Charting Drools India’s Rise: Insights from CEO Dr. Shashank Sinha

Drools CEO Dr. Sinha on innovation and India's pet care boom

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Petbiz India sits down with Dr. Shashank Sinha, CEO of Drools India, to discuss the company’s remarkable growth trajectory in the dynamic Indian pet food market. Dr. Sinha shares insights on the strategies that propelled Drools to prominence, the challenges of educating pet owners, and the company’s ambitious plans for the future.

Q: Drools has become a leading indigenous pet food brand in India. Can you outline some of the key milestones and strategies that propelled your growth trajectory?

Dr Shashank Sinha: It’s truly humbling to look back on Drools’ journey over the past years. We entered the market as a young, domestic player in a landscape dominated by established international brands. But we dared to be different, focusing on quality, affordability, and, most importantly, being Made in India.

The journey has been satisfactory so far as Drools has a market share of 38% in terms of volume, and 17% in terms of value in the Indian pet food and accessories market, making it one of the largest pet food company in the country.

Dr Shahshank Sinha, SEO Drools, India

There were definitely ups and downs along the way. But one thing remained constant: our commitment to learning, adapting, and evolving. Our strong leadership team and our young, energetic workforce have been instrumental in this. The journey has been satisfactory so far as Drools has a market share of 38% in terms of volume, and 17% in terms of value in the Indian pet food and accessories market, making it one of the largest pet food company in the country.

With a vision that extends far beyond the domestic market, Drools is now present in over 22 countries, remaining the only Indian pet food brand currently exported globally. We recently secured $60 million in funding from L Catterton, a private equity fund, underscoring the immense growth potential we see in the industry. This investment positions the Indian pet food industry for global prominence. Fueled by the ambition to become an Indian multinational pet food giant, we are actively pursuing further expansion.

Q: What potential roadblocks or challenges do you anticipate Drools might face as it seeks further expansion within the Indian market and potentially beyond?

Dr Shashank Sinha: The biggest challenge is the knowledge gap among pet parents on why to pick packaged food over home-cooked diets and the difference in nutritional requirements between humans and their pets. Many pet owners might believe home-cooked meals are healthier, unaware of the potential nutritional deficiencies that can arise without proper expertise. Additionally, owners might not understand the specific dietary requirements of different pet breeds and life stages, leading to the risk of overfeeding, underfeeding, or introducing unsuitable ingredients.

Educating pet parents on the benefits of balanced, complete pet food, like the ones offered by Drools, will be crucial in overcoming this challenge

Q:  “Innovation” is often cited as a core value at Drools. In what specific areas – product development, supply chain, distribution, branding or management – has Drools made the most significant innovative leaps recently?

Dr Shashank Sinha: We look at innovation as a holistic approach to all the things we do. Right from developing multiple product SKUs that cater to diverse pet needs, to reaching out to the right audiences through a multi-channel growth strategy. We believe in fostering a culture of continuous improvement across the entire organization. This commitment to innovation extends beyond product, encompassing our supply chain, distribution network, and even internal management practices. By embracing a holistic approach to innovation, we strive to deliver exceptional value to our customers, our partners, and the pets we all love.

In our supply chain, we leverage data analytics to optimize inventory management, ensuring product availability and minimizing waste. On the distribution front, we are constantly exploring innovative approaches. This includes expanding our presence in brick-and-mortar retail stores, embracing e-commerce platforms, and even piloting direct-to-consumer delivery models to reach pet owners wherever they are.

In marketing, innovation drives our efforts to connect with pet owners on a deeper level. We leverage social media platforms like LinkedIn and Instagram to educate and engage with pet parents, providing valuable insights from veterinarians and nutritionists, fostering a supportive community, and offering tailored dietary guidance. We also explore innovative advertising strategies that resonate with our target audience, and continuously analyze data to optimize campaign performance and reach.

By embracing such a holistic approach to innovation, we strive to deliver exceptional value to our customers, our partners, and the pets we all love.

By embracing a holistic approach to innovation, we strive to deliver exceptional value to our customers, our partners, and the pets we all love.

Dr Shahshank Sinha, SEO Drools, India

Q: Could you highlight some concrete examples of these innovations and the impact they’ve had on your business?

Dr Shashank Sinha:As mentioned earlier, we leverage multi-channel innovative marketing strategies, including digital campaigns, brand partnerships, and social media engagement, emphasising product innovation.

