Around the world, the vegan movement has been growing in popularity. More people than ever before are choosing to ditch animal products in favour of plant-based alternatives.
According to vegan business magazine Vegconomist, Singapore is quickly becoming a “haven for vegans”, and was named the second most vegan-friendly Asian city by PETA Asia.
Despite that, looking for vegetarian or vegan food options in Singapore can still be a tiresome affair. Even though vegan-friendly options in Singapore are steadily expanding, consumers might still have a tough time sussing out these dining establishments.
Vikas Garg, founder and CEO of abillion, understood these challenges. The entrepreneur grew up in a vegetarian household, and despite living in New York City, the options were limited.
“I mostly a lot of dairy, pizza, things like that. It was always a challenge when going to restaurants and having to ask questions about the food. It became even more challenging when I became vegan,” said Vikas.
He had made the decision to embark on a vegan diet after having realised that some of the advertising surrounding the health benefits of incorporating dairy into one’s diet was perhaps not as truthful as he had thought.
Furthermore, that was also around the time when he got his dog, and the emotional connection he made with his pet got him thinking more deeply about the impact of how becoming vegan might be more beneficial for the environment.
The eventual decision to launch abillion hence felt like a natural one, as he wanted to create a platform that would help people make an easy and natural transition to making more sustainable food choices.
Reviewing vegan dishes from all over the world
Previously abillionveg, abillion is a user-led platform that encourages people to share reviews of vegan dishes or products, with the ultimate goal of using user-generated content to create an ecosystem for the plant-based movement.
Vikas made the decision to resign from his corporate role in January 2017, and launched abillionveg a few months later. He enrolled in a coding bootcamp prior to that, as he felt it would be useful to understand the basics of how the platform would work.
He then headhunted two of the best students in the same bootcamp, and the three of them set about creating the initial website, which was launched in November 2017.
Beyond a platform to share vegan food and restaurant reviews, abillion has grown to become an ecosystem of over 350,000 users from over 140 countries.
The team changed its brand from abillionveg to abillion in order to cater to its growing community.
Today, 65 per cent of its members are omnivores and flexiatrians, and the team is seeing greater diversity in its audience. The common denominator though, is their interest in sustainability.
“We’ve realised that we aren’t just servicing a vegan community but a global community of conscious consumers and we are rapidly evolving to better serve them,” said Vikas.
The team is creating a community of holistic conscious consumers who strive to be sustainable in all aspects of their lives, be it in beauty, fitness, retail and general living.
Since 2018, abillion has raised US$7 million in funding. Of the US$7 million, US$2 million was raised in its seed round, which broke records as the largest seed round for a plant-based start-up that year in Singapore.
The startup is currently going through its Series A funding with the aim to raise US$10 to US $15 million by the end of July.
Turning social media into social good
For every review posted, abillion credits its members $1 that they can donate to close to 70 of the world’s most impactful organisations that lead conservation, education and diet change efforts.
According to Vikas, this helps users make a connection between their lifestyle choices and the impact they have on the world.
It has also helped the team to build its core base of dedicated abillion members, as well as naturally scale the amount it donates based on this growth.
To date, the platform has seen over 700,000 food reviews and 100,000 brand reviews, with over US$500,000 donated to good causes.
Apart from food, users can also find vegan products such as hair and skin products, all of which allow for other vegan enthusiasts to leave reviews. This enables abillion users to perform a more refined search.
Vikas told Vulcan Post that abillion has the world’s “most valuable and unique consumer data set for sustainability,” that comes from its 700,000 reviews.
The startup can then leverage this proprietary dataset to help investors, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers identify market gaps and growth opportunities in the socially responsible consumption wave.
It is also the first company to launch awards for plant-based products and dishes based on real consumer data and preferences.
“We’re not telling the public that something is number one based on the opinions of a small panel of celebrity judges; we’re awarding someone a first place award based on thousands of data points based on real member feedback,” said Vikas.
The vegan market is big, and it’s growing quickly
According to Vikas, the year 2020 saw a “seismic shift in the conscious mindset of Singaporean consumers” which was shown with the 2.5x increase in users of the app in Singapore. Over 4,000 reviews of vegan dishes were posted from the Singaporean landscape alone in the app.
As the economy in Singapore began to reel back from the pandemic, and users were allowed to visit more restaurants abillion saw a growing interest in plant-based dishes and alternatives among the Singaporean crowd.
With plant-based meat alternatives like Tindle, Karana and Impossible Foods becoming increasingly popular, Singapore is seeing an emerging vegan market and the interest in plant-based nutrition and diet is continuing to grow.
Last year, abillion released its Top 20 Vegan Cities report, and Singapore was indicated as second in the global vegan city ranking. It is also one of the app’s top four key markets.
People all over the world are adopting plant-based diets and there is heightened awareness of the environmental and personal benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. I also think the pandemic has been a wake-up call in that aspect—people began to see the necessity and the positivity behind making conscious decisions. Platforms like abillion have been instrumental in this new wave and we are proud to be part of this growth to ensure a more sustainable tomorrow for all beings.
Vikas Garg, founder and CEO of abillion
Currently, abillion members can only post reviews of plant-based dishes and sustainable products. However, by the end of the quarter, abillion plans to give members the ability to post anything they want.
This includes the opportunity to discuss anything that’s sustainable, share their thoughts, photos, videos, recipes, even links to articles.
These more general posts are aimed at starting conversations about sustainability and bringing the community closer together.
Since abillion is a global community that catalyses people and businesses to do what’s right for the planet, Vikas wants to be the world’s largest social media platform for sustainability.
To help us achieve this, one of its key priorities is to continue to become a toolkit for the next generation of entrepreneurs and business owners, who prioritise plant-based offerings.
With this in mind, it will be launching a Business Dashboard in the coming months. This dashboard will help business owners to engage with the growing conscious consumer base.
abillion will also be launching a marketplace that will enable consumers to buy and brands to sell products directly from our platform.
“We hope these features will enable members to interact with each other and encourage them to be guiding forces in each other’s sustainable journeys. Our ultimate goal with abillion is to guide people in making social impact and sustainability a habit for everyone,” said Vikas.
Featured Image Credit: abillion