IIT Kanpur-backed start-up Phool.co has raised $1.4 million in a pre-Series A funding, led by IAN Fund and San Francisco-based Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation. Other investors in the start-up include Social Alpha, an initiative backed by Tata Trusts and the Government of India. Prior to this round, Phool.co had raised ₹3.38 crore in a seed round from Social Alpha, DRK Foundation, IIT Kanpur and Balmer Lawrie.

Floral waste into incense sticks

Phool.co focuses on the circular economy, which converts floral waste into charcoal-free luxury incense products. It manufactures charcoal-free luxury incense sticks from temple flowers. Founded by engineering graduates, Ankit Agarwal & Prateek Kumar in July 2017, the start-up has developed its flower cycling technology. Called Fleather, the start-up says that is a viable alternative to animal leather.

Padmaja Ruparel, Founding Partner, IAN Fund, said, “Innovative solutions for the sustainable development of the community is the need of the hour. Phool.co’s circular economy model brings triple bottom benefits of environmental, social, and financial sustainability.” The IAN Fund is a ₹375-crore fund, which invests in startups.

Manoj Kumar, Chairperson & Founder of Social Alpha & Senior Advisor at Tata Trusts said: “The resilience and courage with which Ankit has faced the challenges have been incredible as this sector has not witnessed entrepreneurial or investment risk-taking in the past. Phool has set up a new benchmark and I hope this success story motivates more people from Tier 2 cities to pursue entrepreneurial missions with their market-creating innovations.”

Sustainable solution

Phool.co has expanded its operations to Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. During the lockdown, the company ensured its supply chain by sourcing flower waste directly from the distressed horticulture farmers, bringing them critical income during times. Phool.co has given a life of dignity to dozens of women, and it did this despite having an option of automating the process, stated Abhay Karandikar, Director IIT Kanpur. Ankit Agarwal, Founder Phool.co is of the view that a sustainable solution to the monumental temple-waste problem in India is being addressed by Phool.co. “Through our efforts, we aim to build natural alternatives to synthetic chemical-based products,” he said.