Ask any elderly Chinese citizen to describe let’s say a “textbook” urban scene from back when he was young and ask an American to do the same. Among other differences, you will most likely notice that pets are absent from the description of the elderly Chinese.
Contrary to popular belief, pets are anything but completely absent from Chinese culture, let’s just say they have been around since well before the US Declaration of Independence. However, they were usually only found in royal households, there wasn’t really much in the way of tradition when it came to the average person owning a pet (as tends to be the case in the West at this point). Instead, you had a fairly straightforward relationship which involved well-off families owning pets such as dogs, usually bred for specific purposes: a Chow Chow for defending the property, a Pekingese to catch rodents, a Shih Tzu for companionship and so on.
Furthermore, no, it isn’t just a myth that dog meat was consumed. On the contrary, dogs which weren’t bred for specific purposes were oftentimes categorized in the same manner as other animals which are consumed for their meat. To this day, despite the ubiquitous frustration among animal rights organizations, we have events such as the Dog Meat Festival where the name speaks for itself and as can be seen, the picture which is being painted is remarkably different from the one Western individuals are accustomed to.
Reverting to our elderly Chinese citizen example, that person usually raises an eyebrow when noticing that his grandchild is either already a pet owner or at the very least warming up to the idea. Indeed, scenes which involve young people walking their dog in an urban Chinese surrounding are becoming more and more common these days.
For the simple reason that, as pointed out frequently here on ChinaFund.com, economic interconnectedness revolves around far more than just economic transfers, culture-related ones are equally significant. As such, gradual consumption of Western cultural products (from classical books to Hollywood movies) inevitably leads to certain Western values and habits being exported to China and among them, we most definitely have the idea of pet ownership.
As pretty much always, these habits end up being “adapted” to China, with a wide range of particularities manifesting themselves, for example the fact that small(er) dog breeds are far more popular in China. Regardless of these particularities, the fact remains that more and more Chinese individuals are interested in becoming pet owners and since ChinaFund.com is a website dedicated to exploring the various financial opportunities that exist in China, our readers are undoubtedly starting to see dollar signs.
Make no mistake: like almost everything else in the West, pet ownership is… well, an industry.
From various brands of pet food to shelter solutions and even clothing, a wide range of economic needs emerge alongside this new mega-trend of pet ownership. Fortunes have been made surrounding pet ownership businesses in the West and the same principle will almost certainly be valid in China. Not only is the pet industry meaningful, it is actually one of the most lucrative ones out there. For example, one of the most hyped-up startups during the Dot Com Bubble days was none other than Pets.com and while it flopped spectacularly, this doesn’t change the fact that pet-related businesses have always been an option worth exploring for more or less savvy entrepreneurs.
As a bit of a binary conclusion:
- Once again, we are dealing with a dramatic mega-trend, which does anything from cause tensions between generations (from subsistence-oriented elderly Chinese who remember having to eat dog meat so as not to starve to millennials walking their small-breed dogs while browsing the Internet on their smartphones) to change what can arguably be considered building blocks of Chinese culture
- Leaving the cultural dimension aside, what interests us even more is that from an entrepreneurial and investment perspective, this new mega-trend brings about massive opportunities that those wise enough to act are able to take advantage of
On that note, we want to stress that it is a misconception that generation-defining businesses “have to” revolve around spectacular industries such as electric vehicles, Artificial Intelligence, solar/wind energy and so on. They can, but they most definitely do not have to. As investing legends such as Warren Buffett are quick to point out, the best opportunities are frequently the “boring” ones.
While stating that you have invested in a pet-related startup doesn’t exactly make for the most interesting dinner conversation, talking about the career-altering profits you have generated just might. Follow the trends (in our case mega-trends), follow the money and you will understand why many are more than excited about this jurisdiction.
Needless to say, pitfalls abound and those who approach the idea of investing in Chinese assets in a superficial manner usually end up bitterly disappointed. To that effect, we are once again in binary territory, with you as an investor having two broad options:
- Putting in the work required to meaningfully “get” China when it comes to anything from the economic or administrative/bureaucratic perspective to the cultural dimension
- If that is not necessarily something you are interested in doing (perhaps due to lack of time, maybe for other reasons), working with consultants that you can outsource this vital component to
If your situation is more in line with the latter, the ChinaFund.com team of experts is at your disposal, whether you are interested in exploring opportunities pertaining to the pet industry, opportunities involving other mega-trends (some of which we might have also covered through dedicated articles, some of which we will cover in the future and some we will keep to ourselves and only share with clients) or anything else which involves either gaining exposure to Chinese assets or making decisions related to a portfolio which includes them.