Owning a pet is almost like parenting a toddler; making sure it’s fed, entertained and bombarded with an overdose of love. Sounds about right? But it’s slightly different though. Since there are fewer shops catering to pet needs. And there is a dearth of veterinary doctors. However, this start up from Lahore is trying to solve that.
Petsone.pk is a one-stop shop for all things pets. Be it food, accessories, vet services or anything else, these guys have your pets covered. The website has an online retail store, a marketplace to buy and sell pets, a blog series for all queries, reviews and questions and an online vet appointment portal.
It works exactly like any other online retail store but the only difference is it’s dedicated solely to pets. Go to the website, select the category, pick the products, order them and choose your payment option — cash on delivery, EasyPaisa or bank transfer. From dog food to aquarium decor for fish, they have pretty much all the products. In case you aren’t interested in shopping, just pick your category and keep surfing.
Currently they hold their own inventory with warehouses in Lahore and Islamabad — the two cities where Petsone offers delivery in 6-8 hours and have in-house riders. For rest of the country, they rely on external couriers who can take up to 2-4 days to deliver your order. In veterinary services, Petsone presently employs two in-house vets and offers home-based checkups in Lahore.
Does the startup plan to keep it closed and centralised this way or expand into an online directory for vets across the country? “There aren’t too many certified veterinary doctors in Pakistan right now so it’s a risk to adopt a decentralised Uber-style model, which can hurt our brand. Plus, building an aggregator requires very sophisticated tech — something we don’t have as yet and requires more investment. So for now, we plan to stick to this model,” says Chief Executive Jawad.
The startup was founded in 2015 by Jawad Ahmad, a veterinary doctor by profession. “I am a pet lover myself and wanted to start something of my own. I was already familiar with online retail business and had dabbled with web development as well so I combined the two things,” he recalls.
The company has two income streams at the moment: product sales and veterinary services. As for the advertisement portal, Jawad is still reluctant to monetise it since it’s still not active enough.
Up until now, Jawad has been funding the venture all by himself and isn’t particularly keen on getting external funding. “The local pet market is rather limited so there is not much benefit in raising funds. It won’t dramatically increase our scalability and even if we do, it would not significantly increase our current annual growth anyway,” he says.
What exactly is the point of having a dedicated online retail store for just pet food and accessories though? Major supermarkets across the country already have pretty much everything you need, with many now present in the online arena and offering delivery services as well.
“Firstly, it’s only in major cities that you can easily find pet food and accessories; in second-tier towns, there is limited availability and we don’t want to miss out on that market. Secondly, Petsone is more than just a retailer … it’s a community of pet lovers with everything related to them under one umbrella. That is not something the supermarkets can or will do,” the CEO says.
Looking at just the tech scene, a couple of other players are trying to do similar things such as Paaltu.pk and Petsworld.pk but Jawad isn’t concerned. “We have been in the business much before them and offer a greater range of services so we are in a comfortable position,” he says.
However, these products aren’t general consumer goods and the overall market size is not that huge either. After all, keeping pets is still mostly an upper-class thing. Statistics from the Kennel Club of Pakistan puts total number of pet dogs in 2016 at around 190,000 while those of owners at 120,000. Add to that the population of pet cats and birds and even then, the overall market is small — nothing to parallel electronics or other retail categories for example. For Jawad, however, it’s enough to make a life out of it.
Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2019
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