Saying it with flowers: how this Pune-based startup is keen to help an unorganised market blossom
Did you know that nearly 85 per cent of all flowers sold in India are by roadside vendors, local florists and itinerant sellers? Today, families shop largely in retail stores, supermarkets, and multi-level malls, yet hypermarket chains and retail outlets do not stock cut flowers and bouquets on their shelves. Commonly voiced reasons for this include established customer habits, expected capital investment, limited domain knowledge, inefficient logistics networks, inconsistent supply, and lack of monitoring systems.
To address these concerns and provide solutions, La Fleur, an IANNIM Bouquets venture, was recently launched by Hariharan Subramanian, Pavithra Kochana, and Vishwanathan Subramanian.
Speaking at the launch, Hariharan Subramanian, Founder and CEO, La Fleur, said,
“I have been in the flower importing and marketing business in the UK for the last 20 years and travelled to India consistently during this time. In Europe, especially UK, flowers are very dominant in the store. I have seen the market change and grow here. Supermarkets in India are as good as any around the world but the fresh-cut flower category was missing in store. That’s why I decided to launch La Fleur in the country.”
The business model
La Fleur brings Indian retailers and shoppers the opportunity to purchase locally sourced and professionally crafted bouquets at supermarkets in Mumbai, Pune, and Bengaluru. The same plan is expected to be rolled out in Delhi and Hyderabad soon.
Focussing predominantly on supermarkets as points of sale, La Fleur will also set up kiosks in malls, besides offering corporate gifting, event management, and wedding-specific services.
La Fleur is backed by two parent companies: Orion Flora and Indifresh. Orion Flora, which has a state-of-the-art pack house in Pune, works with small, marginal and medium-size growers in India and has been exporting fresh flowers to the UK and other destinations in the EU since 2012. Indifresh is an importer of Indian floriculture products into the UK and has been a preferred supplier of roses to supermarkets across the EU for several years.
The La Fleur difference
Commenting on the USP of the brand, Hariharan said,
“Our products are pre-designed, pre-produced bouquets that are ready for the consumer to buy. Our main USP is freshness from farm to store. Another main point of differentiation is the design. All our bouquets are designed by UK-based floral designer Jo Moody, who has over 15 years of experience in the horticultural industry, including teaching floristry at Hadlow College in Kent, and developing bouquets for major high street retailers in the UK.”
The La Fleur range uses only locally grown flowers of the highest quality. “We are the first in India to introduce fresh-cut flowers into supermarkets at this scale,” he added.
Priced by category, the La Fleur value range is available at Rs 250 per bouquet, followed by monoline bouquets at Rs 360, mixed bouquets at Rs 585, and premium bouquets at Rs 920. While monoline bouquets feature a single type of flower (such as a dozen roses), mixed bouquets offer up a variety of flowers along with fillers and greens. Premium bouquets up the ante; orders can also be placed for large bespoke bouquets.
La Fleur uses roses, chrysanthemums, Asiatic lilies, gerbera, carnations, Gypsophila, Limonium and Kamini (greens). The startup also has different types of exotic flowers like Oriental lilies, Statice, and Aster (blue daisies).
La Fleur sources flowers directly from Indian growers, and uses temperature-controlled trucks to keep these flowers fresh for longer. The startup said high-quality recycled paper was used to wrap La Fleur flowers, reducing the impact on the environment.
Current availability and future plans
La Fleur currently has a presence at 35 supermarkets in Mumbai, Pune, and Bangalore, and aims to be in more than 100 stores in the next two years. It is also keen to be a preferred supplier of flowers to corporates for gifting and décor.
“We have rolled out with the supermarkets and are currently supplying Godrej Nature’s Basket, Big Bazaar, Star Market, Reliance Smart, and Max Supermarkets. Through the stores we currently have 3,000 weekly customers; we will expand to 14,000 weekly customers in stores in the next 12 months,” Hariharan said.
La Fleur’s online platform is set to be launched by June 2019. As part of the online business, the brand will sell to cities where it has a physical presence, and will also offer a floral subscription model, with different plans.
It aims to start pan-India operations and move to another 30 cities in the next three years.
Competition and opportunities
According to IMARC Group, the Indian floriculture market was worth Rs 157 billion in 2018. The market is projected to reach Rs 472 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 20.1 percent during 2019-2024.
Startups that have disrupted the field across the world include Flower Chimp, Bloom That, The Bouqs Co, Flowers for Dreams, Farmgirl Flowers, Bloom This, and Insta Florist. Home-grown brands include Ferns n Petals, FlowerAura, and IGP.com.
New Delhi-based Ferns N Petals plans to come out with its initial public offering (IPO) in 2020. The company, which had reported about Rs 360 crore turnover last fiscal, has 300 outlets in 120 cities across India. The brand is planning to open 500 outlets across the country by the end of year 2020.
Meanwhile, Gurgaon-based FlowerAura is in talks to raise $15 million to scale up operations across the country. It is expecting revenue of Rs 300 crore by FY21 and ended fiscal 2019 with revenue of Rs 55 crore. It currently has 22 fulfilment centres in eight cities across India.
IGP.com (formerly known as IndianGiftsPortal.com) has raised total funding of around $3 million (both debt and equity), and delivers its products across 350+ cities in India and over 100 countries around the world. The startup is headquartered in Mumbai, and has warehouses in Lucknow, Jaipur, Mumbai, and California.
However, Hariharan said La Fleur had no direct competitors locally as they had “pioneered fresh-cut flowers in supermarkets”.
What about funding plans?
La Fleur, which was started with an investment of Rs 1 crore, has infused a total amount of Rs 3.2 crore in its operations so far.
“We are funded through proprietor funds. Since this is a completely new category we wish to prove the concept before considering any external funding,” Hariharan said.