When Vikas Garg launched the digital platform abillionveg—now just “abillion”—in 2017, the goal was to unite people around plant-based food while supporting rescue animals. That’s still the goal today, even as the platform evolves.
The most notable change for abillion’s users, of course, is the name. “We wanted a name that captured the entire movement,” Garg told Green Queen via email. “Having the ‘veg’ in the name immediately brought people’s minds to food, which of course is a huge part of it, but we wanted our brand to evoke more than that.”
The platform’s focus is, at least to the consumer, simple. What started as uploading vegan meal pics and reviewing dishes via the app, now includes sustainable fashion and beauty options. Actions on the app earn the user a dollar routed to a number of animal sanctuaries. Garg says the reason it was designed this way is to connect purchasing choices and animal welfare and to use that to spark change within the industries.
Garg says he and his mostly Singapore-based tech team talk a lot about numbers—no surprise there. But it’s ten to the ninth power —a billion—that he finds beautiful. That, he says, helps inform the brand’s identity and mission.
“For me, it really means taking something as small as 10—10 people, 10 ideas, 10 choices—and building on that. It’s about making people feel that their individual choices can add up to massive collective impact.”
Shifting the marketplace
“The first step has been bringing together a community of people that start creating content that helps people choose better and drives businesses to become more sustainable,” he says. According to Garg, the abillion app has been downloaded nearly a million times. That’s helped the company with its most tangible result: consumer data.
“We launched data.abillion.com to publicly share insights and help entrepreneurs, companies, investors, and policymakers see the opportunities shaping up across the world and give them the confidence to support the movement.” Garg emphasizes that abillion’s goal is to always be a force for social good, and that means responsible use of data—and for abillion, that means using it to protect the planet.
That ethos, Garg says, is aimed at helping businesses shift toward more ethical and sustainable food options. Abillion has shared consumer insights to nearly 100,000 restaurants and consumer product companies in 149 countries. “At the center of our community are people that want to support businesses that are doing right by the planet,” Garg says.
This new consumer—Millennials and Gen-Z, certainly—but it’s also Gen-X and older generations who have come to terms with the state of the world and want to do better. These consumers are going to help create a new marketplace that favors a more sustainable economy.
That’s all good in theory, though. In practice, it’s a much longer path toward the end goal. For one, there are the challenges of working in Singapore.
“There’s a degree of the ‘cold start problem’ in Singapore,” Garg says. “It’s a beautiful country with lots of trees, no discernible pollution, very few cars relative to the population. For someone that grew up taking the NYC subway, coming to Singapore the train stations are so clean they feel like they were built yesterday. So it’s not always clear to everyone what the big fuss is over sustainability, but that is changing.” Garg says that while imports make up most of the food and water, the city-state is working to reduce that by 30 percent by 2030.
COVID also presented roadblocks for an app that’s typically used when dining out. It has also taken its toll behind the scenes, too. “A lot more people are sticking to safe, high-paying jobs instead of taking risks with start-ups,” Garg says. “We’re lucky that our team grew from 8 to 30 in the past year, but we have some key senior leadership roles that we want to fill.”
Racing toward a greener future
Despite the challenges, Garg says the platform is still on target to meet its funding goals. “I’m grateful to have investors that share my vision.” The company is currently raising its Series A. More funding will help abillion increase its offerings, its backend, and ultimately, its message.
“We’re fighting for the soul of the planet and humanity. Our individual choices—what we eat, what we buy, where we go—have such a huge impact on everything from our own health to animals and the health of the planet,” Garg says. “If we can help people connect values with the things they consume every day, we create a practice of mindfulness that has massive positive outcomes for everyone on the planet. That’s worth dedicating my life to.”
Lead image of Vikas Garg from abillion.