Looking at acquiring florist brands in Europe and America : Ferns N Petals’ Founder

Nandana James Mumbai | Updated on June 25, 2019

Vikaas Gutgutia, Founder and Managing Director, Ferns N Petals   -  Twitter/Vikaas Gutgutia

Diversification plans include launching 5-star hotels soon

Vikaas Gutgutia, Founder and Managing Director, Ferns N Petals, started the flower and gifting brand in 1994, armed with only Rs 5000. Later, with an investment of Rs 2.5 lakh from a partner, he opened the first Ferns N Petals store in Delhi’s South Extension in a 200 square feet space with a staff of four people. This was at a time when mostly footpath florists dominated the country’s flower market. Today, the company is a leading player in the floral and gifting business, with Gutgutia calling it the ‘world’s largest florist’. In an interview with BusinessLine, Gutgutia talks about the journey of the company, its plan to achieve a turnover of Rs 500 crore this year, its expansion plans and growth strategy. Excerpts:

What are some of the challenges that you have faced in the business over the years?

The biggest challenge was the logistics involved in delivering fresh flowers in hot conditions. Then of course, there were a lot of technology issues, which were very important. It took us time to handle that. Of course, (there was the challenge) to make the business sustainable to smaller entrepreneurs of the company’s franchisees, the kind of logistic support and the training of manpower because there is no institute which is training florists or giving diplomas in flower decoration, training manpower was a challenge. Manpower, logistics, technology, and then of course, if you have brought everything together, there is the finances and making sense of investing. I think these are the challenges.

What are some of the plans and ideas that you have in mind to take the growth story forward?

When it comes to the growth story, we are focusing on three areas in a big way. One is, of course, the geographical expansion - we are already operational in Dubai and Singapore (online presence) - and we are planning to expand to other southeastern countries- so that’s one area where we want to internationally grow this business.

Secondly, we are focusing very highly on green plants or living plants or potted plants, which we think is a new way of expressing your emotions.

Number three, we are upgrading ourselves in a very big way. We are investing a lot on technology to make the whole experience is more beautiful, more transparent, more trust-worthy.

You had said five years ago that you are looking at making FNP a Rs 500 crore company by 2019, that you will expand overseas and that you want to become the world's biggest florist. How much of all this have been achieved so far?

When it comes to being the world's largest florist, we have achieved that. In terms of international expansion, I think we will be starting operations in a new country every six months. Maybe two years down the line, we will be in 6-7 countries. About the Rs 500 crore, we are very close to it, we are on track (mostly by FY20).

FNP is expanding beyond its core business of flowers and gifting, and has ventured into the FMCG, hospitality, entertainment and content creation sectors. What has prompted you to go for these diversification/ expansion plans?

You see, in a way, all our activities are linked to three things: gifting, wedding and entertainment. Whatever we are doing is a part of these three activities. It’s kind of a vertical and horizontal integration.

I think we have been very gradual in our expansion, very rock solid and we don’t do things just for the sake of doing. We do our research and we do our homework before we get into a business. If you look at our flowers and gifting business, it has been around for 25 years, the flagship store is seven years old. If you look at our wedding business, it’s as old as our flower business. The only activity that we (have entered into) in the last three years is our cake business, FNP Kwan, -which is big- FNP Media, and the FMCG sector.

Are such expansion plans part of the long term growth strategy of the company?

I think, ultimately, when it comes to weddings, we will end up becoming hoteliers, because that’s where the industry's is heading too, and our brand Udman is going to be our flagship hotel brand. We are already in the process of having a couple of 5-star hotels very soon. We are hoteliers, we are the largest gifting company and we want to play a very big role in the entertainment segment.We already have two hotels operational in Delhi. They have been our pilots to understand and master the economy, (and) now we are getting into the larger ones- maybe by December 2020.

With multiple businesses, is the gifting brand stretching its proposition too thin?

Not really. I think it’s only the desire to keep doing new things, keep achieving newer heights and every business has its own market size, pros and cons. So, even if I push the gifting business to become a billion dollar company, I can’t do it overnight because the market size doesn’t allow me to do it. That doesn’t mean I am losing the momentum or deviating my attention. It’s definitely at its optimum. We have conquered India and we are going multinational. We are also maybe looking at acquiring a couple of florist brands in Europe and America. So, each segment is being handled by a team of directors, CEOs. It’s a large organisation now.

Is the planned IPO in 2020 going to fund the company’s expansion plans?

I think it might only be one year here and there- depending on the groundwork and the economy-but of course, it (the IPO) is going to happen very soon. The funding from it is going to go towards all the expansions that I spoke about.

Published on June 25, 2019

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