Think of it! A man who cockles up many a hearts during Valentines' day every year was left high and dry when he approached his girlfriend's father for marriage proposal. St Valentine would have turned-up in his grave after knowing the reason for refusal:
He was in the business of selling roses and flowers. The irony is akin to a person standing in the sea but yet thirsty for water. But, trust Vikaas Gutgutia to turn the salty water into drinkable one. And boy he did! Braving the disapproval of friends and relatives and snide remarks of society at large, Gutgutia started his company Ferns and Petals in 1994, which has now grown into a retail chain of 80 stores all across India. And yes, he did marry his ladylove.
'Your Story' visited him at his office, nestled in a huge farmhouse in Delhi, and was greeted by rainbow of flowers in the office compound, all looking fresh and alive. Compliment him on this carefully nurtured visual delight and he laughs:"Isn't it beautiful and unique? That is what I have done my entire life-to break the stereotype and establish 'foolwala' profession as a respectable business."
The journey is worth mentioning. Gutgutia comes from a humble Marwari family from Vidyasagar, a small village in eastern Bihar. He completed his schooling in the village and moved to Kolkatta for higher studies, where his father and uncle had a flower business. After completing his graduation, he shifted his base to Delhi.
"No, I wasnâ't overtly ambitious or harboured any such dream to become an entrepreneur from the beginning. It's just that I sensed an opportunity to address the latent need of an organised player in Delhi market. There were no stand-alone shops or customised delivery modules in this business. I decided to take the plunge." Though, in the business of flowers, the path was certainly not a bed of roses for Gutgutia. He developed the end-to-end business process: right seeds, proper cultivation, reliable vendors, a lean and efficient supply chain, storage facilities, merchandise in retail outlets and finally, a timely delivery. Quite often, he struggled for funds. "It was only in 2001 that I made some surplus money," says Gutgutia.
Today, he has 13 business verticals each governed by a unit head and having their own budgets and targets. "Now, I just supervise things and don't look into day-to-day operations so that I can think of the next big idea." And already, he has his plates full with the new ideas.
In 2007, he started a new venture called 'Chatak Chaat', serving almost 21 varieties of Chaat through multiple kiosks, stand-alone outlets and hotels. Gutgutia adds zestfully, "1994-01 was childhood; 2001-08 was the period when we crossed the teen age and now its time for Ferns and Petals to indulge in youthful romance." Well, the romance has indeed just begun as he is ready to take his Ferns and Petals across the globe and has hived off a flower design company called Luminere design, which develops 360 degree usage of flowers.
What drives him?
"My great- grand father KN Gutgutia was known as the Chartered Accountant of India as he used to manage accounts of all the big business houses and princely states in his hey days. Gutgutia name has since been synonymous with him. Now, I would like to carry on the family legend and would love to be known as the Gutgutia, who brought the flower revolution in India," signs off the flower king.