Behind the Biz – Pankaj Hurria – Tiana Foods

In today’s Behind the Biz interview I’m chatting with Tiana Foods Co-founder, Pankaj Hurria. Tiana have hit the pet food market with the world’s first halal-friendly cat food.

Please give us an overview of your business

Tapping into the ever-evolving pet humanisation trend, Tiana is on a mission to establish itself as the world’s first halal-approved cat food made with human-grade ingredients and new, freeze-drying tech which negates the need for any nutrient-sapping, heat-based processes.

Research states that in the UK alone there could be as many as 500,000 Muslim cat owners holding out for more pertinent meal solutions that align with their distinct lifestyle beliefs BUT don’t skimp in terms of ingredients, latest production techniques or sustainable practices.

The target market is clearly defined, professional, moderately religious women who insist on feeding their cats tasty, health-conscious meals that align with their faith and environmental responsibilities but aren’t dependent on countless hours prepping and cooking in the kitchen, which was historically the only pathway to ensure that appropriate ingredients were used.

Where did the idea for Tiana come from?

Whilst the idea might seem ‘fringe’ on first inspection, the reality is that it’s estimated that in the UK alone there are 500,000 Muslim cat owners. 

A good family friend’s mother asked when a halal friendly range might come into being because she was tired of all the hours she had to spend prepping, cutting and cooking to clear cut hurdles.

My curiosity was pricked and so I sought out my good friend Umar, a full-service communications agency director and a practicing Muslim with an unrivalled grasp of the opportunity at hand. We conducted some online qualitative research and the results were incredible. This was the moment we knew we were onto something.

What did you do before Tiana?

As a senior buying & procurement/supply chain specialist I was well suited to becoming an entrepreneur, especially with my latest role being in pet food, which meant I was perfectly placed (and connected) to grasp and run with the fantastic opportunity that presented itself to me. 

Being halal-centric wasn’t my only ambition! I also wanted to become a vocal ‘freeze-dried champion because an over-dependence on ‘old-school,’ heat-based techniques (pasteurisation) whose heavy-handed methodology meant that unwelcome synthetic supplements and amino acids had to reintroduced back into meals that had unwittingly been asset stripped by intense heat.  In stark contrast, freeze-drying treats, best-in-class ingredients means that a recipe’s flavour cues and nutritional worth aren’t diluted during production.

Did you always plan to be an entrepreneur?

Not necessarily! I know that I’m well-equipped to succeed in any environment, be that a large corporate entity or a small start-up. More importantly, I’ve always prided myself with identifying business opportunities and making things happen, which I suppose sits at the heart of what makes an effective entrepreneur.

Did COVID-19 impact your business?

Without question, certification approvals, accreditations and packaging design/production were all hindered by the uncertainty fostered by COVID. It certainly ensures that you cross every t and dot every i because unwitting mistakes means that openings are lost that simply can’t be recovered. Any good idea only has a short shelf life before ‘me-too’ pretenders arrive on the scene.       

Please share a business high and low with us

Highs – We’ve been shortlisted for a prestigious Pet Quip award within months of launch, secured a PIF endorsement (Pet Industry Federation) and some very helpful attention from the Daily Mail.

Lows – The stress of COVID-19, spiralling costs, constant recutting of financials.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Patience & perseverance – nothing is as ever as straight-forward as you might think. And never lose sight of what an achievement it is to bring a brand to fruition, so remember to enjoy the journey.

Thank you so much to Pankaj for taking the time to answer our Behind the Biz questions. It was really interesting to find out more about Tiana Foods and I can’t wait to see where the brand goes in the year ahead.

Check out the Tiana website and support the business over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.