Pune girl cooks up a hot doggy treat with more bite than bark
Egg-O-Bite is marketed as a natural and healthy alternative to other commercially available dog food.Updated: Apr 14, 2018, 17:01 IST
When Neha Gujar brought home her pet Golden Retriever, Bruno, she knew that providing it pre-packaged food was not a great idea. “The vet told me that dog food has a lot of preservatives and flavouring agents .This is not good for the animal’s gut. It causes obesity, diabetes and various other problems,” said Neha.
“At the same time, the products that are free from such harmful additives are mainly imported from Europe and are too expensive. Moreover, if one packet was high on protein, it was low on calcium and vice versa. All commercial products use some per cent of meat, some binders and preservatives. To increase palatability, they add some essence or flavour of chicken or chicken powder. This makes the dog feel like eating more, leading to obesity. They also contain Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) binders and essence that pose a health risk. Bruno was losing his hair and was unhealthy because these products and I wanted to do something about it,” she added
The birth of Egg-O-Bite
She began preparing fresh, home cooked meals for Bruno. However, preparing fresh food everyday turned out to be tedious. She was actively looking for food that was easy to use as well as healthy for her dog.
That’s when Neha’s masters degree in biotechnology came to the rescue. “Bruno was hungry at 4 pm which is when he usually has a snack. I switched on the TV for and saw a soup commercial that talked about ‘choti choti bhook’. That is when I had the idea of preparing something for him with eggs.
“So I grabbed an egg, mixed it with rice flour, soy protein and very little citric acid which would give it that tangy flavour and also act as a natural preservative. I baked a cake for him with these ingredients.” To store the balance of the mix, she cooked it in the microwave so that the moisture evaporates and it becomes crispy. So was born Egg-O-Bite, an all natural healthy snack for pets.
While the snack was initially meant for Bruno, Neha wanted to spread the goodness of Egg-O-Bite to other pets. She began sampling it to her friends who owned dogs and cats. The results drove her to consider the possibility of taking Egg-O-Bite to every pet owner in the country. “All my friends reported that the snack made their dogs more active and that there was a general improvement in health.”
Neha then roped in Dr Swanand Gorhe, Bruno’s vet, for advice. Dr Gorhe said, “All ready-made dog food is prepared keeping in mind the various needs of pets. However, I feel that the longer the shelf life, the greater the use of preservatives. In some cases, dogs often develop allergies to the gluten in wheat and chicken. This causes hair loss, atopic dermatitis, redness and so on. I always advise my clients to give as much home cooked food to their pets as possible. Fresh food is always easily digested and assimilated.
“Neha’s Egg-O-Bite is very palatable to all dogs and with the clever use of citric acid, she has managed to avoid using artificial preservatives and flavouring.”
After witnessing the success of her product among her friends and family, Neha realised that there was potential to scale up. However, turning her kitchen product into a marketable one meant she needed better equipment. Keeping the various challenges in mind, on May 2016, Neha incorporated her company, Kings Biosolutions Private Limited .
“I make a formulation of eggs, rice flour, soy protein, and citric acid and steam cook it. Then, I cut them into small cubes. These are meant to be used as training treats. All pet owners use treats to toilet train or discipline their pets. Training treats are very small, so even if dogs eats six or seven of them, they will not put on weight. The other portion in the market is a normal bite sized portion meant to be given as a snack.”
She initially began raising funds for her venture by selling the product at low prices (Rs 50 for a box) at dog adoption centres, but to grow she needed more money. So Neha, her father and her aunt pooled in their resources and raised Rs 10 lakh. They converted the top floor of their Karve Nagar home into a manufacturing plant and bought an autoclaving machine, sifters and sanitary mixers to start production.
Bumpy road forward
When she approached local distributors with her new product, they demanded what other dog food manufacturers were giving them as bonuses.
“Huge boards, movie tickets, carpets... these are things that I can’t afford at this stage. So I offered them a huge cut – 40%. The problems continued to persist. Now I have a distributor who will pay me after the 30 day credit period, but I pay him a hefty commission – 55%!” Despite these issues, she is happy that the money will at least come in on time.
In the last year Egg-O-Bite generated a revenue of just Rs 40,000. This year, she has generated Rs 30,000 in just three months. “Last year a lot of the product was given out as samples, but this year I am very confident that the product will grow, given the response I have received from customers.”
Despite the spike in sales, there is still a long way to go for Egg-O-Bite.One issue is manpower. “I do the production myself. I have a cleaner, but seven days of the month I manufacture the product and the other days, I am busy selling it,” said Neha.
The other challenge is marketing. While she has set up a relationship with the local distributor, she has also tied up with Dog Spot, a huge marketing platform based in Delhi with a global presence.
The most important challenge though, continues to be funding. “There are online platforms that offer dog grooming, home delivery and they easily get funded, but it is difficult for a manufacturer like me. I applied for a Mudra loan, which comes under the Start Up India plan of the government, but they refuse to fund a company that recorded losses in their first year,” she said
Neha is drawing up a business plan to present to venture capitalists and angel funds. Neha needs Rs 15 lakh to spend on marketing and to scale up production. “Fifty per cent of the money will be used for marketing and branding and the other 50% will go towards salaries, scaling and more equipment,” she said.