Rhea Karuturi and YeshodaKaruturi grew up amongst their father’s thriving flower business. The sister duo founded Hoovu Fresh, a flower delivery startup that delivers freshtraditional flowers to consumers across the country by shortening the supply chain and leveraging technology in packaging and innovation.
We Indians are spiritual beings and worship or Pujas form an integral part of our everyday lives; be it our daily custom of offering prayers to the Deities at home or the extravagant Puja functions held on special occasions. What remains a constant is the devotion, purity and piousness that each of these Pujas bring to our homes and hearts alike.
A stark contrast to Puja’s peacefulness is the conundrum and hassle associated with buying the key Puja ingredients, i.e. flowers. Still stuck in the old ways, the puja flower industry remains fragmented and unorganized. While its counterpart, the ‘Cut Flower’ industry has leveraged technological innovations to its advantage, yet the Puja flower industry is still playing catch up.
“The bouquet flower industry functions in an extremely systemized way; right from farm production in greenhouses, quality checks when the stem lands, the protocols they follow, to the way flowers are auctioneered. Most people can't even fathom thatflowers from Ethiopia are available in American supermarkets,” says Rhea Karuturi, co-founder, Hoovu Fresh.
“On the contrary, there exists a huge discrepancy in the way the Puja flower industry functions. Although both are flowers, yet the treatment is entirely different,” adds YeshodaKaruturi, co-founder, Hoovu Fresh.
To solve this conundrum Rhea and Yeshoda got their heads together and founded Hoovu Fresh in 2019. A flower subscription startup for traditional flowers, Hoovu Fresh aims to make fresh flowers available to every household across India.
Ease of Availability
“Today we all know hundredsof platforms to order great quality, specialty bouquets online and offline. But if I were to ask you, where do you get your Puja flowers from, your answer would be the same as that of our mother or grandmother, ‘you go to the local market’. The quality, price and freshness is never guaranteed,” says Yeshoda.
Yeshoda and Rhea were struck by the stark difference between the two industries. But they also saw it as an opportunity to innovate.
“The biggest challenge for us while ideating was to figure out a way to ensure the freshness of flowers”, remembers Rhea.
She explains that the ‘cut flower’ industry is miles ahead because they've successfully extended the shelf life of these flowers.Whereas Puja flowers lose their freshness within a day or two. They devised appropriate solutions, implemented supply chain innovations and began working directly with farmers. Rhea and Yeshoda also developed a special packaging which keeps the flowers fresh for longer, increasing the product’s shelf life to 15 days.
Today Hoovu Fresh delivers high quality fresh flowers to consumers across the country by shortening the supply chain and leveraging technology in packaging and innovation.
A Life Surrounded by Flowers & Innovation
The seed for Hoovu Fresh’s business idea was sown years ago. Yeshoda and Rhea grew up surrounded by flowers as their family was in thefloriculture business.“The year I was born was when our father set up his rose farms. We have literally grown up around flowers, farms and farmers,” narratesYeshoda.
Given their father’s business, Yeshoda and Rhea got to witness how the global flower industry functions at close proximity. Their father was an innovator in the space and is credited to having set up the very first auction house for rosesin Bangalore.“He was one of the first people in Bangalore to charter a flight to send roses during Valentine's Day to the international auction houses,” reminisces Yeshoda.
Growing midst the flower industry and innovations shaped the sisters’ thought process. Additionally they also learnt valuable lessons about entrepreneurship. “We learnt the spirit to build something big from our parents. While growing up they would talk about ideas that others would not understand, but our parents were visionaries. They turned this vision into reality and transformed the flower business into something huge,” says Rhea.
“Today when we think of starting something, our first thought is about the idea’s scalability. We are also cognizant about the value that we will be adding through our work. This is what excited us about the Puja flower business too. It was something that hadn’t been done before,” adds Rhea.
Rhea and Yeshoda wanted to disrupt the industry and introduce people to a new business model that could guarantee quality, freshness and affordability.
The Market Reaction
While brands often struggle with converting consumers, Hoovu Fresh has struck a chord with its consumers. Speaking about the market reaction to their idea, Yeshoda says, “We have seen huge demand for the productso far. Whenever we launch on a new platform or in a new city we immediately see a lot of traction. Most of the market growth has been organic so far. All we have to do is to let our customers know that such a product exists and making it available through various distribution channels”.
“Our biggest challenge is to get our products to every doorstep in India. The market is quite fragmented so we have to go throughdifferent avenues to reach as many consumers as possible,” says Rhea. Hoovu Fresh is present both online and offline. Having partnered with portals such as Big Basket, Milk Basket, Fresh To Home, Amazon Fresh to name a few, Hoovu Fresh is currently available in Bangalore, Mysore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai and Delhi.
The startup has also devised a franchisee model to get Hoovu Fresh to more locations going forward. “We sign up with people, who want to take our franchise in the city. They market the product and take care of the customer service aspect such as last mile delivery. The rest is taken care of by us,” explains Yeshoda.
“The journey to building Hoovu Fresh has been a lot of fun so far,” the sisters chime in. “We started this company when we were quite young. Today we employ over 55 employees. The role comes with a lot of responsibility, but it's also extremely thrilling to build something, especially in an area where nobody has gone before,” they say.
Hoovu Fresh had previously raised funds and was a part of the TechStars accelerator as well. It currently maintains a positive cash flow as well. “We will certainly look at raising more investments but at an appropRheate time. I believe that it’s a critical discussion that every founder must have with themselves and their team on a regular basis in order to make the right decision,” concludes Rhea.