Recently, we undertook a simple yet strategic product sampling through quick commerce platforms like Blinkit and BigBasket to target and re-target new customers and expand our product reach. We targeted individuals with past purchases of pet food, offering them samples of underpenetrated products like creamy cat treats. Leveraging data insights, we focused on areas with low pet food penetration, like Bengaluru, Delhi NCR, and Kolkata. Additionally, we capitalized on existing customer relationships by cross-selling different product samples, aiming to boost sales of our top-selling calcium bone for dogs. Finally, to encourage purchase completion, we retargeted users with push notifications and mailers.

This innovative yet simple approach proved highly effective, resulting in a 16% and 20% increase in our cat and dog food customer base, respectively, while keeping acquisition costs around INR 3-5 per customer.

Q: How would you characterize the competitive landscape within the Indian pet food market? What are the major shifts you’ve seen in recent years?

The concept of human-grade is gaining traction, with pet foods now being crafted using the same high-quality ingredients and manufacturing processes employed in the production of human food.

Dr Shahshank Sinha, SEO Drools, India

Dr Shashank Sinha:The Indian pet food manufacturing industry is currently marked by an increased demand for premium and customized pet food products. Pet owners are increasingly viewing their pets as cherished family members emphasizing the importance of quality care, particularly in nutrition. This change in perspective has resulted in an increasing preference for products without by-products, real ingredients, antioxidants, and essential minerals. The concept of human-grade is gaining traction, with pet foods now being crafted using the same high-quality ingredients and manufacturing processes employed in the production of human food. There is also a rising demand for natural, organic, and functional pet food, aligning with the growing awareness of overall pet health. Pet parents are now seeking tailored diets based on factors such as age, breed, size, and health conditions. This has led to the development of specialized pet food brands catering to specific dietary needs like low-fat, gluten-free, or grain-free diets. Additionally, the industry is witnessing a shift towards sustainability, with a focus on eco-friendly packaging solutions.

Amid these evolving trends, there is a strong commitment to regulatory compliance to ensure stringent quality and safety standards in pet food products. Furthermore, the rise of e-commerce and quick commerce has made a significant impact on the pet food industry. Pet food producers are leveraging online platforms to provide a convenient channel for pet owners to explore a wide range of products, including specialized and international brands.

Q: How has Drools’ market share evolved during this time? Have any specific products or categories stood out as particularly strong performers?

Dr Shashank Sinha: We offer a broad range of pet food products, including dry and wet food, treats, calcium supplements, veterinary diets, supplements, etc. Our top-selling product is the Drools Chicken & Egg dry food product and leading the category of dry cat food. We also enjoy a have market leadership for prescription diets, and our products are in high demand. Our sales consistently reach impressive figures, often surpassing records per month. Our commitment to quality has made us a favourite among consumers and importers.

Q: In your view, how has pet ownership evolved in India? What kind of behavioral shifts have you observed in Indian pet consumers?

Dr Shashank Sinha: In India, pet ownership has transitioned from primarily functional or cultural to a companionship-driven choice. This shift is fueled by factors like rising disposable income, enabling investment in pet care, and changing lifestyles where individuals seek the emotional support and companionship pets offer, especially in smaller families and busy schedules. Additionally, urbanization and space limitations favor smaller breeds, further shaping the pet landscape. This evolution signifies a growing emphasis on pet well-being and responsible ownership among Indian pet consumers, who are increasingly seeking premium products and personalized services to ensure their furry companions thrive.

Q: Are there any unique trends in pet owner preferences within India that stand out from global patterns?

Dr Shashank Sinha: One rising trend which we are witness is pets offering companionship, reducing loneliness and anxiety. Owning a dog often encourages walks and playtime, boosting mood and physical well-being. Additionally, pets can facilitate social interaction and provide a sense of purpose through routine and responsibility.

Q: As a veterinarian yourself, do you find a disconnect between pet nutrition knowledge in veterinary training/practice and real-world trends in the pet food market? Where can both the academic and clinical sectors improve in education?

Dr Shashank Sinha: Veterinary training equips professionals with a strong foundation in animal nutrition science. However, some veterinarians may feel a gap exists between this knowledge and the complexities of the real-world pet food market. This market is constantly evolving, with new trends, ingredients, and marketing strategies emerging constantly. This poses a challenge for veterinarians who may not feel fully equipped to address the diverse needs and questions of pet owners regarding their furry companions’ nutrition.

