In 2014, buying pet food online was not a thing in Dhaka. Then Chaldal appeared on the scene. The newly launched grocery startup, launched a year ago in 2013, saw there was a need for convenience service for pet owners who love their pets dearly but faced enormous challenges accessing quality pet foods. In the next two years, Chaldal would go on to build a one-stop online shop for pet foods and become a leader in online pet food and products. Today, the category has a new name at Chaldal and covers everything related to pets and pet care.
For the convenience of our understanding, Chaldal Pet Care is a category of food, accessories, and pet care products that pet owners can order on Chadal. Like on-demand grocery delivery, a vertical where Chaldal is the leader, you can call Chaldal Pet Care an on-demand pet food and products delivery service from Chaldal. The service is available in all four markets — Dhaka, Narayanganj, Chittagong, and Jashore — where Chaldal operates currently.
Chaldal works with pet food and pet care products importers in the country to source high-quality, authentic pet food and products, then brings them to the Chaldal warehouse where all the quality control and packaging happens. Customers can order on the Chaldal website and get delivered at their doorsteps.
Started with dog food alone in the early days, Chaldal now sells pet foods and accessories for all kinds of pets from cats, dogs to rabbits to fish to everything in between. According to Chaldal, the most popular pet in Bangladesh, however, is the cat. It appears the country is littered with cat people. Jokes apart, the company says it works hard to ensure the best quality products at the best possible price for pet owners.
The story of the Chaldal Pet Care category is as old as Chaldal. The service came to prominence within Chaldal in around 2014 when the company saw a growing demand for pet food and pet care items. Over the years, the category has seen excellent growth. And today, it is one of the largest categories on Chaldal.
While pandemic has taken a toll on the category owing to the international import and shipping challenges, the company looks to further expand the category in the coming months.
Many of Chaldal’s unorthodox ideas are inspired by an ambition to build demand aggregation and a comprehensive shopping solution for its customers. While the company has gotten super focused on growing its core grocery business over the years, it continues to make strategic moves. The origin of Pet care lies in that philosophy. Chaldal started its pet care products business, initially predominantly selling dog foods, between 2013 and 2014.
The category was not taken much seriously internally in those early days. It had some demands and the company was happy delivering those orders. The category saw a jump in activities when Chaldal moved its office from Gulshan to Baridhara.
“Our second office was in Baridhara. People in that area had and continue to have a lot of pets”, says a representative of Chaldal. “Contrary to that, pet food and products were not available everywhere. To buy pet food, you either had to go to DCC market or Katabon or some other places that are quite far away from Baridhara. When Chaldal launched pet food, it got easier for these people to order on Chaldal and get it delivered.”
That's how Chaldal’s pet care category found a ready market and scaled in the early days — part serendipity, part courage of selling pet food. The company gradually came to learn that access to pet food is not a problem for the pet owners in Baridhara alone, it is a problem for most pet owners in Dhaka. The category rose in prominence as the awareness grew and more people started ordering pet food on Chaldal. Seeing the response, the company started to promote the segment on Google and Facebook that helped further accelerate the growth.
However, those early days were not easy. The company did not have a partnership with merchants in those early days and used to buy products from the shops and then deliver to customers. As a result, the margin was thin. The company, however, continued the segment because it was helping it make a group of customers happy.
Those early days gave a preview of what the pet care category business could become for Chaldal. Apart from being an excellent business, the company came to realize that selling pet care products could help in acquiring new customers, increase per-customer revenue and offer yet another reason to pet owners to shop on Chaldal. It was a perfect win-win. Hence the company doubled down on the category.
In 2016, two years into the pet products business, Chaldal decided to treat the category properly and put together a small team and a strategy. The team went on to directly work with vendors and ensure consistent product availability. Special attention was paid to marketing and managing the category better. As the company gradually learned about the products pet owners buy regularly, it arranged the inventory accordingly. The effort produced excellent results. After some small tweaks, the growth shot through the roof.
In 2016, Chaldal’s pet care category became 10 times what it was just a year ago. The following year, in 2017, Chaldal became the leader in the online pet food business. “We became the second-largest place for pet care products after Kataban and were selling some 30 lakh taka worth of pet food and pet care products a month,” says the Chaldal representative.
The company then gradually went on to set up a proper supply chain, a mechanism to manage customers, and so on. Today, the pet care category is one of the largest categories at Chaldal. The company sells everything related to pet care from food to accessories to toys to training products.
Over the past several years, Chaldal has built a strong supply chain for the category. The company directly works with importers, buys upfront, and has a standard payment deal with suppliers.
“We collaborate closely with our supplier partners — mostly importers and they know about our demand and ensure supply accordingly,” explains a Chaldal representative. “We work with the best importers — we are selling 100% authentic products. People are sensitive about their pets and treat pets like their children. When we receive any complaint from our customers, we immediately take measures. There are cases when we discontinued products after receiving complaints from customers.”
While Chaldal tries to ensure uninterrupted supplies, it does run into supply chain-related challenges. Problems mostly occur when some importers supplying high-demand products stop operating or stop importing the products or when an importer ends their agreement with their principle resulting in the unavailability of some popular products.
Chadal offers a standard return and refund policy that allows customers to return products within seven days and receive a full refund.
The supply shortage has particularly been a consistent challenge amid the coronavirus pandemic. Since export and import have greatly been disrupted due to the shutdown of borders and international shipping, it has been a challenge for Chaldal to consistently ensure the availability of popular pet products.
However, when certain products are not available, Chaldal tries to suggest alternatives to customers. The company says it is working on the supply issues and hopes to solve them in the next few months.
Chaldal says it offers the best price to customers. “We survey the market before setting a price and set the price accordingly,” explains a Chaldal representative. “We believe that profit is a natural consequence of serving the consumers well. This is a priority category for us. Since pet products are not available widely, we make sure that customers get the best price and quality from us.”
Adopting pets is a common thing among Bangladeshis. In old days, households would have cats and dogs roaming around eating leftovers without much attention from humans around. But taking care of pets and spending on your pets is something that was limited to certain social classes until recently. The trend, however, is spreading owing to mimetic influence and internet culture. Today, people take care of their pets and spend money on them.
In a world where humans are increasingly more attached to their devices than humans around, pets offer trouble-free relationships and love. Loving humans is hard but loving pets do not cause any mental hazard. As the global loneliness epidemic continues to rise and meaningful human connection declines, more and more people are going to rely on their pets for that connection.
More people today own pets in Bangladesh and treat their pets lavishly. To that end, this is a growing market. According to several estimates, it is a monthly BDT 5 crore market and growing.
The growth did not escape the attention of aspiring entrepreneurs. We have seen several online pet food and products companies emerge in the past few years. Chaldal says it does not pay much attention to the competition. Rather, competition inspires it to work harder and learn what can be done better.
With early success in the segment, Chadal is now plotting to go deeper into the vertical. In the coming months, the company plans to grow its inventory and add more products. It also wants to plug itself deeper into the supply chain by becoming an importer of key products itself.
It sounds like an excellent strategy. Greater control over the supply chain means better margin and better customer satisfaction.
On the growth side, Chaldal plans to do more. Once Pandemic slows, the company plans to host pet owner meet-ups and similar events. The company says it is just getting started in the segment. Now, if you are looking for treats for your pets, go here.