A pink-coloured house in a secluded lane in Porur, in south-west Chennai, is buzzing. Inside, two pairs of deft hands knot jasmine and roses to a carnation. “There are only two of us working today as it is a lean period. But once marriage season starts, the entire house would smell of flowers,” says Kalaivani N, an engineering college lecturer-turned-entrepreneur who runs a franchise of flower jewellery business, Vaagai.

Kalaivani, who started the franchise two years ago, says her love for making flowers arrangements and running a business from home, especially with a four-month-old in tow, appealed to her. “I earn a profit of about ₹20,000 per month and hire two-full time employees,” she says.

Kalaivani’s success is a vindication for Kalpana Rajesh and her business. The 35-year-old started the Hyderabad-headquartered Pelli Poola Jada in 2012. The wedding flower accessory startup has presence in all the southern states, as also in Delhi, Mumbai, Singapore and the US. Given the regional diversity, the company has four brand names – Vaagai in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Pelli Poola Jada in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Anoo Flower Jewellery in Delhi and Mumbai, and Jewel Blooms in the US and Singapore.

The company has 45 branches, all under the franchise model, in India and abroad.

Seeding an idea

But the journey to entrepreneurship was accidental for Rajesh, a chemical engineer. “I started experimenting with floral hair accessories when I was on my second maternity leave and posted it on Facebook. I started getting requests for making accessories and that triggered this business.” Rajesh started off in Hyderabad, employing economically backward women. After eight months, she broke even.

“I wanted to empower the rural women, who do odd jobs to run the family,” says the engineer, who now employs 200 women. The employees can start a franchise after undergoing training. The training costs ₹20,000 (the amount varies depending on the place the franchise is set up) and lasts for a week. Rajesh gets about 10 per cent commission per order. The training is the other source of revenue. After Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Rajesh is now looking at strengthening her presence in Tamil Nadu and the US. The Facebook page had evoked interest among the NRIs in the US. “A few interested women came down from the US, underwent training and opened franchises,” says Rajesh. Sourcing of flowers is a critical factor in the business. While for the US, Rajesh plans to export flowers after getting the licence by the year-end, back home she is integrating the business. “Earlier we sourced flowers locally, but we lost orders as we could not get flowers on time. Now we have our own farm for Bombay jasmine,” Rajesh said. The company owns three farms in Hyderabad, Vellore and West Godavari to grow Bombay jasmine. The farms can supply close to 600 kg of flowers per day. Most of the franchises have their own farms, from where they source flowers such as nandiyavattai (Moon Beam) that are not easily available in the market.