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Business of greens

Online nurseries and florists are seeing high demand

For now, purchasing botanical products remains a metro and tier I phenomenon, and the same is true for kitchen gardening. 

The online gifting market comprising plants, flowers, and novelty items — which was worth about Rs 2,000 crore in FY20 — has been abuzz during the pandemic. Online nurseries and florists such as Root Bridges, myBageecha and Bloombombs have seen an upsurge in sales. However, despite seeing their businesses blossom during the past year, the founders of these websites are aware that it will be an uphill task to scale up.

Spring in their step

Root Bridges, an online nursery, which was mainly selling through marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart, has registered a fourfold growth in e-commerce sales during the past one year. The company’s CEO, Udit Khanna, says the offline nursery is not seeing as much footfall as earlier, and 90% of the revenue now comes from the online channel.

Saumitra Kabra, co-founder of myBageecha, says his website has added many first-time buyers looking to “greenify” their homes. He shut down the offline part of the business about a year and a half ago.

Ferns N Petals, a marketplace for gifts and flowers, earned Rs 500 crore in revenue in FY21, up 30% from FY20. Pawan Gadia, CEO, retail and online, India, UAE & Singapore, Ferns N Petals, says the company is targeting a revenue of Rs 700-750 crore in FY22. Gadia says the demand in offline retail remained subdued across categories like flowers and indoor plants, whereas online sales jumped 30% in FY21 over FY20.

With the demand for corporate gifting, events, weddings, etc, non-existent, florists are tapping into the consumer segment to build a ‘flower culture’. Bloombombs, for example, has introduced a subscription package to get customers to sign up for large orders. “Since the pandemic, people are buying flowers for themselves as opposed to gifting them to others,” says Christine Langstieh, founder, Bloombombs. A flower subscription box costs about Rs 2,000 for a weekly delivery, every month. Ferns N Petals, too, has a flower subscription plan starting at Rs 649.

The past 14 months also saw people experiment with growing their own vegetables in their kitchen gardens. This prompted Bayer, a multinational pharmaceuticals and life sciences company, to introduce vegetable seeds to consumers directly.

For now, purchasing botanical products remains a metro and tier I phenomenon, and the same is true for kitchen gardening. “In the urban segment, the key markets with the highest demand are Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune and New Delhi,” says KE Muthu, head, Bayer Vegetable Seeds, South Asia.

Seeds of growth

The perishable nature of live plants and cut flowers makes it a logistical challenge for companies. “Shipping plants is expensive, and if the plant gets damaged in the process, we need to replace it,” Kabra points out. Further, consumers are hesitant to purchase delicate items like plants and flowers online, making scaling up difficult for these websites. Langstieh says educating the consumer is the first step towards developing this niche market.

Ferns N Petals has diversified into a range of products, from cakes to watches, to cater to the broader gifting market. Online nurseries and florists may need to adopt this strategy. Harish Bijoor, founder, Harish Bijoor Consults, says, “Being niche is not nifty. These websites will have to expand their offerings to reach a large number of customers while keeping their core offering as the star attraction.”

myBageecha has already partnered with brands that have plant and flower inspired products. Products like table lamps, notepads, pen stands and bookmarks make up 30% of its online store. Bloombombs, too, sells lifestyle products like scented candles, dry flowers and planters.

To address the challenge of delivering fresh flowers and plants, Bijoor suggests tie-ups with marketplaces that deliver milk and groceries.

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