BENGALURU:Ever wondered how dogs can eat kibbles regularly? That's what got Ishmeet Singh Chandiok thinking and thus began his journey to find alternatives.
Inspired by his pet Harley whom he named after the bike, his other passion, he began researching about dog food. "Pretty soon, I was cooking food for him. He stopped eating the dry pellet form of food and would wait for me to make him fresh food every day. This started from 2011," he says, adding that he also looked around for a canine nutritionist. When he couldn’t find one in India, he went online, subscribed to a canine nutrition course and learnt all about the subject.
A year later, he decided to launch a wet dog food line called Harley’s Corner. "The business began in 2012 with a dabba system. But as the number of customers grew, it got difficult to manage and hence, I shifted to packaged food. I relied on retort pouch technology that is used in packaged food for people. It offers a shelf life of one year and has no preservatives in it," he says.
Ishmeet, who claims to be the only canine chef in India, says, preparing a food menu for dogs is very different from that of humans. "A lot of care for particular use of ingredients have to be taken. For instance, salt, onions and chocolate are a big 'no' for dogs, as these are harmful to them. Similarly, we need to ensure that dogs are fed as per their weight and not their breed. Their required levels of proteins, carbs and other nutrients are different from those required by humans," he explains.
The journey like any other, has had its ups and downs. From being a pet parent to being a manufacturer of pet food, he was exposed to the underbelly of the industry, which isn’t very pleasant. "The biggest challenge is the disorganised pet industry - right from ridiculously high margins like 50 per cent and 60 per cent being demanded by retailers and vets, to trying to fight the deep marketing pockets of the multinational brands," he adds.
He adds that since many consumers do not usually turn packets over to read the ingredients of items inside, he loses to marketing by other big brands. "We don’t really realise what is good for our pets. There is an international study that proves that dogs on a home diet live, on an average, 2.5 years longer than pets who consume a commercial dry food. But as pet parents, we believe the vets and pet shop owners and buy into their suggestions," he points out
He quips, "My son Harley is the 'nawab' of the house, knowing that he has a company named after him as well as a host of social media handles dedicated to him." He is also the CTO - Chief Tasting Officer and leads the team on this front.
"All recipes are approved by him before they go into production. If he doesn’t eat and relish it, it isn’t made - as simple as that. We have done a palatability check where about 70 dogs of different sizes and breeds were given the food. We had a 95 per cent hit on that front. That means, of every 100 dogs that are given our food, only five, on an average, will not eat it," he shares.