In an exclusive interview with BW Disrupt, Ohhun Kwon,COO, A’alda talks about pet heathcare in india, innovation in the pet heathcare industry, consumer trends and more.
1.What sparked DCC pets inception? What inspired you to think that there was a need for innovation in the pet healthcare industry?
We, A’ALDA VET INDIA Pvt. Ltd. provide services in Delhi and Gurgaon under two brands, DCC Animal Hospital (veterinary hospital) and DCC Petcare (boarding and grooming facility) in Delhi and Gurgaon. A’ALDA is based on the belief that the happiness of people and animals is based on a combination of the length of healthy life (healthcare) and the amount of time spent in daily life (lifestyle). Based on this idea, we started a company that operates under the vision of “Pet” to “Partner,” From member of the family to member of society.
Masamichi Okuda, the founder of the company, has spent his life as a pet owner with five dogs, one cat, one rabbit, one guinea pig, and two turtles. Over the course of time as he realised there are a lot of issues plaguing the pet care industry. There was a dire need to improve access to high standard veterinary services and latest technology to pet parents across the globe. Hence the DCC animal hospital project was envisioned by A’alda with an aim to humanise pet care services and make it accessible to people globally. Our vision is to revolutionize access to pet care through state-of-the-art technology designed to bring both the pet owners and pets into one ecosystem to better manage pet care.
2. What is the market size of pet healthcare in India? According to you, what are the factors propelling growth in this segment?
According to a report by Euromonitor, a research company, the number of pets (dogs and cats) in India in 2019 is estimated to be around 23 million. The average annual growth rate between 2015 and 2019 shows a growth of 11.2%. This trend is expected to continue for some time. Although it is difficult to give a specific market size for the pet health care sector due to lack of statistical data, we estimate the annual market size for the pet health care sector (veterinary services) to be around Rs.3-4 billion.
This market can be broken down into two components, number of pets and medical expenditure per pet, and there are hopeful growth factors for each. The main factors that are supporting the growth in the number of pets are considered to be India’s population growth, urbanization, increase in nuclear families, and increase in disposable income.
As for the medical expenditure per pet, the keyword “humanization trend” is considered to be the main factor. This is due to the fact that more and more people are considering their pets as family members, rather than the traditional relationship between “pets” and humans, and this is resulting in increased access to new services. People’s access to veterinary care is no longer limited to simply treating injuries, but is expanding to include preventive care such as vaccinations and physical examinations, as well as advanced medical care including diagnostic imaging such as echocardiography and CT/MRI, just as it is for children.
3. What are the consumer trends you are witnessing in these times? What impact do you think the pandemic has had on pet healthcare sales growth and customer base growth globally?
Veterinary hospitals and pet care, like many industries, obviously bore the brunt of the pandemic initially, with operations coming to a halt and decline in revenues. Some veterinary hospitals started new initiatives such as remote consultation using teleconferencing tools in the wake of the pandemic.
However overall COVID-19 has also had a positive impact on the industry as it fueled pet ownership at a large scale last year alone. With the increased time spent at home due to Covid19, there were many reports of people adopting new pets. In one U.S. shelter, all of the shelter’s dogs were adopted by new families. The pet ownership market in India also saw a phenomenal rise in the last year, driven largely by nuclear families with disposable incomes. Some veterinary hospitals started new initiatives such as remote consultation using teleconferencing tools in the wake of the pandemic.
The pandemic has also resulted in some significant consumer behaviour, as pet parents have become more conscious of their pets health and needs and are willing to spend more time and money on their pets. All of this has created a need to improve medical excellence and innovation and make this accessible to pat parents at large.
4. How will DCC animal hospitals stand out from existing services available in India?
The new chain of multi-specialty DCC hospitals will house highly skilled doctors and on-ground staff who will follow global standards of veterinary science. The hospital team will be led by renowned veteran vet Dr. Vinod Sharma, who is also credited with the honor of setting up India’s first blood bank for dogs. The team is also backed by an advisory board consisting of veterinarians from the US and Japan and receives support for matters ranging from hospital design to veterinarian training. The hospital will also impart personalized training programs for the skill development of practicing veterinarians.
Our core focus will rely on:-
- Superior customer experience
We think not only from the perspective of veterinarians, but also from the perspective of patients who use our hospitals. In addition to investing in hospital facilities, we have also made the necessary investments to make our customers’ hospital experience more comfortable.
- Providing seamless interaction between pet parents and vets
Our in-house developed software and smartphone applications allow customers to book appointments, receive reminders, fill out pre-visit questionnaires, receive pre and post-visit instructions, view past consultation records, and view payment history through our app/web portal to make their hospital experience easier. All medical records are recorded in software developed in-house as medical records and will also ensure transparency of medical fees.
- We emphasize evidence-based medicine, not intuition and experience.
We deal with each case based on global standard practices. Based on the owner’s subjective opinion and objective observations made by doctors and medical equipment, we will make an appropriate diagnosis and take the necessary actions.
5. What issues do you think are currently plaguing the Indian veterinary market ? How does India compare in terms of veterinary services on a global scale?
Shortage of skilled veterinarians is one of the key issues that need to be addressed quickly. As far as small animal practice is concerned, the shortage of veterinarians is expected to become more and more serious in the future.
When comparing the number of veterinarians engaged in small animal practice with the number of pets, one veterinarian in India has to care for about 7,000 pets. When a similar comparison is made in Japan, the ratio is about 1:1100.While the number of pets is expected to grow at an average rate of more than 11% per year, the number of veterinarians engaged in small animal practice is limited by the number of veterinary colleges, and it is difficult to expand the supply to meet the demand. It is estimated that the gap between supply and demand is becoming more serious, especially in regions other than urban areas.
Another pain point in the pet care industry which needs to be improved is a more streamlined customer and veterinarian relationship. When we consider the history of small animal practice in India, we can see that it is still in its emerging stage. While the development of humanization trends mentioned above has been accelerating rapidly over the past few years, the speed of development of veterinary care has not been able to keep up with it. Not only the medical practice, but also the hospital experience itself should be updated to keep up with the times.
We believe that the pet care space in India t is still in its emerging stage but has a high potential for rapid growth in the future. If we simply compare the market size, it is about 19 billion dollars in the US and 3.5 billion dollars in Japan, while India has yet to reach such a scale. Even if we simply compare medical facilities, the number of hospitals equipped with advanced medical equipment such as CT/MRI is quite small, and it would be difficult to find a veterinary hospital that is a secondary treatment facility as defined in other countries.
The development of pet culture in India, small animal practice is undergoing rapid changes in India against the backdrop of humanization trends and the development of technology, especially the Internet. The development of veterinary care is not only due to the efforts of veterinarians, who are on the supply side, but also due to the changes in pet owners, who are on the demand side. I believe that both sides are facing a major turning point in the times we live in.
6. Going forward, are their plans to scale-up your presence in India?
In the near future, we would like to build the trust of the residents of the local community by providing the best services in the two hospitals we have opened in Delhi and Gurgaon. On the other hand, we understand that there are still many places where we can make a valuable contribution, and we would like to expand to about 10 hospitals by the end of 2023, keeping a close eye on the operation of the two hospitals. We need to continue to explore the possibility of expanding both in nearby cities such as Jaipur and Chandigarh and in metropolitan areas such as Mumbai and Bangalore.