While most GenZs in high school are worried about passing entrance exams and getting into a good college, six teenagers in Delhi became entrepreneurs while still in school. And no, it didn’t come out of a science project.
Phoolvari, a gardening business, is the brainchild of 17-year old Vanshaj Chhabra, a Class XII student at G D Goenka Public School, Rohini, Delhi. He later roped in his friends Anoushka Chakraborty, Eshan Goel, Shreyansh Jain, Manvi Sidana, and Stuti Saria – all gardening enthusiasts.
The founders will tell you that Phoolvari is not just a gardening business that provides plants and equipment. These students promise to solve all your gardening-related problems - within 24 hours.
So, how did a bunch of teenagers come together to form a startup? Teenage entrepreneurs are not new, especially in a thriving ecosystem like India that has over 50,000 startups, according to a KPMG report.
The TYE connection
From taking risks to being driven and passionate, believing in your own ideas, leadership qualities, etc, entrepreneurship teaches you a lot. And what better if these lessons are taught in school itself? Today, there are several forums that are supporting young people realise their entrepreneurial dreams and aspirations while they are still in their teens.
TiE Young Entrepreneurs (TYE), a global programme run by The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), is one such forum aimed at fostering the next generation of entrepreneurs by teaching high-school students the rewards and challenges of becoming an entrepreneur. TYE is aimed at students in Classes IX to XII, or equivalent, and consists of two months of classroom sessions on Sundays on entrepreneurship and leadership, along with various aspects of setting up and running a successful business venture. The students are then put in teams to brainstorm a business idea and prepare a plan. Then, they compete at the ‘Chapter Level’ where the winning team gets the opportunity to compete at the TYE Global Finals in the in US for a cash prize and recognition.
Sreenivasan R, Chief Customer Officer of CL Educate, one of the jury members at TYE awards, says that these programmes do what traditional educational institutions cannot. He adds that programmes like TYE should be integrated with the school education system.
Phoolvari was conceptualised in TYE’s Delhi chapter’s recent pitch competition. Eleven groups of teens presented their business ideas, ranging from a safety watch to an AI-enabled fashion app, and even an idea to manage e-waste.
However, Vanshaj and team Phoolvari went a step ahead and actually conducted a month-long pilot to prove business viability. These 17-year-olds are trying to solve the problem of irregular and untrained gardeners. The team also wants to help people who like to have plants around them but don’t know how to set up or care for them. They not only deliver all your orders in a day, but also provide gardening advice.
Sowing the seeds
Vanshaj used to see his family and neighbours struggle to keep a garden. As a gardening enthusiast himself, the 17-year-old noticed that gardeners were often irregular or unprofessional. Plants too were costly to buy and difficult to transport. “The idea came to me a year ago - to start something to solve this problem, but due to the pressure of studies, I didn't do anything,” he says.
Still, Vanshaj couldn’t shake off the feeling that he wanted to start a venture. Soon after, he applied for the TiE Young Entrepreneurs (TYE) award, and the team qualified. Together, the six decided that the project should not stop with the programme. And so, they launched a full-fledged venture that completed a profitable pilot.
To begin with, the team decided to serve only one part of the city - West Delhi - so that the service could be effective and deliver on its promises.
Launched in May 2019, Phoolvari promises one-day delivery of plants and gardening accessories, and does gardening-related services like remodelling and landscaping backyards, and all gardening-related consultation. The team has also set up a call centre for customers to clarify their doubts related to plants and gardening.
As of now, Phoolvari is managing operations through social media apps such as WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook. Going forward, it plans to have its own website and app.
“Our cycle of operation revolves around taking orders over calls or WhatsApp, and delivering to the customer’s location by outsourcing to neighbourhood nurseries,” Vanshaj tells YourStory.
Since digital payments companies like Paytm, Google Pay, or PhonePe do not allow customers under the age of 18, team Phoolvari is taking COD-only (cash on delivery) orders as of now.
The startup’s major source for plants are wholesale nurseries. It has also signed contracts with professional remodelers and logistics companies to ensure efficient services.
In terms of competition, Vanshaj says they face limited competition from the likes of Rent a Mali, Ugaoo, Nurserylive, MyBageecha, and Amazon India.
The founders claim that for instance, although Amazon offers quick delivery, it has no additional services like one-day delivery, gardener services, plants at discounted rates, flexible return policies, or garden consultation, like Phoolvari does.
The cost of plants on Phoolvari are between Rs 100 and Rs 300, including pots. Vanshaj says that these prices are lower than the competition and that the team offers bigger and fresher plants with bigger pots.
Starting small, aiming big
Vanshaj is sure that Phoolvari will become profitable by 2022. He has a clear plan about the expansion. The team wants to first gain a lot of goodwill in West Delhi and then expand to the whole of NCR by 2021. He believes that Phoolvari will be the market leader in this space by 2023.
All six founding members are saving money to create a pool of seed capital by contributing Rs 1.2 lakh each in a year’s time
When it comes to market size, Vanshaj says that Delhi has 13 lakh middle-class households who form Phoolvari’s target market. He adds that 45 percent of the Indian population belongs to the middle class, which is a huge market in itself.
The young entrepreneurs are also confident that their startup will earn an annual revenue of Rs 11 crore in five years - a confidence boosted by the successful two-week pilot earlier this month. During this, they completed 13 orders and made a profit of Rs 1,150.
The teenagers had pooled in Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 each from their own pockets to start the business, and the team said the operations covered the cost they incurred.
And yes, Phoolvari’s working business model, within the first week of its pilot, was a key factor in helping the team win the regional finals of the TYE award.
Vanshaj says that he will run the company on a small scale till the team finishes Class XII. After that, they will focus on scale by tying up with e-rickshaw fleets for plant delivery. Phoolvari also plans to train individual gardeners to offer regular and proper services.