zumvet athena lee grace su
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Owning a pet is never easy and most people often underestimate the responsibility that comes with being a pet owner, just like Athena Lee.

Back when Athena was a first-time pet owner, she found that owning and caring for a pet was much more complex and unique than she had initially expected.

Despite having pets for nearly four years, she continues to encounter new behavioural quirks and is often unsure of whether they are a cause for concern.

One such instance was when her cat, Siam, went undiagnosed with an urinary tract infection for over a year as she was unaware of the behavioural signs to look out for.

Sharing the same realisation as her is fellow pet owner and doctor, Grace Su, who joined hands with Athena to start up Singapore-based pet telehealth platform ZumVet, which helps pet owners receive accessible and convenient medical advice for their pets.

An online clinic for pets

Athena hails from Hong Kong and has lived in various parts of the United States before deciding to settle in Singapore back in 2017, when she joined homegrown telehealth startup Doctor Anywhere to serve as its CEO.

It was at this startup where Athena met Grace, who had joined the company as a Locum Doctor in 2018.

Drawing from their experience there, Athena and Grace leveraged their familiarity with telehealth services to build ZumVet from scratch in 2019.

ZumVet video consultation
ZumVet’s video consultation services / Image Credit: ZumVet

ZumVet offers a wide range of affordable veterinary services to pet owners in Singapore via its platform, which is accessible through desktops and its mobile application.

Starting from a rate of S$35, the veterinary platform allows pet owners to book a consultation with a vet from the comfort of their own home.

Owners can simply convey their problems over a video call and if need be, physical symptoms can also be revealed through the screen.

– Athena Lee, co-founder of ZumVet

In this way, owners can save on transportation costs and pets will not need to feel nervous about heading to a physical vet.

After every diagnosis, prescriptions will be recommended by ZumVet’s pool of vets, and the medications will conveniently be delivered to the owner’s doorsteps. If required, owners are also able to request for medication refills.

Zumvet ZumShop
Some of ZumShop’s products / Image Credit: Zumvet

In addition to its video consultation services, ZumVet recently widened its veterinary offerings with the launch of an online pets’ health and wellness store, ZumShop, just two months ago.

ZumShop offers vet-approved products, ranging from pet supplies to medications, that can help “enhance the experience of pet ownership not only in terms of health but also lifestyle”. Its catalogue of products also include hard to find products that are exclusively available in overseas domestic markets.

The COVID-19 lockdowns drove ZumVet’s success

zumvet team
ZumVet’s team / Image Credit: Athena Lee via LinkedIn

Athena lamented that the first six months of starting up ZumVet were the most challenging months for the duo as they had to build the platform remotely due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

“The anxiety was high and communication was difficult, but what we learned during this time was how to build trust,” shared Athena.

In addition to the lockdown restrictions, the veterinary telemedicine landscape in Singapore was still at its infancy stages during their time of launch, which imposed more challenges when it came to establishing a presence in the market.

“We had to educate vets on how our platform can help make healthcare more accessible for pets, as well as our customers on the benefits of using our platform as compared to heading to a vet physically,” explained Athena.

Despite these challenges, the very restrictions that were initially a barrier to the business was what actually propelled the business to success.

As more businesses shut their physical doors, there was a pressing need for digitialisation and remote services during the pandemic. With pet owners unable to visit a vet during the peak of COVID, the business saw a significant number of pet owners turning to ZumVet because of its accessibility.

We were very lucky that during the time we launched, there was an urgent need for digitisation and remote services due to the pandemic, so people were more open to trying new methods to get the healthcare they needed.

– Athena Lee, co-founder of ZumVet

As Singapore weans from the pandemic, the business still sees a high footfall from pet owners, especially from those who do not have access to cars, or live in areas that do not have vet clinics nearby.

Telehealth needs to co-exist with traditional vet services

zumvet athena lee grace su zumshop launch
Athena Lee and Grace Su at ZumShop’s launch / Image Credit: Athena Lee via LinkedIn

Despite the advantages and convenience offered by telehealth providers, Athena acknowledges that online consultations come with their own limitations, such as technological barriers.

There will always be instances where pets have to be sent to a physical vet who are equipped with the right tools to deal with serious conditions or chronic diseases. In fact, about 50 per cent of the cases diagnosed through ZumVet required further examination.

For this reason, ZumVet has established partnerships with traditional veterinaries. If a pet faces serious conditions, or is in need of emergency treatment, ZumVet directs the owners of these pets to these partner clinics.

As the telehealth sector in Singapore grows, Athena feels that pet owners will be able to enjoy more comprehensive benefits by complementing traditional veterinary services.

She added that in recent years, pet ownership has been developing more rapidly than the veterinary industry in Singapore, which is a main cause of concern for players in this sector.

She also notes that there has been an increasing demand for connectedness, services, mobility, convenience and technology in the industry, putting further strain on veterinary businesses islandwide.

Although the pandemic has greatly heightened the adoption of vet telehealth, there is still much left to be desired in the field, and Athena believes that the development of online platforms such as ZumVet will fulfil the increasing demand for veterinary care.

Featured Image Credit: ZumVet

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)