Catalyst

Ferns N Petals: Flowering in different directions

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on October 31, 2019 Published on October 31, 2019

In its 25th year, Ferns N Petals has a bouquet of nine verticals but is betting on weddings for growth

It’s a bit offbeat to have a corporate office in an area surrounded by tony farmhouses. But when the company is flower delivery pioneer Ferns N Petals, the place is kind of fitting — especially as the campus includes a nursery and a bakery unit.

It is probably the busiest time of the year for gifting portal Ferns N Petals (FNP), slap bang into festival fever, and with the wedding season in full swing. Add to it that the company is celebrating its 25th year and eyeing scale and not surprisingly the campus is bustling with activity.

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).

However, founder and MD Vikaas Gutgutia is categorical that FNP has stayed true to its DNA of flowers and weddings in all these 25 years. “Flowers for bouquets and flowers for weddings is our USP — and all the expansions have been around these,” he says.

“From flowers we moved to gifting encompassing cakes, plants and products. We entered the wedding space — starting with flowers, now we do the entire wedding planning from hotels to banquets to events. But there has not been a major deviation in our prime competence,” he insists.

Gutgutia says when he launched the flower delivery service in 1994, creating a branded product in a hitherto unorganised space, he did so with ₹5,000. Today, 25 years later, FNP is eyeing a ₹500-crore top line and now poised for a vertical take-off. Growth, he feels, can come from two directions — moving overseas, and from expanding the weddings business.

 

Blossoming into weddings

FNP has built two ‘wedding’ hotels — Udman, a 4-star, 40-room boutique resort and Opulent, a 25-room luxury hotel designed in such a way that it can accommodate all the ceremonies in a typical wedding — from mehendi to sangeet to the reception — as well as host guests. Apart from these it has eight wedding venues complete with plush gardens. It has plans to build more hotels,. The hotels are entirely managed by the company. “No hotel management company knows weddings more than me. I better be a mother than hire a baby sitter.”

But isn’t wedding a seasonal business, so isn’t it risky to brand the hotels as wedding hotels? “There are usually 60 wedding days a year. But each wedding lasts an average of three days — so 180 days are taken care. For the rest, we host corporate functions,” says Gutgutia. He feels Delhi can accommodate more wedding hotels.

Rapid scale can also come by moving overseas, believes Gutgutia, describing how the company has expanded into Dubai and Singapore. It is eyeing more geographies now. To fund the expansion, FNP is looking at an IPO — though plans have been deferred for a bit.

Future-proofing

When FNP started it was a pioneer, but today there are many in the same space. How is it differentiating itself? Especially as the online space, which provides a bulk of its revenue, has many players. “We have created a unique model. None of the other online players have their own store. They depend on outside support. We have 360 stores in 140 cities,” poins out Gutgutia.

But in the age of the aggregated model, and shared economy, wouldn’t a marketplace model work better?

He disagrees. “In the flower business, it’s creativity that sells, which cannot be aggregated. You can aggregate a car or a hotel room, however, we are not selling flowers but bouquets.”

Secondly, they have been quick with technology too and offered innovations in delivery — “I can deliver in Guwahati in two hours. I can do midnight delivery, I can do combinations of flowers and merchandise,” he says.

Consumer trends

Three evolving trends have helped FNP’s journey, according to Gutgutia. The first is the increasing move towards focus on health, the organic way and being plastic-free. “This has had an impact on our products. We have been able to foresee that situation and added plants to the range.”

The second trend is that globalisation has resulted in families getting scattered. Twenty years back, quite a few members of family were together. But today, everyone lives in different cities and countries. “Physical distance between families has been good for us as we can bring them closer through gifts.”

The third trend is technology, which has enabled them to do things that were not possible ten years ago. “Now you can place an order, track it, get a picture of the recipient with the gift seamlessly. No need to ring up a call centre. A lot of things have become transparent. This, in turn, has forced us to become more efficient. So, a lot more reliability has come in.”

Gutgutia says they have been early adopters of technology. “We are already experiencing 2025 in our office. We have robotics in our warehouse, artificial intelligence, Big Data.” What’s the point in trying to fight a fire? It is better to make a fire-proof house.”

 

Birthdays over romance

Is people’s propensity to spend on flowers growing? Has the average ticket size of orders increased? Yes, on average people spend ₹500 to ₹1,000, according to Gutgutia.

There are exceptional orders, of course, like the Valentine Day order where someone sent flowers to a person for 14 days — starting with a small bouquet and moving to a gigantic one on V Day, which ran into lakhs.

Finally, is it romance that moves FNP’s business?

Gutgutia grins and says birthdays are the biggest contributor.”It is 50 per cent. Rest 50 per cent is romance, get well flowers, anniversaries.”

Published on October 31, 2019
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