Meet the sister-entrepreneurs disrupting India's flower industry with floral startup Rose Bazaar
If picking up the newspaper starts the day in most countries across the world, in India, there’s often a garland of flowers waiting to be picked up as well. They are used to make offerings during the daily puja, and many women wear them.
Bengaluru-based startupattempts to modernise this tradition. It is also a tale of two young sister entrepreneurs creatively ramping up a family business in the bustling startup ecosystem of India.
Yeshoda and Rhea Karuturi grew up in Bengaluru, went to high school in Ethiopia, and pursued further studies in the US. While Yeshoda pursued Business Administration and Master’s in Accounting from Washington University, Rhea studied Bachelor’s in Science, Technology and Society from Stanford University.
Amid the hustle, flowers were a constant in their lives since 1994, when Yeshoda was born. Their father started a rose farm business that grew in India, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
They observed the floriculture space and grew up hearing about harvest cycles, auction prices, and freight rates.
This influence also charted a clear path for the sisters. They tell HerStory, “It was very clear to both of us from the beginning that we would return to India after college because the opportunity for disruption and innovation in emerging economies is what excited us.”
Flower, a daily need
It was clear that Yeshoda would work in the flower retail space. However, she realised the vast potential of the market when, one day, her mother was doing her daily puja with an elaborate set of flowers.
While the global floriculture market valued at $370.4 billion may be driven by various reasons such as gifting and events, the duo believes that flowers serve a different “Indian need” in every household.
“As I spent more time working in India, it became very obvious that Indians interact with flowers in a very different way, something that is very localised to our lifestyle,” the entrepreneur says, recalling the initial days of working on the family business in growing cut roses for export.
Yeshoda further adds that strings of flowers like jasmine, marigold, and bud roses have marked their presence in the cabs or the puja rooms.
The duo then dedicated a few months to validate their hypothesis, speaking to vendors, and testing different types of products. They saw that the market was highly fragmented and unorganised from both sides of supply and demand.
This is where Rose Bazaar hopes to make a difference. Operating on a subscription-based model, the startup offers various monthly subscription plans priced between Rs 600 and Rs 1,000. Other than on the startup’s website, the products are also sold through platforms like Dunzo and Swiggy.
Among their best-selling plans are the assorted flowers box and the puja garland box. “We focus on customising them based on the day of the week and add some greens such as tulsi and bil patre as well. Our customers love getting a unique set of flowers every day,” Rhea says.
Additionally, the entrepreneur duo uses their experience and with the help of farm partners, reduce the turnaround time and ensure quality packaging to extend the shelf life of the flowers by five times.
The startup relies on social media platforms for marketing but says referral effect has been a key driver. At present, it carries out 15,000 deliveries every month.
Rhea shares they would often get calls around 6:30 am from customers waiting for the flowers, and an update a few minutes later when the flowers are delivered. “These are the moments when it feels real that we were solving an important problem in people’s lives. People simply couldn’t start their day without the flowers,” she adds.
Rhea has explored other traditional markets of India as well. She earlier researched the famous wooden toys and craftwork of artisans in Channapatna, along with Professor Aruna Ranganathan from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford.
The startup recently raised a funding amount of $120,000 as part of the Techstars accelerator programme.
Talking about their year-long entrepreneurial journey, they say, “Our most interesting learning is that flowers unite Indians across demographics, regions, and religions. We’ve also seen a lot of requests pouring in from the Indian diaspora across the world as well.”
They are looking to expand pan India in the next three years, riding on the existing and developing partnerships built in Bengaluru. In the next five years, the duo also targets to reach over 200 million households across India.
Resuming operation post lockdown
With the COVID-19 outbreak in India, Rose Bazaar took precautions and paused their operations a few weeks before the nationwide lockdown was imposed.
However, they continue to receive queries from customers regarding the availability of their service.
The entrepreneurs recently resumed operation since May 4, by working on batched deliveries and packing only four times a week – half the usual work hours.
In addition to mandating wearing masks at all times, the flowers are being disinfected as well before being packaged.