A Singapore startup has developed an online-to-offline solution for pet ownersblending products, advice, accessories and even vet care and grooming.

PerroMart, which started as a monthly mystery gift-box service responding tothe rapid rise in pet ownership in Southeast Asia, has adopted a missionpurpose to help strengthen the bond between pets and humans for a lifetime.

“We are running on pure passion,” founder Roy Lim told Inside Retail Asia. “Wewant to improve the wellness of pets and take the burden of pet care offpeople, because everyone is getting busier and busier these days, and we wantto enable humans to spend more time creating memories while we take care ofeverything else.”

Asean’s pet-care market is estimated to be worth US$1.4 billion and iscurrently growing at around 12.7 per cent annually. Pet-ownership rates arerising across the region, in tandem with the growing income and spending powerof consumers.

Lim started PerroMart in 2015 as PerroBox, a subscription box service fordogs. The concept was based on a mystery delivery once a month. When the boxarrives, the owner and the dog get surprised by the treats inside.

Subscribers responded well, and they still post photos on social media of theboxes arriving and the dogs responding to the contents.

“PerroMart was really a natural progression from the PerroBox,” says Lim,recalling that customers who liked particular products in the boxes wereasking about regular long-term supplies.

So in 2016 the company developed a full-scale online store selling goods forcats and dogs and their owners: dry food, wet food, treats, toys, accessoriesand cleaning products.

While selling pet supplies online is not unique – marketplaces and evenphysical pet stores are PerroMart’s main competitors – the company’sphilosophy is its point of difference.

“Customer service is where we really stand out from online marketplaces oreven pet shops with online stores,” says Lim. About three in 10 PerroMartcustomers want personal interaction with staff, seeking help choosing productsor getting advice on pet care, for example – something hard to deliver onlinewithout specialists on tap. The store runs a telephone hotline from 10am to6pm daily and allows customers to click and collect from their premises in JooSeng Road.

The retailer currently stocks about 200 brands online and has “severalthousand” active customers. Lim is reluctant to divulge too many more detailsat present as the company remains in growth mode, but he does say the ventureis doubling its business year on year, something which has recently attractedthe attention of multinational private equity company Sequoia Capital.

Sequoia, which has already backed more than 250 companies, including Asianjuggernauts Gojek, Tokopedia and Carousell, runs a rapid-scale ‘bootcampprogramme’ for startups across Southeast Asia and India called Surge. Theprogramme is designed to equip early-stage startups with the expertise,knowledge and financial backing to hold an unfair advantage as they look togrow their business. Surge provides capital ranging from US$1 million to $2million, company-building workshops, global immersion trips and support from acommunity of mentors and founders.

“We were introduced to Surge in the middle of last year by a friend,” explainsLim. “When we spoke to them they turned out to be great partners andinvestors. More than anything it is great to bounce ideas off them and towiden the way we think and what we can do … and to look at the business modelfrom a different perspective.”

If repeat business is a measure of success, Lim and his team must be doingsomething right. “It takes a lot to keep customers happy and keep them comingback every month.”

Perhaps the company’s embrace of a mission is a key. “Our mission is reallyimportant to us. It is to enable the bond between a human [and a pet] for alifetime. So this is … what drives us, how we develop products or where wework with partners in all the ways we develop services.”

Like PerroMart, other companies in Sequoia’s Surge program are focused on theonline space.

“Southeast Asia is at a tipping point,” says Rajan Anandan, MD of Surge atSequoia Capital India. “The rate of mobile internet adoption and the growth ofdaily active users is now at a massive scale, and that opens up all kinds ofpossibilities for startup founders with new insights and innovative ideas.

“There are so many gaps and white spaces in every country in the region –across virtually every sector. For mission-driven founders who want to buildsomething new, make a difference and have a big impact on your economy – thisis your time.”

While Asia offers massive opportunities in e-commerce, for now PerroMart iskeeping its focus on Singapore and on developing the Malaysian market. Butother Asian countries are on the long-term radar.

Source: Inside Retail Asia

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