Pets have always been companions to some. These adorable little creatures have won the hearts of many, and are even considered part of the family. It is no wonder some pet parents seek to provide the best for their pets, providing them lots of cool pet furniture, premium pet food and more.
However, sourcing for pet products is no easy feat for paw parents. Lots of consideration on product quality has to be considered so that the safety and comfort of their fur friends are not compromised. As such, the range of products that best suit their needs can end up being quite limited, leading to a higher willingness among pet owners to splurge on luxurious pet products that are functional and durable.
Understanding the concerns of such pet owners, Singaporean Donald Kng was interested in creating a “People Pet Brand”, which led to the establishment of Vetreska in 2017.
“We deliver finely made pet products that are not only beneficial and fun for pets, but also extremely relatable and joy[-]bringing for pet owners,” he says.
Co-founders of Vetreska, Donald and Nico Li, first met in college as freshmen at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where they pursued Fashion Merchandising Management and Advertising and Marketing Communications respectively.
When they conducted their research in 2016, Donald shared that their initial focus — the “clean beauty” and “gender-neutral fashion” industries — did not appear as frequently as compared to pets, especially cats.
The Chinese pet industry was growing at 30 per cent per annum, which was practically unheard of back then. Coupled with the fact that major foreign direct investment was going into China investing in the consumption market as well as consumption-focused gross domestic product growth policies in China, [it] made it an easy choice to start our company there, not to mention the sheer size of the Chinese population. – Donald Kng, co-founder of Vetreska
The Chinese pet industry was growing at 30 per cent per annum, which was practically unheard of back then. Coupled with the fact that major foreign direct investment was going into China investing in the consumption market as well as consumption-focused gross domestic product growth policies in China, [it] made it an easy choice to start our company there, not to mention the sheer size of the Chinese population.
The growth potential of the industry greatly piqued their interests, and got them thinking on how they can incorporate their training in fashion and retail to cater to the pet industry. They got creative, and started creating unique pet products.
“Our target audience are folks who are bored of mundane pet products and hope to add a little of life, exuberance and class to their pet-owning living environment and life. People looking to make that transition into a whole new world of fun experiences with their pets would look to see what Vetreska is offering first,” he adds.
When pet parents source for pet products, there are concerns over whether the product is suitable for their pet, whether it’s of good quality, whether it’s safe to use and more.
Donald shares that he understands these concerns with regards to pet products, and decided to ensure that they are taken into consideration when creating Vetreska’s luxurious pet products.
He added that he factors in functionality, relatability to customers, quality, design and trends as some of the key criteria when developing a pet product. However, he is also aware that since the pet market is highly saturated, these alone would not be enough to ‘win’.
Hence, instead of just focusing on practicality, Vetreska’s pet products also aim to stand out through product design by offering unique and imaginative pieces.
They needed a competitive edge, so they worked on developing products that new-gen customers can relate to, as well as a solid distribution network and a clear brand value and positioning that resonates with their target audience.
Aiming to push the boundaries of imagination on pet products to present pet lovers with fun yet practical designs, Vetreska has taken product design to a whole new level.
“Our designs often push the boundaries on what pet products can actually be,” he notes.
As seen from their products such as the Cactus Cat Scratcher, Watermelon Cat Litter Box, Bubble Pet Carrier and Cherry Cat Scratcher, Vetreska’s pet products are really one-of-a-kind.
With their pet products being both inventive and practical, they have clinched the CBN 2021 Gen-Z Favourite Brands China, 36Kr Top 100 High Growth Potential Brand, Alibaba Tmall 2021 Annual Top 100, KPMG Top 50 New Chinese Brands, Equal Ocean Top 6 New Pet Brands and more.
Over the years, Vetreska has also secured collaborations with several brands, including Intercontinental, Sanrio Hello Kitty and Fiu Gallery.
The brand remains determined to continue serving its purpose of redefining pet lifestyle by drawing inspirations from everyday lives, and incorporating them into pet products.
Both co-founders have invested a total of CNY$1.5 million (about S$300,000) to kickstart Vetreska, and they managed to break even in less than half a year.
Donald also noted that they’ve been “rather fortunate” on the fundraising front, as many venture capitalists have actively approached them to invest in the company.
Since its inception, Vetreska has witnessed tremendous growth. Last year, it earned over US$120 million (S$166.63 million) in revenue, and it has since set up multiple stores in Shanghai and sells to a total of 40,000 pet stores globally.
To offer paw parents an immersive experience with their fur babies, they have also set up the Vetreska Playground in areas of Shanghai, where products can be tested in person.
However, their success could not have been achieved without overcoming the obstacles that faced them in their early years.
I would say [the] supply chain has been the most challenging aspect over the years, simply because we had no prior knowledge and experience in pet supplies production. We overcame them the same way as many other problems in life — learning from mistakes as we went along, making new connections [and] developing new skill sets as a company.– Donald Kng, co-founder of Vetreska
I would say [the] supply chain has been the most challenging aspect over the years, simply because we had no prior knowledge and experience in pet supplies production. We overcame them the same way as many other problems in life — learning from mistakes as we went along, making new connections [and] developing new skill sets as a company.
In more recent times in 2020 and 2021 at the height of Covid-19, many businesses were negatively impacted.
Despite the virus outbreak, Vetreska has doubled its annual growth domestically as China managed to contain the spread of Covid-19 after the first few months. Vetreska also ventured overseas and entered the US market at the end of 2020.
These achievements led Donald and Nico to be listed on the coveted Forbes Asia 30 under 30 list in 2020.
According to Donald, the business only really experienced the impact from the pandemic with the recent lockdowns in Shanghai. Regardless, thanks to the continuous support from their consumers and strong bond as a team, Vetreska has emerged from the tough times even stronger.
Having built a successful business in China, Donald reveals that Vetreska has recently set up their regional hub here in Singapore to take it to greater heights. In fact, they are already starting hiring rounds here in the coming month.
“[I]t’s definitely both sentimental and logical for me to set up a regional headquarter here,” he says
Although the sheer size of China is very different from Singapore, Donald is confident that there are many similarities among the people. For one, he notes that Singapore’s demographic is becoming younger and more affluent, which aligns with Vetreska’s target customer profile.
Moreover, since Singapore is a global financial hub and an effectively multilingual country, he strongly believes that setting up a regional headquarter here would help juggle Vestreska’s businesses in different parts of the globe.
Particularly, these refer to their supply chain in China, direct-to-consumer opportunities in the States and e-commerce in Southeast Asia.
“In the immediate future, we hope to see greater growth and brand building in our foray into the North American market, mirror[ing] our supply chain capabilities into Southeast Asia,” he says.
With the progression of Web 3.0, which focuses on decentralisation and user ownership, many businesses have started exploring it, and Vetreska is no exception.
According to Donald, they are currently in the midst of creating “Vetreskaland”, a metaverse in which they gamify the whole pet-owning experience for the next generation of pet-loving people.
Featured Image Credit: Vetreska
This S’porean invested six figures to start her own pet carrier brand, broke even in 5 months
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