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Mar, 07 2012

Bunch of opportunities

Gifting flowers is an age old tradition but its business is quite new age. And like flowers' fragrance, it's easy to spread and expand. The start-up process is relatively easy as to set up a shop, small space will suffice. However, at the same time, peris

ANY occasion is incomplete without flowers. Like their beauty, the beauty of flower business is commendable too. It's recession proof and witnessing a paradigm shift. The market is showing robust growth. Due to increased awareness and demand, flower connoisseurs prefer buying flowers or getting them delivered from a place that has a brand name attached to it. The flower retail industry in India is worth around Rs 3,700 crore. Growing at a rate of 30 per cent, this industry is expected to cross Rs 8,000 crore by 2015.

Foreseeing the same, Vikaas Gutgutia, MD, Ferns N Petals Pvt. Ltd, a first-generation businessman, had sown the seeds in 1994 for a sound business set up to provide first-in-India concept of floral boutiques. He launched India's first organised flower retailing store and took up the challenge to make the industry organised. He not only succeeded in doing so but also changed the face of Indian flower industry.

Ferns N Petals is at par with international brands in quality and designs, and caters to all kinds of floral requirements. The company also has online flower stores that are one-stop solution for all floral needs, be it buying flowers for occasions, floral décor for weddings, parties or just delivering fresh flowers across the globe. It offers wide range of fresh cut flowers and unique flower arrangements, artificial and dry flowers, and an exclusive range of object d'art such as scented candles, candle stands, imported Italian glass vases, exclusive gift accessories with intricate carving, photo-frames, perfumes, cakes, designer gift items, potpourris and so on. Ferns N Petals Group encompasses FNP retail and franchising, FNP e-commerce, FNP events and weddings, and the latest venture FNP Tahiliani. In around a decade, the brand has grown branches pan-India.

The franchise fragrance

It's easy to grow vertically but horizontal growth needs alliance. In 2004, Vikas chose franchising to achieve the brand's horizontal growth, as he believed it was the only option to build and grow a chain. Franchising proved fruitful for them with the brand gaining strong foothold across the length and breadth of the nation. Today, Ferns N Petals has 115 outlets across 45 cities in India, out of which 100 are franchisee operated. It is planning to strengthen its presence pan India and will take its store count to 200 outlets by the end of 2013.

To become a part of FNP bouquet, a franchisee needs an area of 300-400 sq.ft and about Rs 12 lakh of capital investment. Location has a major role to play in opening of a FNP outlet. As per brand's requisites, the franchise store should be located in the market which has high footfall or the place should be such that is prominently visible and easily accessible. For small cities and multi-unit franchisees, FNP has customised its franchise model. For small cities, the franchise fee and area would vary.

Helping buds to bloom

The brand has a detailed training programme for their business partners wherein all the intricacies of running a flower business are imparted on a regular basis. Apart from this, FNP also offers trained and skilled manpower to its business partners who help them in the day to day operations. The brand also transfers to its partners the business generated through their website.

To make the operations hassle-free, FNP shares the details of their vendors for its perishable merchandise. The franchisee is extended support in terms of stock through two distribution hubs in Delhi and Mumbai. These hubs have been established keeping in mind a one-stop solution for franchisees. Since the brand does bulk buying, they are able to get cheaper prices than the market rate and the same prices they extend it to their franchisees in the form of subsidised rates.

Multiplying growth with multiple units

Franchise business model has helped the brand scaled great heights. Now it has moved into second phase of growth. As per Vikaas Gutgutia: “The brand has received tremendous response from tier II and III cities like Coimbatore, Tirupati, Bengaluru, Nellore, Sangli, Surat, Siliguri, Meerut, etc. We are encouraged to concentrate more on these cities and explore multiple outlets. For example, recently we have launched second outlets in cities like Surat, Bhubaneswar, Mangalore and Coimbatore.”

Pawan Gadia, CEO, Retail and Online, Ferns N Petals, says: “The brand is keen to spread via multi-unit franchisees because the floral market is growing at 30-40 per cent year on year and people have bigger wallets. They are willing to go for large size purchases to express their emotions. At FNP, our growth rate is around 60 per cent.”

A Ferns N Petals franchisee in Gurgaon is running four FNP stores successfully and has been associated with the brand for 13 years. For them, the purpose and advantage of expanding via multi-unit franchisee model is that the company doesn't need to do any kind of handholding and the franchisee owner is already well aware of the intricacies of running floral boutiques. FNP offers help via online monitoring of the store and reporting on the basis of online surveillance.

As far as online business is concerned, along with flowers, the company is concentrating on gifting solutions. In fresh flower category, it is growing flowers in Bengaluru and has opened a flower training academy in New Delhi. After serving consumers for more than a decade with premium quality products and services, it has made a special place in people's hearts, just like flowers.

FACE OF FLOWER BIZ

Vikaas Gutgutia, MD, Ferns N Petals Pvt. Ltd, started his entrepreneurial journey early in life by launching India's first flower retail store chain, Ferns N Petals. How did his business blossomed this big, he bares it all to TFW.

Discuss in brief your entrepreneurial journey.

I started my journey in 1994 and launched Ferns N Petals as India's first floral boutique outlet. At that time, the business of flowers was in a low phase. The reason behind that was non-availability of skilled manpower, highly perishable nature of flowers, which made distribution and retailing impossible. But my iron will and inborn marketing skills helped me explore ways to not only sustain flower retail, but multiply the number of outlets. I started sourcing flowers directly from the growers, so flowers remained fresh for a longer period. I made a team of skilled men and with their help further trained the manpower about flowers and shop management.

How do you plan the marketing strategy with regards to a particular region?

We always focus on customer delight across all our stores.

How can one turn business into success after failure? What would be your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?

We do a dipstick before any sort of experiment with our customers. Till now, we are in the safer hands and our customers have no complains. We advice the aspiring entrepreneurs to focus on customer delight only.

Any preference for woman entrepreneurs as franchisees?

Who knows the art of gifting more than a woman? They are more passionate and emotionally attached where gifting is necessary. There are more serious about this. This business line involves carrying emotions for others and calls for utmost sincerity and responsibility, so we encourage women entrepreneurs. We have women entrepreneurs in Pawaii, Mulund, Siliguri, Srinagar and Panipat. Around 20-25 per cent of our business partners are women entrepreneurs.

What kind of royalty do you charge from your franchisees?

Anywhere between Rs 15,000- 30,000 depending upon the location of the store.

Please tell us about your tie up with international brands? Any plans of taking your brand global?

Yes, we are in talks with domestic and north American players which are in the same line of business.

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