Seven out of the top 10 fastest growing countries in the global pet industry are Asian, with India taking the helm, followed by China, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Philippines and Indonesia.

So, where does Brunei fit in this US$105 billion dollar market? According to local industry insiders, they are seeing an upward trend in pet owners doling out more on their favourite animal companions.

BRUNEI’S GROWING PET INDUSTRY

Relatively new to the Brunei market, Singaporean franchise Pet Lovers Centre (PLC) recently opened up its second branch in less than four months, and is already looking at future expansion plans.

“We see an opportunity [in Brunei]. There is a lot of repetition as to what is available out there for pet owners. We have a lot of variety [in terms of specialty pet treats] and we also cater mostly to dog owners,” PLC Marketing Manager Siti Nur Arrifah Hassan tells The Scoop.

Marketing Manager of Pet Lovers Centre Siti Nur Arrifah Hassan during an interview with The Scoop. Photo: Hadthiah Hazair

She notes that the pet industry is expanding in Brunei, which is why PLC sees Kuala Belait as a suitable area for their next possible store. According to Arrifah, the area is an “untapped segment”, especially with the large expat community there.

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“Adopting and taking care of pets isn’t something Bruneians take lightly these days. They’re more responsible and want to spend on their pets… In my opinion and observation, I think Bruneians spend an average of $50 – $100 monthly on pet care,” she says.

HUMANISING PETS

International reports have indicated that China’s pet industry took off in the late 2000s, due in large part to its strengthening economy which means greater disposable income for Chinese households in general. Other factors contributing to the Chinese pet market boom are its low birth rate as well as increase of pet ownership among the elderly Chinese population.

This humanisation of pets is a growing trend not just globally, but also in Brunei, says Anderson Lim Chee Wei, the managing director of Nimanja, Brunei’s first online pet store. “Animals are becoming more accepted as family members, leading to customers willing to pamper and spoil their pets,” he says.

“I started Nimanja with the proposed goal of providing pet lovers with convenience by offering a wide selection of quality pet products at affordable prices, and delivering directly to the customer’s doorstep,” Anderson tells The Scoop.

Nimanja first began operations in July 2016 and was initially developed as an online pet supplies store. However, booming business means that it has since opened a flagship store in Gadong early last November.

“With the use of our online store, we’re able to gather crucial primary market research in order to fully understand our consumer’s behaviour. This allows us to adapt and provide a more effective and efficient marketing scheme, ultimately meeting our consumers’ wants, demands and needs,” Anderson says.

Some of the pet toys and food available at Nimanja’s flagship store in Gadong. Photo: Courtesy of Nimanja

Now the number one growing pet industry in the world, India was initially slow to embrace commercial pet foods, with many being reported to prepare home cooked pet meals instead. However, increasingly demanding lifestyles and a more common occurrence of two-income families have pushed ndian pet owners to buy commercial. India is also at the forefront of many pet trends such as dog yoga, spa services as well as an increased demand for pet behavioral therapists.

‘THEY’RE FAMILY TOO’

Likewise, Bruneian pet owners aren’t excluded from being swept away by the latest trends, albeit less extravagant. Proud human to two well-pampered cats, Nur Ibrahim, admits that she could not help but buy clothes for her felines — Milkshakes and Maru.

Milkshakes, one of Nur Ibrahim’s “fur babies” donning a Spiderman costume. Photo: Courtesy of Nur Ibrahim

“I buy a lot of toys for my cats and costumes so I can dress them up. I have no qualms about buying stuff (for them),” she says in jest, adding that she wants only the best for her “fur babies”.

For the private sector employee, it is normal to spend between $200 and $300 monthly on pet care. “If we go to the vet for their shots, I could be spending a little more.” Asides from trends and extra bits and bobs for our animal companions, Nur stresses that pet ownership comes with the huge responsibility of ensuring they are taken care of emotionally and physically.

“Bruneians should be aware of pet negligence. I’ve seen people with lots of cats, but have little interest in playing with them or taking care of them… It’s a huge responsibility, they have to spend time, play and groom.”