Thursday, December 9, 2021

Sweet is the fragrance of flowers which smell’”and deliver’”a fortune

The younger generation has changed the way they celebrate every occasion with the same level of excitement and hence govern the success of many organizations. 

One such company is Ferns N Petal (FnP)- India’s largest flower and gifts retailer and one of the largest flower retailers in the world with a network of 330+ outlets across 120 cities. 

When, last year, the covid pandemic disrupted what was considered to be normal, Ferns N Petal was also among those businesses that experienced a halt in their operations with no concrete information of when they can resume their services. There were no lavish weddings and gifting was perhaps not high on the priority list amidst a virus scare and this resulted in the major hit to the company. Yet, miraculously, they floated. 

When the flower selling business got massively hit during the lockdown, the company was quick enough to turn towards the digital platform.  While everyone knows that necessity is the mother of invention, the FnP marketing team proved it right. He realized that families, particularly nuclear families, struggle with the rituals for funerals—and stepped in to provide professional help for a smoother experience. Next to join the list of new services was the last rites business division, which has packages ranging from Rs 25,000 to Rs 10 lakh. Started in Delhi-NCR last year, Ferns N Petals has performed over 1,000 funeral ceremonies so far. Another innovation during the lockdown was virtual ceremonies via Zoom calls.

The company which saw its first physical retail outlet in Delhi back in 1994 and that too with a friend investing Rs 2.5lakh, almost after 26 years, closed their March accounts with a revenue of Rs 336 crore. Not only this, the company is now eyeing a ₹500-crore top line. 

The fact that FNP, which started as a flower delivery start-up, has 12 verticals today shows how it has been blooming in different directions. Among others, there is retail and franchising, e-commerce, Cakes N More, Gardens, Weddings and events, floral touch (wedding design), Flowers N More, FNP Media (a YouTube channel promoting young artistes), and even a water product (FNP water).

Vikaas Gutgutia, the founder and managing director of FnP says that it has stayed true to its DNA of flowers and weddings in all these 25 years. For the 54-year-old who once sat in a shop selling flowers, the growth of e-commerce is just an inevitable turn of events.

Flowers have always been part of life as his parents had a flower cultivating business in Vidyasagar, near the Bengal-Bihar border (now Jharkhand). While he completed his schooling in a neighboring town of Jamtara, he moved to Kolkata for his bachelor’s degree. There also he was surrounded with flowers as his uncle had a small shop where he helped him in selling flowers. 

However, he never considered it as a fruitful business and wasn’t fond of the flowers either. “My aspirations were big—I never thought flowers could make a difference to my life,” he said in one of the interviews to LiveMint.  

Things changed when he came to Delhi and started a wholesale business selling flowers in a building under construction. It was his first step into entrepreneurship. Too exciting for him. His business took a huge leap when a customer asked Gutgutia to do the decoration for his daughter’s wedding at the Taj Palace hotel. He made ₹50,000 from that wedding, capering his daily sales of ₹2,000-3,000, and it opened another window of opportunity. Gutgutia’s business partner, Manoj Chopra, moved on in 1996, leaving him to manage the store and the wedding business. He built a team, his wife pitched in after his partner left, and “we started our journey of survival”, Gutgutia says.

But nothing comes easy. Problems were waiting. Once their shop was sealed. In another instance, their warehouse was burnt in which they lost their all wedding props, just before the season kicked in. He also started a business, Chatak Chaat, to bring the roadside snack into a boutique shop but that also soon became a failure. 

“I was young, easy-going, making money from weddings, but was not a cultured, organized businessman. Those three years were like going to a school called struggle. It taught me to handle manpower, what it means when people talk well of you…. I rediscovered myself, made weddings and flowers my core business. I have never deviated from it since.”

When hunting for silver lining became difficult, It was thinking out of the box which helped him. He bounced back and started working on creating multiple revenue streams. After having created a niche in the flowers and gifting space, they entered into the cakes and plants business, focusing on personalized gifting to further widen their retail offerings at the same time. The addition of new categories resulted in more footfalls, better conversions, increased ticket size, and thus the profitability of franchisees.

The company is now planning to expand its overseas presence by adding one country every month. “It’s an 18-month project and would cost around Rs 35 crore,” he added. 

Apart from being a full-time entrepreneur, who prefers mind over heart, he also likes to write. Lockdown helped him discover his new hobby- spending time by himself.

From digital gifting—musicians on call; live music played by professionals; personalized video messages for any occasion and reason; and making customized e-posters—to performing the last rites and rolling out a vertical for pet care, Ferns N Petals- a company which has had a couple of near-death experiences over its two-decade journey, has surely rewritten the playbook to survive a torrid pandemic year.


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