Most of us love the idea of having pets at home. They are cute and probably understand humans more than humans understand each other. It is very necessary as a pet parent that you keep a watch on what your pet is eating because * FLASH NEWS * That bag of processed food that you are serving in his food bowl may be more harmful than you realize.
Providing your pet with fresh, human-grade, without preservatives food might be a far-fetched thought back then but with Pet Chef it’s only a click away. The Founders of Pet Chef Mr. Nakul Ruparel, Mr. Nayan Shah, and Mr. Akshay Patel tell us how did they come up with the idea of Pet Chef, what are they offering, and a lot more!
Team Sociobits: What inspired you to create Pet Chef?
Mr. Nayan Shah: I have always been around dogs since I was a kid, and when the first lockdown hit India (2020), I was in Gurgaon. So, I started cooking for stray dogs, and then I got interested in knowing the different recipes and ingredients that are good for dogs. I wanted to see all the options available for them and soon I found myself in the rabbit hole of researching more and more about pet nutrition. I started speaking to vets, and pet parents, and I realized in the span of a couple of months that access to freshly made, preservative-free, human-grade food for dogs is difficult to find. Either you have to cook every day at home or give your pet highly processed packaged food. There is nothing in between.
That’s where the idea of Pet Chef was born. I got in touch with Akshay and Nakul, and after slowly and steadily building on the idea, we launched Pet Chef one year later.
Team Sociobits: Could you explain what exactly is Pet Chef offering?
Mr. Akshay Patel: Basically what we are offering is fresh human-grade food that can be consumed by us too. The idea is to give your pet the same quality of food that you are consuming. So, we buy human-grade meat and we put it together. We do not buy bad-quality meat. And there are no preservatives or additives in it. It’s packaged properly with ready-to-eat technology. This way, the food is sustainable in the pack for over a year and it continues to be as fresh as it was when we first packed it.
Basically what we are offering is fresh human-grade food that can be consumed by us too. The idea is to give your pet the same quality of food that you are consuming. So, we buy human-grade meat and we put it together.
We started with frozen food in 2021 and are now listed with Amazon. We are on track to get on all the platforms for delivery across India. With the technology that we are using now, our food stays fresh without preservatives and is deliverable to the lengths and breadths of India.
Team Sociobits: How do you keep food fresh inside the package, if there are no preservatives in it?
Mr. Akshay Patel: The technology that was designed by NASA back in the day to send food to space. This is commercially available now and it is all about the packaging.
So, the way in which the food is packed and treated in the machines is what keeps it fresh. We don’t need to add any additives or preservatives to it.
Team Sociobits: Since you started ideating Pet Chef, how has your journey been until now?
Mr. Nakul Ruparel: From the seed being sowed in 2020, to asking for a favor from our friend to set up a home kitchen where we can start cooking, to October 2021, when we set up a commercial kitchen; turning it into a business idea from a passion project; It has been a very exciting journey!
We have actually gone from trying to convince people that the food we make commercially is human-grade, healthy, nutritious, and better for their pets as compared to the processed food that is available in the market. Now, we have reached a point where the majority of people organically come to us through word-of-mouth and we didn’t have to do a lot of marketing. So, it’s been a very good learning curve in our journey so far.
From the seed being sowed in 2020, to asking for a favor from our friend to set up a home kitchen where we can start cooking, to October 2021, when we set up a commercial kitchen; turning it into a business idea from a passion project; It has been a very exciting journey!
Team Sociobits: If you notice, people often don’t realize what their pets are eating. So, how did this change happen? How did people come to know about Pet Chef?
Mr. Nayan Shah: That is the whole challenge: Educating the customer, and differentiating what is good for them and what is good for their pet. Another thing that happened during COVID-19 was that people adopted a lot of pets and it allowed them some time to research what is good for their dogs and what is not.
So, it’s not just us but a lot of people collectively talking about nutrition for dogs, recommending homemade or freshly cooked food, similar recommendations from vets, and a lot of other people. It’s the vets and the trainers that tell the pet parents that this (fresh and home-cooked food) option is available now.
