Interview with Founders of GNV Commodities Prateek Singh and Varun Sharma

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Have you thought of feeding your dog a new kind of meat everyday? But isn’t the raw food diet the new trend? Have you ever had an afterthought about the ancestral history of your pets? How did they cope in the wild?

Worry not! Maybe it’s time to give it a thought and change your furry family member’s pet diet. But before you do, it is imperative to understand the dietary requirements based on the breed of your pet.

Netra Venkateshwaran speaks to Varun Vinod Sharma and Prateek Raj Singh, doting pet parents as well as the founders of GNV Commodities.

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Left: Prateek Raj Singh                                                      (GNV Commodities Founders)                     Right: Varun Vinod Sharma 

This dynamic duo is known to have expanded the global footprint of Canadian company Champion Pet Foods and are the official distributors in India. A few of global brands include ORIJEN and ACANA. Varun and Prateek  started this venture three years ago and ever since has tried to bring in the best of global pet brands to India. Apart from that, Varun and Prateek are affectionate pet parents and emphasize on how important it is to understand the pets’ requirements as nutrition plays such a pivotal role in their upbringing.

Netra Venkateshwaran: Tell us about GNV Commodities & the brands – ACANA & ORIJEN – What’s been your journey like right from the start till today-
Varun Vinod Sharma: We are a young company. We started three years ago with Orijen and Acana. Like every good story in life, it started with us getting our very own dog and then realized that most good quality brands were missing in the Indian market. We did not want to compromise on the type or the quality of the brand and hence we’d go to any extent to provide for our own furry family members. We would contact our relatives who were overseas or even when we ourselves would go abroad, we would prioritize dog food over our own clothes. So this was how we were doing it. Even from a business standpoint obviously we were feeling that gap that the industry really needed to fill in. I was pretty certain that there were a lot of fellow pet parents who felt the same way as I did. So to be specific to the question, Orijen and Acana belong to a global Canadian brand called Champion Pet Foods. They are widely regarded as one of the best pet food brands in the world. Orijen’s recipes have 85 to 90 per cent meat. This is the highest amount of meat available in any commercial pet food diet in the world. We wanted to get the best possible food known to the world into our own country. This then also links back to our main intention of why we decided to be venture into this space and it’s been a great journey since then.
Prateek Singh: One day I just happened to get a call from him. He was in Bhopal at the time and if I remember correctly, he was picking up food for his dog, Buddy. He just called me and said “We need to do something about this…”. I understood and immediately flew down to Bhopal. Within 15 days we got it roughly all up and running and that’s how it happened.

Netra Venkateshwaran: What prompted you to enter in the pet space and what was your background like before this?
Varun Vinod Sharma: I did my MBA in International Business from Institute of Foreign Trade New Delhi. Right out of college I worked for about four and a half years with Proctor and Gamble. But then doing a business was always on the cards. I always wanted to start something, which I could run independently. For us now, when pet parents turn around and tell us that the food we are selling is changing their pet’s life, or even to hear that the existence of these brands has helped ameliorate the quality of pet care – It makes my day! It’s what keeps us going and pushes us to continue doing what’s best for the pets, pet parents and the industry as a whole.

Netra Venkateshwaran: What are the brands that come under GNV Commodities?
Varun Vinod Sharma: We started with food and then we decided, why stop there? So we started entering new spaces and expanded our footprint. We’ve got six brands now. So our dry foods are Orijen and Acana. Both belong to Champion Pet Foods. For toys we have West Paw which is an American brand. It has been FDA approved and comes with a one-time replacement guarantee for a lifetime.  It is the only brand in the world that offers this. For accessories we have Ruffwear. In India we call such products as accessories but Ruffwear specializes in outdoor gear for dogs. They have a variety of products that are provided if and when you would like to take your dog out for a jog or a hike. One of the items is a pair of boots, which can be worn in -40 degree centigrade. There’s even backpacks for dogs. Then we’ve got another brand under our belt called, Little Big Paw which specializes in canned food for dogs & cats. We recently brought a new brand on board called Beco Pets. This brand has an ecological perspective. For example; the Beco litter scooper is made out of bamboo instead of plastic.
Prateek Singh: They even make poop bags which are actually made up of rice so as soon as you pick up the poop you can actually put it in the soil and it decomposes in to a fertilizer. There is no plastic used whatsoever. So this another approach we liked that made us tie up with a brand like this. The concept was amazin and we wanted a widespread of products in our portfolio.

Netra Venkateshwaran: Do you have an in-house veterinarian nutritionist guiding you on the composition of the different kids of pet food?
Prateek Singh: Our brands employ several nutritionists to research and formulate our recipes. Our nutritional philosophy is being biologically appropriate. Feed as mother nature intended. The Latin name for a wolf is Canis lupus and for a dog it is is Canis lupus familiaris, which means a familiar wolf. So even if you have a Labrador, a pug or a Shitzu, it is a wolf!
Varun Vinod Sharma: So realistically, a Shitzu and a wolf still share 98% of their DNA. Anybody who has ever owned a cat knows that they have an uncanny resemblance to their wild cousins. So again, this is what Mother Nature is pointing towards. Genetically they have close ties to their wild counterparts.  So our whole approach is to feed them accordingy.

Netra Venkateshwaran: What are the new products in the pipeline?
Varun Vinod Sharma:  We are on a constant look out for products, which could further our mandate. For now, we are focusing on feline needs and requirements as well as grooming. We are trying to understand the grooming industry. We would like to add value to whatever brands that are present in India as well.  These are two things we are currently looking at and we yet have to find the right brands which meets our pets’ approval as well as standards. Then only shall we go ahead with this collaboration.

Netra Venkateshwaran: What were the challenges faced when you entered the Indian Markets?
Prateek Singh: There are a few things. One of the major challenges was that there were a lot of large-scale importers in India but the supplies were inconsistent. It took us sometime and to say that we are still working in progress to prove that we are here in terms of supply chain continuity.  The second issue was that we do not provide any discounts to the end customer. Our prices are fair and we want to keep the conversation about the quality of the food rather than some random discount that another brand may be offering.We also support only pet speciality and do not sell on Amazon and Flipkart.
Varun Vinod Sharma:  I think educating the end customers or the influencers will always remain a challenge. That’s something in which we invest heavily in both time and money.

Netra Venkateshwaran: What is the upcoming Indian pet parent trend you have seen?
Varun Vinod Sharma: We are seeing a significant amount of pet parents who are asking the right questions. There are some pet parents who are actually flipping the bag and asking if the ingredients that go in to traditional food are any good? There are a lot of pet parents who now say that they would rather invest in a preventive nutrition. We are as a brand noticing the change that has come about. I hope it continues and accelerates with time. So the good news is that customers are asking the right questions and taking the initiative to follow the right direction to better their pet’s lifestyle.  Equally important are components like exercising and time-to-time veterinary care.

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About the Author: Netra Venkateshwaran

Anchor & Correspondent • A part time journalist but a full time animal lover. Netra is an avid traveler, a caffeine addict and a food enthusiast. She also has a keen interest in fashion and luxury designer wear!

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