Nurturing Green: Gift a Plant Instead of Flowers [Cleantech]

clip_image002Nurturing Green is promoting importance of plants in everyday life by adopting or gifting a plant. The Startup sells plants ranging from Green Décor, Lucky plants, Stress buster plants, Zodiac plants, Bonsai plants to Flowering plants in fancy pots made by poor women artisans. Below is my dialogue with Annu Grover, Founder and Managing Director of Nurturing Green .

Q: How did it all started?

A: During my MBA at Birla Institute of Management Technology in 2009, I went to Austria for a management program and got an opportunity to work for a consulting firm. Few months at job, I realized that working for somebody is not really something that I want to do.

I returned to India and started EYEC (Empowerment of Youth for Environment Conservation), not for profit initiative organizing events for environment conservation and social upliftment. After leaving job with a salary of few lac rupees per month, I was searching for few thousand rupees every month. It was a struggle to support my lifestyle and responsibilities which included an educational loan as well. Every time I went to ask for funds / donations, my self esteem was getting hurt. It did not appear sustainable.

That was the point when I decided to setup a for-profit venture into “Gifting of plants”. I thought, EYEC’s mission can be easily attained if I dedicate a percentage of my profits to CSR activities. In Jan 2010 we started with the idea and three months down rolled out the operations.

Q: What is Nurturing Green about?

A: Nurturing Green is into promoting importance of plants in one’s life. We are promoting concept of gifting plants instead of other gifts. A family receives several boxes of sweets every Diwali, most of which is wasted. Can we make Diwali green by gifting a plant? Can we replace flowers on B’day, Valentine Day or any other event by a plant? A gift, that will grow with relation and remind of memories!

Can corporate celebrate green B’day of their employees by gifting a plant?

Q: How much does it costs to gift a plant?

A: We have plants starting from Rs 100 to Rs 125,000. These plants are procured from different parts of the world. Costliest one being 80 year old bonsai from China.

So far, we have seen Indian customers gifting plants ranging from 100 to 15,000 rupees. Plants ranging above that are bought for personal use.

Q: Most people associate gift with money value whether it’s a gift on Diwali or gift from corporate to employee / customer. Who are the people, interested in your products?

A: You are right when talking about majority of us. Our target customers are young people, who believe in gifting something meaningful; want to contribute towards environment and feel guilty that they are unable to contribute towards the cause due to various reasons. There are lots of such people in young generation today.

Q: How many plants do you sell every month and who are the customers?

A: Currently, we are selling 4,000 plants per month which amounts to INR 15 lacs per month of sales. We have been growing in three digit percentage on monthly basis over past few months. Currently, 50% sales come from gifting and rest is for décor of personal home / office.

We have corporate like Mahindra World City, Naukri.com, Steria, Attero, and Amity University as our clients apart from retail customers.

Q: What’s the business model?

A: It’s a combination of direct selling, retailing and e-commerce portal.

- We have direct selling model for corporate who want to use plants for office interiors, momentos, corporate gifting, employee birthdays etc.

- We have 6 outlets in NCR servicing retail customers

- We started e-commerce portal 2 months back. It is currently selling around 100 plants per month. We expect online portal to be a major contributor to our growth in future.

Q: How about competition? What will stop other gifting companies like ferns & petals, Archies etc. from making a plants section amongst their other offerings?

A: This question has been asked to me again and again. I simply say, let them go and do it. It’s all about effective execution – Who can generate demand, offer a variety of products, manage supply chain and service large orders.

There are thousands of different types of plants available globally. Our target is to bring new type of plants to India apart from the ones which are available here. This requires focus and expertise which everybody cannot have. We are working with our partners on tissue culture, and bringing new range of plants to India which is inaccessible otherwise.

Plants are more complex and sensitive than humans. So, is their upbringing and care. Nurturing Green provides a complete plant care guide with the plant. Toll free numbers are available to call up anytime and ask for help on upbringing of plant. Customers can also send us pictures of their plant, if they have any disease and our team will help them.

Being perishable, supply chain of our products is very complex. Not every retail chain can manage that.

Infact, retail and gifting chains might want to partner with us to supply them plants which they can re-sell. We are talking to a few currently.

Q: How did you fund the venture?

A: It started with loans from friends / family. Earlier this year we have raised around $0.5M from i3 consulting, Gulf based investor and consulting firm.

Q: Where do you plan to deploy these funds?

A: Marketing and branding will be a key area apart from building reliable supply chain, improving web portal, and developing farms.

Q: What do you think, will be key focus areas and challenges for Nurturing Green in next 18-24 months?

We are planning to open 12-13 stores in next 6 months i.e. 2 new stores every month. Till April 2012, our focus is NCR market.

We are receiving franchisee interest from all across the country. We will be taking that up, once we are certain of our operational capability to support customers all across country.

Key at this point is to get right people and implement. We don’t want to make any mistakes. Finding right people is a real challenge!

[About the author: Guest article by Rachit Mangal. Rachit is a startup enthusiast, passionate about commercializing innovations. He works with entrepreneurs in areas of marketing, customer acquisition, designing business models and making investor pitches. He can be reached at rachit.mangal@gmail.com]