
Right now, we are around 6% of the total business, but we have been steadily growing 100 percent over the last three years. Hopefully, for this year also we will be closing a hundred. We are building our team and have recruited from the top B Schools to grow our exports division. We are making ourselves export ready with a vision of becoming a strong global player and gradually increasing our global footprint.