The world is a canvas and these women are painting it green with their nature-made artRekha Balakrishnan
Babita Sinha and Saumya Tiwary founded YourGreenCanvas to promote nature-made art like terrariums to bring a huge touch of “green” to your offices and homes.
We all speak of bygone days when we had more trees, large playgrounds, open gardens and a lot of greenery to revel in.
As the world becomes more concrete and swathes of green keep vanishing from our lives, and the dangers of global warming rise, it’s time to rethink how we can bring the ‘green’ back to our lives – in the spaces we have constricted ourselves to.
How do we bring nature back into our lives? Of course, we can all plant more trees but they will take a while for them to grow and help the environment. What steps can be taken right now to make our homes and offices vibrant and green?
Babita Sinha and Saumya Tiwary of YourGreenCanvas thought of an interesting solution. Their venture promotes nature-made art, commonly known as terrariums that are gaining rapid popularity all over the world. These terrariums come in different shapes, sizes and themes for every occasion.(A terrarium is usually a sealable glass container containing soil and plants.)
How ‘Mission Green’ took off
Saumya holds an MBA from the Institute of Management Studies, Banaras Hindu University, while Babita holds an MBA from LNMI, Patna. The thought of being an entrepreneur had never crossed either of their minds. Saumya was working with Wipro in international recruitment and Babita was a day trader before the entrepreneurial bug bit them.
Friends for a long time, the two women had also travelled together. On one of these trips, they came across the idea to create a green solution for spaces in Bengaluru.
“In April 2013, our families did a trip together to the Scandinavian countries and the question “what our calling?” kept bothering us. Oblivious to the impending answer, we indulged in what we loved doing the most on all our trips – collect local trinkets, pry out small patches of lovely mosses from the trees as the testimony of wet winters yielding to early spring, and of course, sometimes even pieces of bark from the trees. Towards the end of the trip, when we gleefully looked at our prizes, we realised nature had given us the answer to our elusive quest – we loved nature and that was our calling! On return, YourGreenCanvas was born,” says Saumya.
In a city globally known for its gardens and lakes, but challenged with rapidly depleting green cover, their view was to infuse greenery at multiple levels – from a small corner in the house to large indoor and outdoor spaces; from mini gardens in glass goblets to the grandeur of large plants and trees.
They also looked at the substitution market and realised that instead of transient cut-flower bouquets, a long living terrarium would be a better and a sustained reminder of love and wishes from its giver. They also saw a humungous substitution market for flowers bouquets, gifts, décor, and even wall paintings and invitations.
The world is a green canvas
“Terrariums were our first introduction to the market. As a concept, it was new in India, though we had had a brush with it when we were travelling in the UK. A rage abroad, these magical goblets of green seemed to be the right place to start – we affectionately called them ‘miniscapes’. The initial funding came easily for both of us as we had enough savings to kickstart the operations,” Saumya says.
First, the duo needed to find suppliers of the elements that made up the terrarium. Then came the experimentation with soils and treatments (so that weed producing parts were killed but plant growing bacteria were retained), and the types of plants that could survive for years together. Then, they had to create the market and the understanding for these products – people erroneously called them as ‘terraniums’, initially!
YourGreenCavas has three lines of products. The ‘miniscape’ line of products that consists of open and closed terrariums, sand-art wave planters, succulent arrangements, driftwood-scapes, tabletop gardens and moss-scapes. The second line is the ‘plantscapes’ line of creations suitable for plant-scaping offices, restaurants, home-balconies, hotel foyers and shops. Last but not the least are ‘landscapes’ that specialise in communicating many moods and in creating the sense of serenity and freshness through greenery in large open spaces and gardens.
Spreading the message
YourGreenCanvas is present in Bengaluru and Mumbai and plans to reach 10 more cities this year. It has helped turn more than 5,000 homes and offices into beautiful gardens.
Saumya says that the startup expects to increase its reach exponentially with the launch of its platform slated for release later this year. She says, “We have grown by word of mouth, repeat customers and via social media. We have been active on Facebook and Instagram, where we post regular updates on our new products, workshops, blogs and more.”
For terrariums, they reach out to customers through a network of retailers, and these include high-end stores like The Purple Turtles, The Flower Box and Fresh Knots.
“Some of our discerning clientele includes the home of one of the biggest builders in the country, where we created large two-feet, custom-designed terrarium-art-pieces that rub shoulders with other object-de-arts from Italy and Austria. Our characteristic footprints can be seen in restaurants, both big and small – like Via Milano and Zoey’s. Byg Brewski at Sarjapur, Bengaluru, too, has our signature prints all over. We have styled green offices for Hike in Bengaluru and for Tata Cliq and Mahindra First Choice Wheels headquarters in Mumbai, she says”
Soumya adds that the company has also created a green meditative space for a yoga-centre and conducted numerous workshops for corporate and retail. In fact, Indiqube, a strong player in the co-working spaces, has several buildings where YourGreenCanvas vibes can be felt and seen.
Greening the future
The startup has three clear lines of business with well-defined revenue models. The first one is for the product with a listed price and profit margins, the second is based on client specific scope, which includes designing, managing and executing projects, and the third one is from yearly maintenance. It raised funds through investments from family and friends, and from angels who strongly believe in this purpose.
“We are very proud of the ecosystem we have built to spread our message. At any given point, we work with 30-40 farms and nurseries that grow plants for us. We have our own mini-nursery where we employ and train local women,” says Saumya.
The startup is revamping its activity to improve brand recognition and brand recall. It is also in the process of launching an ecommerce platform so that it reaches the wider consumers in the country. It also plans to launch a programme that will create sustainable opportunities for women.
We have always been cash-positive and profitable in our venture. The plan is to get to $1 million in sales in the next two-three years.
For Saumya and Babita, it’s “always a hard days’ work”. “We are always on the move, from one site to another, or from nurseries to farms, or even further from Bengaluru to Mumbai. We try and maintain regular hours but like any other job there are good days and some very tiring days,” says Saumya, signing off.