“I must have flowers, always, and always.” ― Claude Monet
In her colloquy, Yeshoda Karuturi does not quote the French Impressionist painter. But she talks flowers. Always and always. The rose farms in Adidas Ababa (Ethiopia) and Nakuru (Kenya) that her father planted the year she was born. Black Magic, the dark red rose. The long-stemmed Moonstone white rose with pink edges and a light fragrance. The Elle pink rose with spicy scent. Her mother adorning the deities in flowers every morning. Yeshoda not only talks flowers, she also has one rose variety named after her. Yeshoda, a long-stemmed peach-coloured rose. She is not the only one in the family with a rose-specie to her name. There’s Rhea Karuturi, her younger sister, who lends her name to Rea, a dark red rose.
With rose farms as childhood playgrounds, Yeshoda, 26, and Rhea, 23, turned towards the gods. Not to kneel in obeisance but to set up a business around flowers offered to deities, an everyday requirement in most households. Christened RoseBazaar and headquartered in Bengaluru, Rose Bazaar is a puja-flower delivery subscription service with multiple options -- monthly subscription at Rs 100 upwards, Rs 25 for a box of flowers, 50 different traditional flower varieties to choose from. Add to it the option of buying it from retail channels like Organic World. All this packed in biodegradable packages that keep flowers fresh for almost two weeks.
Having lent a hand in the family business of rose-farming came in handy. So did Yeshoda’s Masters degree in Accounting from Washington University (St Louis, USA) and Rhea’s under-grad major in Systems Technology & Society from Stanford University (California, USA). The sisters were stepping into an unorganised territory with no definite data-defined consumption patterns. Nearly half a million Bengaluru households use flowers for puja every day but the supply chain is tangled with individual sellers delivering to limited number of households. Yeshoda and Rhea’s first entrepreneurial step was to “provide an organised and branded channel for puja-flower subscription service”.
“When we launched in February 2019, we started with traditional flowers, home decor subscriptions, gifting, events, etc, and the more we spent time in the business it became obvious that traditional flowers had massive demand but there were severe gaps in how the customers were being serviced and that was going to be our focus,” Yeshoda, Chief Executive Officer, Rose Bazaar, told Moneycontrol. A year later, RoseBazaar has 25 employees, partnership with flower farmers across India and is doing 15,000 deliveries a month.
RoseBazaar’s business module found an angel investor in Techstars Bangalore that has invested $120,000 in Yeshoda and Rhea’s flower dreams. Every year, Techstars Bangalore meets several hundred start-ups to handpick the best ideas and entrepreneurs.
“In RoseBazaar, we found aspiring founders out to offer a unique service of supplying puja flowers fresh by giving flower farmers the best returns, cutting out middlemen and brokers. In Yeshoda and Rhea, we saw an appetite to scale up their start-up. We invested $120,000 in RoseBazaar, in addition to offering hands-on mentorship and access to the Techstars global network for life. During the first four weeks of the 13-week Techstars programme RoseBazaar founders met nearly 80 founders, mentors, experts,” says Ray Newal, Managing Director, Techstars Bangalore, a chapter of the Colorado-headquartered global platform for investment and innovation that connects entrepreneurs, investors, and corporations.
Not only more subscriptions, even honours are being added to Yeshoda and Rhea’s bouquet of success. The two recently received the National FICCI Flo Incubator award for the most innovative startup. With a success module in place, RoseBazaar is planning to spread the puja-flower fragrance across India. Their next flower stop: Hyderabad.
Yeshoda does not quote Claude Monet in her colloquy. But there’s an echo of Monet’s gratitude to flowers in becoming a painter (“I owe perhaps hang become a painter to flowers”). Yeshoda does not paint but she is grateful to flowers. It is to flowers that she owes her spiritedness - and success.
Preeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer.