Our relationships with animals, and loyal pets in the home have evolved significantly within a generation. Pets are now typically considered to be an integral part of the family, with products, food, healthcare, and activities surrounding our four-legged friends.
Especially in Southeast Asia and Thailand in particular, the pet segment is seeing skyrocketing growth with 75% of Thai families owning pets, the second largest ownership level in Southeast Asia after Indonesia. According to accumulated data, there are over 2.4 million reachable pet parents in Thailand.
Enter MyFriend, your all-inclusive pet ecosystem in application form. We sat down with co-founders Mathieu Hervillard Le Peillet and Linda Pantanella Nilson to learn why they decided to fill the space of a growing niche, and why Thailand is becoming a great place for pet owners.
“As expat pet owners in Bangkok, we understand the pain points and have come up with solutions under one accessible app,” says Mathieu and Linda. “No one in the market has simply consolidated all that pet owners need in one place.”
MyFriend launched in April 2022, with over 17,000 registered users now. The app is here to essentially simplify and consolidate pet care and to make it as effortless as possible, from content to services and even ecommerce.
“We started MyFriend because we noticed the pain points and challenges. As a pet owner, it doesn’t make sense to have different apps and search tools for everything,” says Mathieu.
MyFriend’s core features allow you to track your pet’s health, such as the important dates, from doctor’s appointments to vaccination history. These details will simplify its conditions with healthcare providers, and generally save time in going over medical records
Beyond that, there’s also the “food and accessories” section under Shop, where users can simply head over order meals and other pet-related goods without doing a search and shop elsewhere.
What would incentivize someone who may already be juggling a range of applications on their smartphones?
“It’s simply offering more trusted convenience,” says Linda. “For example, if someone has to look up activities for dog owners this weekend, and order a few bags of dog food at the same time, they’d have to go on a marketplace and use a search tool.”
“With MyFriend, we offer everything in one place,” says Mathieu.
All this goes back to the humanization of pets, a growing trend that has only become more prominent in Thailand and Asia. Before this, dogs were simply seen as guard dogs who would look after the home. Nowadays, there’s a plethora of pet cafes, pet owner meetups and most recently, more dog-friendly locations where the whole family can enjoy.
“Community building is essential and important to us,” says Mathieu. “The mission here is to build an engaged pet owner community in Bangkok, and expand across other markets in Asia in the future.”
Because community is essential, MyFriend also hosts offline meet ups and groups, where the two co-founders can get to know their customers, understand the pain points and potentially come up with solutions. It also serves as a fun activity for pet owners to socialize, and participate in pet-friendly activities.
“We have partnered with the likes of The Commons, EmQ, KVillage for our offline events,” says Linda.
Beyond that, MyFriend also offers a directory of pet-friendly spots in Bangkok, insurance, and soon, a listing of pets available to adopt or buy as well as pet-friendly travel options in partnership with Agoda, and even pet food subscriptions.
Pet Spending & Care is on The Rise
Pet-related spending is on the rise across Asia-Pacific. According to a survey on pet ownership conducted by Rakuten Insight in January 2022,
nearly 34 percent of Thai pet owners stated that they usually spent between 300 to 500 Thai baht per month on pet products.
This goes beyond just shopping for toys and treats, but also with more critical things such as insurance.
“You would buy health insurance for family members, and for important possessions such as cars. So, why not your cat or dog?” asks Mathieu.
MyFriend partnered with an online insurance broker Insurepaws (WR Life) to offer affordable and simplified insurance packages on its application and website, it only takes a minute to sign up. There are currently four available plans, with the entry-level costing only 1,500 annually. Pet owners can quickly sign up online and receive a quote within minutes.
“By offering insurance, shopping options and events, together with the content, we are truly a one-stop shop for pet parents in Thailand,” says Linda.
Pet parents often face too many choices, both online and offline which can lead to information overload. With time pressure being a key pain point, consolidation is key.
One of the standout features of MyFriend, is its healthcare function that allows pet owners to digitally keep track of their four-legged family member’s health in a single tap. The pet profile allows you to input your pet’s details such as DOB, breed, microchip, vaccination records, allergies and medications. This makes it really easy to share with service providers, vet clinics and hospitals.
“By having everything updated and recorded in one place, it saves you the hassle and time of going through your folders and documents for every vet visit,” says Linda.
What’s next for MyFriend?
“One of the key challenges is having so many things we’d like to do, but we have to prioritize,” says Linda. “In the near future, we’re looking to roll out more services for our app, such as pet adoption and travel in partnership with Agoda.”
A merchant app is also in the pipeline and will be ready for launch by year-end. This app will allow vendors and merchants to fully integrate and seamlessly work with MyFriend, from event spaces to vet clinics.
The goal is to enhance and grow its community of users, by offering more tailored services and options for pet owners in Bangkok. Then, the team will eye regional expansion.
“We have raised a pre-seed, and seed rounds for MyFriend, and will aim to raise Series A by next year,” says Mathieu. “This will allow us to expand to other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Singapore and Malaysia.”
Both Mathieu and Linda have big plans to capture Southeast Asia’s growing pet market, and they’re determined to grow MyFriend into a large-scale, regional play.
“There’s definitely a market for growth, and we haven’t seen many platforms that will offer as many tailored services as we do,” says Mathieu.