To bridge this gap, both the academic and clinical sectors could explore avenues for improvement.  Curriculums could be enhanced to integrate practical pet food selection skills and address the complexities and marketing strategies of the pet food industry. Additionally, offering regular workshops and fostering collaboration between academia and the pet food industry could equip veterinarians with the most current information and ensure education remains relevant to real-world scenarios.

Bridging India’s vet gap requires a multi-pronged approach. Technology like telemedicine and online consultations can extend reach, while innovative models like mobile vet clinics and community outreach programs can bring care closer to rural areas.

Dr Shahshank Sinha, SEO Drools, India

Q: India has a very low animal-to-vet ratio, and access to veterinary services remains scarce esp in rural areas. How can this challenge be addressed, and what role can technology or newer business models play in expanding accessibility?

Dr Shashank Sinha: Bridging India’s vet gap requires a multi-pronged approach. Technology like telemedicine and online consultations can extend reach, while innovative models like mobile vet clinics and community outreach programs can bring care closer to rural areas. Government initiatives fostering veterinary education and incentivizing rural practice are also crucial. By working together, we can improve animal health and well-being for all.

To uplift the vets in tier 2 cities, we recently introduced ‘Drools Vet Thrive,’ an innovative scheme focused on upgrading veterinary clinics. With a substantial investment of INR 25 crore, this initiative is redefining the landscape of pet healthcare services and veterinary practices across India.

This holistic program’s primary objective is to enhance pet healthcare services by outfitting veterinary clinics with state-of-the-art equipment, encompassing advanced diagnostic instruments and surgical tools. It also empowers veterinarians with cutting-edge resources, ensuring the delivery of superior care to pets.

Q: The Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) model is increasingly favored by brands. What makes this platform so attractive, and how has Drools navigated the shift towards E-commerce while maintaining other distribution channels?

Dr Shashank Sinha: We tackle the e-commerce market head-on through sheer accessibility and reach. We boast 100% product availability across India, covering 20,000+ PIN codes and all major e-commerce platforms. This ensures quality, affordability, and a wide range of options are just a click away for pet owners. Additionally, we find the rise of quick commerce platforms like Blinkit and Instamart incredibly exciting for our brand. These 10-20 minute delivery models are revolutionizing consumer behavior, and we’re actively adapting by prioritizing pet food availability on these platforms. This fills a crucial gap, especially in tier 3-4 regions with limited pet shops, ensuring convenient access for our customers.

Tier 2+ markets represent a massive untapped potential for growth, and our projected 45% e-commerce surge hinges on effectively reaching these regions through quick commerce. This trend not only expands our reach but also aligns with our goal of educating pet owners on proper nutrition. By delivering samples and new launches quickly, we can showcase the benefits of high-quality pet food compared to home-cooked alternatives.

10-20 minute delivery models are revolutionizing consumer behavior, and we’re actively adapting by prioritizing pet food availability on these platforms. This fills a crucial gap, especially in tier 3-4 regions with limited pet shops, ensuring convenient access for our customers.

Dr Shahshank Sinha, SEO Drools, India

Q: As CEO, leadership plays a major part in the growth of a company. How do you instill ambition and motivation in your teams? In what ways does company culture play a role in overall success?

Dr Shashank Sinha: Leading by example is key. I cultivate a culture of transparency and open communication, fostering a growth mindset where learning is celebrated and challenges are seen as opportunities. This empowers our passionate team to take ownership, innovate, and strive for excellence, ultimately driving our success together.

Q: What are the top goals and strategic vision you’ve set for Drools’ growth in the next 5 years?

Dr Shashank Sinha: We hope to become the number one player nationwide in terms of volume. Currently, we hold 45% of the market share in dry cat food. We are the biggest pet biscuit player in the country and have 50% of the prescription diet market. We are working on expanding our dog category shares. We’ll try to be a major contributor and player in the Indian subcontinent and Asian markets.

Moreover, this journey isn’t just about business success; it’s about making a name for India on the global pet food map. We are excited to see what the future holds and are confident that Drools will continue to leave its pawprint, not just across India, but across the world.

About the author

Tushar Kanchan, Publisher & Editor

Tushar Kanchan is the editor and publisher of Petbizindia.com. As a dedicated connector within the pet industry, committed to fostering a vibrant community of entrepreneurs, innovators, and professionals. Tushar believes in collaboration and knowledge-sharing are essential for the advancement of the Indian pet care landscape.

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