Pet Heaven hopes to become SA’s top dog in online shopping for pets

cute kitten

Got a hungry pooch or a meowing kitten? Pet Heaven is a South African startup that wants to simplify your shopping habits by delivering must-have products to your doorstep. Instead of having to carry a 15kg bag of food home every month, why not get it delivered on a regular basis? As founder of Pet Heaven, Courtenay Farquharson, puts it, “Why break your neck to get to the vet before 5pm? Why pay etolls and petrol?”

For those living under a rock for the last decade, ecommerce has been revolutionising the shopping industry in exciting ways. For potential customers (about 39% in South Africa), having a case of craft beer or a new fridge to store them in is only a few clicks away.

Apart from the actual logistics of it all, the way it’s implemented is still in an exciting experimental phase. Amazon is showing off drones that fly around customer packages while more small businesses are finding innovative ways of specialising product as well as reaching specific audiences. Farquharson agrees. He says that the future of ecommerce around the world is yet to take shape and he wants in.

In an effort to join this evolution, Farquharson launched his online store for healthy pet products September last year.

Farquharson has a career history with Microsoft as well as Fujitsu Australia after studying at Rhodes University. He explains how while living in Australia for the past five years, he saw a gap in South Africa’s market. Similar to developed markets like the US and the UK, Australia has undergone an online consumer revolution in which Farquharson soon found himself participating in. “It wasn’t until a close friend told me of his online business, Paws for Life and the value of getting heavy pet food items delivered on a subscription basis, that I decided to see if it was being done in SA.”

The concept of Pet Heaven is pretty simple, which is half of why it works so well says Farquharson. You can either buy a product once-off or, if you know your furry friend’s eating habits, use Pet Heaven’s Set & Forget auto-delivery service. Farquharson hopes small conveniences such as these will be key to the evolution of buying online. Simplicity and convenience.

The beauty of selling a product like dog or cat food is that, for one; it’s elastic and durable. Your customers are always going to need it for as long as they’re hoping to keep their pooches alive and healthy. Secondly, little Sparky’s dietary needs are not just predictable, they’re also a chore when buying in bulk.

Pet heaven

The startup is currently supported by a bunch of brands such as Frontline Plus, Ultra Dog, Hill’s Science Diet and Vet’s Choice and uses three warehouses which also means larger quantities at cheaper rates. It also stocks certain medicine and hopes to one day be the top dog in supplying pet products online, offering everything from pet insurance and pet accessories to dog walking and grooming services.

Pet Heaven is further hoping to stand out from the rest of traditional shopping by focusing on the little things. “Anyone can buy pet food,” says Farquharson, “but we like to do small things like take the name of the pet on check-out and then write it on a card and place it in the delivery box. I think many traditional retail shops have terrible customer service.”

While competing directly with vets and local pet shops, the online shopping for pets-scene is once again trending. Lucky Dog, for instance, is an online South African store that’s responsible for gift boxes and other accessories for cats and canines. Abroad, the industry is also brewing with much potential.

When reading about pet-related ecommerce, one cannot help but be reminded of the famous example of ending up in the dog box in the late nineties. Times have changed since the dot-com bubble fiasco. The market is growing up and people (customers, entrepreneurs and investors) have a better grip on the way the things work.

Based on a working business model of its Australian counterpart, Pet Heaven hopes to get an early paw in the door of South Africa’s growing online and middle class market. Situated in Cape Town, the company is currently self-funded with hopes of joining the ranks at startup accelerator 88mph in the near future.

Image: Tom Thai via Flickr.

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter


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