Pet market boom

Krishna is now looking old. He and his elder brother guard our private road. His elder brother looks far worse. Recently my friend took a bet with me that Krishna is only five years old. To resolve the bet, we consulted the person who we knew would have the exact age of the two dogs. He, now retired from an IT services major, told us he has been feeding the two dogs for over 15 years. I won the bet. Krishna is in fact 14 years old and his elder brother, 16. Most dog experts do know that the Indian street dogs live a longer life than the pampered fellows who live in carpeted homes. The exotic breeds live a very short life indeed and some of them are totally unsuitable for the Indian climate.

There is definitely a pet market boom in the making. I started noticing new shops opening up in many parts of Mumbai catering to pet lovers. There is even a pet store chain that has opened up at the airports (taking a leaf from toy stores in all airports). Obviously, the promoters feel that the guilty traveller will hopefully buy a little something for his dog after a long trip. Then there are the online services aimed at pet owners.

The total size of the Indian pet care market is pegged around $800 million. Pedigree dominates the pet foods market, thanks to its early entry and pioneering work in getting distribution into supermarkets and high-end general trade outlets. It is estimated that there are 19 million pets in India, most of them dogs.

How does this compare with other countries?


There were just abound 35 million dog owning households in the US in 2002. This number has jumped to 60 million in 2017, said a report in the The Economist. Almost a doubling of the households in just 15 years. There are around 130 million households in the US, so more than 40 per cent of them have a dog or two. The US pet supplies industry is valued at $15 billion (in terms of size, the Indian pet food market is a small fraction of the US market). Interestingly, online sales of pet products hit the number of $8.2 billion in 2018.

While 19 million pets in India is a big number, and if we assume one pet per home, compared to the US, pet penetration, if we can create a new term, is still low in India (total number of Indian households, urban and rural is around 250 million). Of all the pets, around 80 per cent are dogs and another 600,000 pets are adopted every year. The pet care industry is growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 15 per cent.

What is driving the rapid growth of dog or pet owning households in India? And what does the future look like for this sector?

The first trigger is probably the rise in the income levels of the top quartile of the Indian consumer class. As their income levels rise, the kids tend to attend better private schools. And having a dog at home becomes almost a part of the curriculum.

The second trigger could be the rise of support services that are on offer for a dog owner. There are professional dog trainers, there is the dog walker and readily available dog food.

The third trigger is the need for companionship. One of the reasons touted for the rise in the number of dog owning households in the US has been the rise of single person households and aged living alone or as empty nesters. This could also be happening in India.

The fourth trigger is social media and the endless number of pictures that a dog lover tends to post on Facebook and Instagram. These act as triggers for those who are on the wall, not sure if they should take the plunge.

Finally, a trigger could be the joy of having someone at home who loves you with no strings attached, as a dog lover told me: “My Caesar is the only person in my house who loves me with total devotion”. And he has his mom, two kids and a wife staying with him.

Interestingly the only reason that is missing from the above list is the reason dogs were originally domesticated by man. As a protection against enemy attack. A warning of an approaching enemy.

Fortunately for our colony residents, poor Krishna and his brother serve this cause well. They are indeed ready to chase someone who they think does not belong in our community. This has got them into some trouble. But they serve a noble cause. Defending the residents from unwanted intruders. While I won the bet on estimating their age, I do hope they continue to live for another 10 years.
The author is a brand strategist, author and founder,; he once had a pet dog called Dilip  

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