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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Minting money by nurturing nature

This story first appeared in DNA Money edition on Thursday May 4, 2011.

Kishore Kulkarni, a resident of central Mumbai suburbs, is planning to take his family on vacation for 10 days. Though quite excited about travelling out of Mumbai, they are concerned about their small balcony garden. “It is too hot outside and without regular watering the plants will not survive for a long duration. I may have to seek assistance from neighbours and keep the plants with them till we return,” Kulkarni said.

Bharat Soni, Director, Go Green Nursery P Ltd
Kulkarni, however, also has another option. One that will not only keep him free of worries but also ensure that his plants are taken care of. “He can avail one of our services called ‘plants on vacation’, wherein the plants will be collected from his residence (at a nominal charge) or he can bring them to our nursery at Panvel and we will ensure the plants are taken good care of while he enjoys holidays with his family,” said Bharat Soni, director, Go Green Nursery. This service from Go Green will cost Kulkarni approximately Rs25 per plant for a week.

Don’t you think it is an interesting service? This private enterprise has an equally interesting story about its existence. It all started eight years ago when Bharat Soni bought a piece of land near Karnala Bird Sanctuary (Panvel) and was thinking of ways to keep it encroachment free. After a lot of brainstorming, Soni figured that the safest way to protect his newly acquired asset was to make it a farmhouse with a variety of plantations.

“I started visiting nurseries to identify plants and related items. In the process, I realised that most nurseries were being operated in an unorganised and unprofessional manner. The plants were in a bad shape, there was no guidance provided by the nursery operators, services were poor, people had to run from one place to another in search of the right gardening equipment/items etc,” Soni said.

Soni’s ground work gave him good insight in the way existing nurseries functioned and the gaps to be bridged. “I realised there was an opportunity and changed my plans eventually in favour of a nursery. Having gathered all the know-how, I launched Go Green Nursery, positioning it as a ‘green concept’ and a one-stop shop for anything and everything one looks for in a facility like this,” he said.

The facility currently houses 1,500 varieties of plants including medicinal, aromatic etc, employs 175 skilled and unskilled people and operates from various locations across Mumbai. Everything from plants/saplings, organic fertiliser, accessories to services related to gardening, horticulturists, plant pathologist and botanist etc can be availed under one roof. Among other specialised services include landscaping, garden consultancy, maintenance and farm management that are undertaken on a turnkey basis across the country.

With an initial investment of Rs 7 lakh odd (including cost of land), the marketing and advertising professional’s business has grown significantly over the years. Go Green Nursery is currently an Rs 25 crore enterprise clocking annual revenues of Rs 4 crore. Individual customers, real estate developers, corporate houses and government organisation are Go Green’s clients.

There were challenges too. “Building this business wouldn’t have been easy if we focused only as a nursery. A lot of hard work, planning and strategising had to be done in the initial years to bring in a host of services in the portfolio thereby broadening the offerings. We widened our bouquet of services and designed them especially to cater to the different set of customers. And, it was only in the fourth year of operation that we started seeing some revenues coming into the business,” said Soni.

Who’s who of the corporate world feature in Go Green’s client list. Among leading names in the realty space include Hiranandani Constructions, K Raheja, Kalpataru, Lokhandwala, Wadhawa Developers, Aamby Valley and Lavasa Corporation. Some of the corporate sector clients include Deepak Fertilisers, Deloitte, ICICI, Mahindra & Mahindra and Reliance. On the hospitality industry front, Taj Group, Marriott’s JW and Renaissance Hotels in Mumbai and InterContinental The Grand are their clients.

Aspects that differentiated Go Green included unique offerings like developed plants that can be used for making instant gardens. “People these days want quick results and do not want to wait for years to see their plants start bearing fruits. We facilitate them by offering 8 to 12 feet developed plants that are ready to be planted. We also specialise in transplantation of old trees. Lavasa is one project where we transplanted a lot of trees and we have had 80% success ratio with it,” said Soni.

For individuals, households and offices, Go Green has chalked out some very special offerings. While ‘dial a mali’ service allows people to call and avail services of a mali (gardener), ‘plants on vacation’ service is for individuals/households going out of city and looking for some one to take care of their plants. ‘Plants on hire’ is another service targeted especially at corporate offices, banks, shopping malls etc.

“The ‘dial a mali’ service is priced in the Rs 700 to Rs 5,000 range, while it is Rs 25 per plant for a week under the ‘plants on vacation’ scheme. The costs associated with plants on hire are anywhere between Rs 60 to Rs 175 per month wherein plants are changed every fortnight,” he said.

Soni has also introduced a new gifting concept called ‘terrariums’ wherein select few plants are placed in a glass bowl which is partially sealed from the top. “These plants do not require regular watering and can stay fresh for months in a controlled environment. We are promoting them as unique gifting items as part of our green concept initiative,” he said.

In a bid to reaching out to the retail customers, in the last one year, Soni has opened outlets in Mumbai and currently has 5-odd stores in high footfall areas like shopping malls, retail hubs and high streets. “We have also launched a green concept mall under the Go Green Mall banner inside shopping malls. For this we have tie-up with Hypercity and are present in their two locations in Mumbai,” he said.

Future plans include expanding the service network to other key metros in the country. “We are currently working out operations and logistics related nuances to extend the service out of Mumbai and take it to cities like Pune and Bangalore,” he said.

1 comment:

  1. Great Insight,even if this entitles him to earn a good business preposition,it is less compared to what he is offering back to mother earth in return overall.