A national-level gymnast, Nidhi Gupta dreamt of representing India in Olympics in gymnastics. But, destiny had other plans. Today, she is the founder of Shades of Spring, a niche flower subscription service business. “I always wanted to achieve something great in sports. I never really thought about being an entrepreneur until I became really passionate about flowers and came up with the concept for Shades of Spring,” she says.
It was during the courtship days, that Nidhi and her then fiance and now husband, wondered why the quality and the variety of bouquets didn’t match up to their price. However, it was visits to flower farms in France and the Netherlands that made them fall in love with flowers.
Inspired by her travels, Nidhi says that she wanted people in India to experience the joy of flowers in a way they had never before. She sent an email to her apartment residents asking if they would be interested in buying flowers from her every Saturday, but they would be of her choice. “Surprisingly, 10 people signed up. Slowly, people started contacting me on Whatsapp asking me to deliver to their apartments as well. Over a period of six months, this number went up to 200+ weekly subscriptions just by word of mouth in 2018. Many customers also started posting about us on Instagram even though we did not have an account on the portal. Later, I created a page on Instagram to understand more about the opportunities available on the platform. Shortly, an influencer bought flowers from us and posted on Instagram. Our sales skyrocketed after that, ” she shares. Nidhi left her job in an e-commerce company job to put in all her time into Shades of Spring.
Today, Shades of Spring has thousands of weekly subscribers and offers a gifting line of flowers including bouquets, flower boxes, wreaths and baskets. The startup is trending towards touching Rs 2.5 crore in annual revenue in FY 2021. “Our customers have been our brand ambassadors. They have given us extremely valuable feedback about how to develop and continuously improve our product. They are extremely loyal and have high repeat purchase patterns as well,” shares Nidhi.
The other aspect that sets them apart from other flower businesses is their focus on a single category i.e. flower unlike established players who have diversified their offerings across multiple categories. “We are focussing solely on flowers for both private consumption and modern gifting for millennials involving chic styling with 500+ exotic flower varieties and a high degree of quality control. This creates a huge differentiation for our customers, so that whenever they think of flowers, they think of Shades of Spring.”
While the concept of buying flowers regularly to enhance indoor aesthetics has been traditionally associated with business firms or corporates, Shades of Spring has been successful in breaking that conditioning. Shades of Spring was able to encourage consumers to buy flowers for their ‘feel good’ factor instead of reserving the blooms just for special occasions. This has been possible because of the experiential factor that the brand has been able to provide, says Nidhi. “Traditionally, flowers while being expensive were found to have poor shelf life because of a fragmented and challenging supply cycle. The other challenge was the lack of variety. Shades of Spring’s floral subscriptions start at an extremely affordable price of just Rs 275 per box. “With our subscriptions, we provide users with exotic varieties of flowers by planning six months in advance and working closely with farmers. With extensive planning, we are able to send the subscriptions to homes within 24 hours of harvest.”
While expanding its farmers’ network has been a key challenge for Shades of Spring, the second big challenge has been the lack of availability of capital to scale. “We are a bootstrapped business which has registered amazing growth over the last two years. But this growth can be much faster if we get capital to hire the right resources, rent space and equipment needed for large scale expansion,” shares Nidhi. She explains that the availability of capital will not only help in penetrating deeper within Bangalore, but to expand to other cities like Mumbai and Delhi. It will also enable the company to invest more in the backward supply chain to have more control over the quality and variety of flowers.
Here, she is looking at GAME’s Xcelerator Bangalore programme for help. “Xcelerator Bangalore is an excellent platform where you are mentored by some of the best minds in the industry. They focus on holistic development and have given us an excellent platform to market our brand,” she says.
Xcelerator Bangalore aims at accelerating the growth of women-owned, non- IT businesses in Bengaluru. It provides support to the women entrepreneurs to learn, collaborate and network with various stakeholders through a multitude of workshops, learning and mentoring sessions. This series highlights the work of 24 women entrepreneurs who will be participating in the first cohort of the Xcelerator Bangalore programme.