It is still in the nascent stages, people in the cities may know more but if you go deeper into the country, you’ll find dogs eating the same food as humans. We still have a long way to go but you can say that the movement has started. People have started to realize it and now dogs are a part of the family. During the pandemic, people have realized the importance that we hold in a dog’s or pet’s life and so people also want to give back the best to them. That’s where we come into the picture.
During the pandemic, people have realized the importance that we hold in a dog’s or pet’s life and so people also want to give back the best to them. That’s where we come into the picture.
Team Sociobits: Could you also tell us about your partnership with WSD?
Mr. Nayan Shah: Since I have been around stray dogs all my life, I have a large corner for “streeties” in my heart. So, when we started cooking at our friend’s house we decided that whatever we do and wherever we go, we are going to do something for the streeties as well. I have been associated with WSD in the past and have also done some work with them. So, I went and spoke to them, we made some donations and we are still working out a plan where we can donate some part of our profit on a regular basis.
We also invite each other to events. So, since I know the team at WSD, wherever we go and set up a kiosk, we ask one for them as well so they can promote themselves. It’s an ongoing process and we want to have something concrete that we work on month-on-month or year-on-year.
Team Sociobits: Is there anyone similar to Pet Chef in the market?
Mr. Nakul Ruparel: Yes, with the technology coming to India and the increased adoption of pets that has happened in the past two years, and that will continue to happen, there are some players who have tried to enter the space. There are some new players and there are some who have already raised some money but the difference is that they are operating in different geographies because of the reach and the perception of fresh food i.e. fresh food being available immediately and in your vicinity. That is also the mindset that people have. Speaking of fresh food that is being delivered from another city, it dilutes the ‘freshness value’ from it.
From this perspective, we feel that there is space and there are a lot of competitors that are trying to enter and leverage themselves and we are right there fighting.
Mr. Nayan Shah: In a way, we also feel that it is good at this point because the more people talk about it, the more awareness they are raising about fresh food. We are all building the space together at this point in time and we couldn’t call them our competitors per se.
Mr. Nakul Ruparel: You can think about it from a category creation perspective. If you rewind three years back, we didn’t have commercially available fresh food for dogs. There were a few players who were trying to do it in a very difficult stage and in the last two and half years, a lot of people have entered including, startups and young minds who are ready to experiment with technology.
If you rewind three years back, we didn’t have commercially available fresh food for dogs. There were a few players who were trying to do it in a very difficult stage and in the last two and half years, a lot of people have entered including, startups and young minds who are ready to experiment with technology.
In a way, this is a good thing because the more people enter, the more validation this space will get and more education will happen. After this, it’s just a play of whoever is the best.
Team Sociobits: Is Pet Chef available to everyone in any corner of the country?
Mr. Akshay Patel: Initially since it was frozen food, it had a lot of restrictions in terms of delivery. We couldn’t deliver out of a certain limit unless we had a frozen station. Now, that it is ready to eat, you just have to pack it and send it across. So with the website and Amazon, we are available in PAN India.
Mr. Nakul Ruparel: Think of this in a way that when you say ‘frozen food’, you are asking them to create space in the fridge and we know how expensive the shelf space is.
We should also consider vegetarian households. We have a strong cultural alignment about being vegetarian but the same household doesn’t have a problem feeding their dogs with non-vegetarian items as long as it is not cooked in the house or stored in the house. So, with a ready-to-eat pack, it’s easier for people to store food without misaligning with their cultural and religious beliefs. This opens Pet Chef to a much wider market.
Team Sociobits: Five or ten years down the line, where do you see Pet Chef?
Mr. Nakul Ruparel: Every dog or pet in India needs to be on fresh food and we hope that the dog is on our fresh food!
We also hope that every pet in India should be able to access pet food that is fresh and home cooked. It is also important that the pet parents realize how important it is to keep a check on what their pet is eating as it could make a huge difference in their pet’s health.