'SMM shouldn't be about making a sale'

by Abhinna Shreshtha    Feb 04, 2011

India’s largest florist - Ferns n Petals has come a long way in the last 16 years i.e. since its existence. Pawan Gadia, CEO of the company talks about the journey and also shares the future outlook of the company.

How did the concept of Ferns n Petals come out?
We started in 1994 and with an interesting story indeed! The company’s founder visited Delhi and wanted to send flowers to his girlfriend. He found that the only place he could find flowers was on the road, so he came up with this novel idea and started the first flower shop in Delhi. That is how the entire journey started.

What is the scale of your operations right now?
We are into five verticals. On the retail front we have 110 flower shops in 42 cities. The second division for us is wedding and events. We have an in-house team of designers to plan themed-weddings and we also tie-up with internationally reputed designers for this. We are one of the biggest wedding planners in the country. We have our own farmhouses which are rented out for weddings. We are also the biggest online flower portal in India. FnP.com has patrons all over the world with nearly 18 percent of the company’s revenue coming from our online portal. We have the capability to deliver flowers, cakes, gifts, etc. to 300 cities and towns in 150 countries on the same day!

We also have a tie-up with Tarun Tahiliani to provide expensive and exotic flowers. Not to forget, we have a wholesale division which sells flowers to markets across the country.

What are the challenges that you face?
The major challenge for us was the absence of industry benchmark. If you talk about retail there was no clear cut policy for creating franchisees. Logistics remains a big problem even today. There is no solution available in India for transporting flowers from one city to another. Taxation is another issue - we have come under 16 different taxation angles, which is a huge burden. Manpower is another issue; as getting trained florists and designers is very difficult, so we have to create our own manpower pool.

What role has technology played in this journey?
We started e-commerce in 2002. Today, when you place an order on FnP.com, you get a SMS and email alert. The order is automatically transferred to the nearest delivery center. The florist over there also gets an SMS and email alert telling him about the new order. Once he checks out the order dashboard he will not only see the address, but also an image of the product. There is a seamless integration at every touchpoint. This is true even for our retail aspect where I can keep a track of the inventory at each of our stores. We are also carrying out initiatives on the mobile front to facilitate mobile payments. So, technology has played a big role in our success.

Can you tell us about your initiatives on mobile and social media?
Today, you can buy our products via mobiles. There is an entire mobile commerce platform available to aid the consumer. We also think that social media will be a great help in propagating our business. We are very active in various social media platforms where we try and educate people on things like which flowers can be gifted on different occasions, etc.

Our investments in mobile began six years ago and we have just started reaping the benefits.

So, is social media marketing a part of your overall marketing strategy?
The aim of social media marketing should be to educate people and to build conversations with them. Rather than trying to steer the conversation towards making a sale, we let it take its own course. We encourage our users to discuss among themselves and keep building their interest when it comes to flowers.

Earlier, we never thought social media could be of such importance, but this has changed over the years.

How do you manage all your technology deployments?
We have both options - part of the technology is in-house, while some parts are outsourced. It’s all about identifying the right technology, the right partners and then making the necessary investments.