abillionveg: The New Must-Have App For Plant-based Living
Plant-based food may be all the rage, but why is it still so difficult to find anything to eat other than boxed salads and plant-based burgers? Enter abillionveg, a new app that promises to make plant-based living (and dining) that much easier.
Founded by Vikas Garg in Singapore, the location-based app allows users to rate and review plant-based dishes, grocery items and cruelty-free products wherever they are. A cross between Instagram and TripAdvisor, it currently boasts over 25,000 reviews from more than 74 countries—the top five being US, Singapore, Canada, UK and Hong Kong.
One of the coolest features of abillionveg is the 'Healthy Eating Challenge', which rewards users US$1 for each review posted with pictures. When the user accumulates 10 reviews (or US$10), they can donate it to an animal sanctuary of their choice (in the abillionveg partner network).
Over a couple of oat milk lattes (plant-based, of course), we met up with Vikas to learn more about his goals for abillionveg and his dreams for a more sustainable world.
Where did you get the idea for abillionveg?
I spent my entire life growing up vegetarian, so at first, it was easy [to find vegetarian options in India]. When I moved to New York, it became a lot harder—you could only eat one thing off the menu (e.g. fries at McDonalds) and there was always this search for food.
About 10 years ago, I became vegan. I cut out all dairy and animal products from my diet and consumption, and that just made life even more restrictive. But despite all that, [going vegan] is still the most inspiring thing I’ve ever done in my life.
See also: The Tatler Guide To Going Vegan
As for the name, is it your goal to convert a billion people to veganism?
Our ultimate goal is to inspire a billion people around the world to live a plant-based lifestyle. Even if they don't become fully vegan, it's about raising awareness around these issues and catalysing a movement, one which we think will be the biggest trend in sustainability in the next 20 years.
The donations earned per review are a great incentive. Why the focus on animal sanctuaries and say, not other green/environmental charities?
At the end of the day, the life that’s most impacted by our purchasing decisions and what we decide to eat and wear is the life of that animal.
Often because we live in grey cities like Hong Kong, we’re so disconnected from where our food comes from. We wanted to eliminate that gap through our platform and help people make that connection between what’s on their plate and the life that’s taken. In the future though, we will also support education programmes in addition to animal welfare.
Are most of your users on abillionveg vegan?
Our platform isn't just about helping vegans. Sure, they need help finding plant-based options especially when they travel, but we want to remove the friction for anyone who’s curious about finding a great plant-based option anywhere in the world.
Only 60 percent of our users identify as vegan. People tend to go through this natural evolution as to why they're looking for plant-based options—either for animals, their health or the environment (from a plastics/greenhouse gas perspective).
What we find is that people usually become interested in veganism for their health or the environment, but those who stay vegan are the ones who've ultimately made that connection with life.
Veganism can be a divisive topic. How do you tackle this topic, especially with non-vegans?
You’ve got to be careful about how you phrase it because talking about food is becoming the same as talking about sex, religion or politics (things you're not supposed to bring up at the dinner table). It's just so personal and traditional.
I would never want to insult something that you have this deep memory of your mom or grandmother making because it'll just turn you off to everything I have to say after that. We all have to be sensitive to each other in talking about these things. That's why the app is a great place to start having these conversations with each other, in a more positive way.
With more and more plant-based options becoming available, do you think the app will eventually become redundant?
That'd be great if we could disrupt ourselves. But even if there were more plant-based options available, you'd still want to find the best thing. For example, when I go to Tokyo for three days, I still want to know what’s great, what’s trending and what people are eating. That’s what’s great about online communities—you get the most in-the-know and relevant information.
People usually become interested in veganism for their health or the environment, but those who stay vegan are the ones who've ultimately made that connection with life.— Vikas Garg
What's your ultimate dream for abillionveg?
We want to build a marketplace that provides every innovator and entrepreneur with the ability to sell [vegan and plant-based products]. The world is not going to become vegan by us vegans creating vegan products for vegans. The world is going to be more sustainable if we have amazing options.
I want to get to the stage where we can all walk into a restaurant and ask the waiters for recommendations, and instead of them saying the scallops, sirloin or lobster, they say the vegan option simply because it’s one of the best things on the menu.
See also: 6 Vegan Spots To Try In Hong Kong