23 October 2016
APE quickly snapped up a big slice of the market by offering pet food delivery. Photo: APE
APE quickly snapped up a big slice of the market by offering pet food delivery. Photo: APE

How pet shop boys bit the hand that fed them

Hong Kong’s pet food market is expected to be worth HK$2 billion (US$258 million).

That will warm the cockles of Jimmy Li Kai-yin, founder of Accessories of Pet Express (APE), a leading industry player which has benefited tremendously from the growth of the pet population in Hong Kong.

Li launched APE 12 years ago as a one-man operation. He took orders and delivered them personally.

His monthly income then was less than HK$10,000. In 2013, APE pulled in HK$51 million (US$6.58 million) and its net income was HK$13 million.

Most of the time, pet owners prefer to buy large packs to save money. Some dog feeds can weigh as much as 20 kilos, so it’s not easy for pet owners to carry them home, especially by bus or train.

By offering to deliver, APE quickly snapped up a big slice of the market.

“We provide delivery services even during late hours because most Hong Kong pet owners won’t be home until 9 p.m.,” Li told Next Magazine.

Although it’s a lot of hard work, APE’s operation is quite straightforward, involving three simple steps: merchandising, order taking and delivery.

The lucrative operation has inspired copycats. To Li’s dismay, some of his competitors are former employees.

Easy Pet was set up by three former APE employees who worked in the accounting, merchandising and the logistics department.

Li has accused them of stealing APE clients.

“They pretended that nothing was going on but in fact they were already planning and running the new company when they were still with APE,” Li said.

“One of them was actually designing their new logo during office hours.”

The three men quit one after another within six months, taking with them APE client contacts and order history.

They then approached APE customers and persuaded them to buy from Easy Pet, Li said.

Li found out he had been sleeping with the enemy only after he received complaints from his customers about how another company could have obtained their private information.

He is seeking a court injunction to prohibit Easy Pet from using APE clients’ information.

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EJ Insight writer

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