New Delhi: Managing a hospitality business during the pandemic has not been an easy task for many and so for Ferns N Petals (FNP) founder and Managing Director, Vikaas Gutgutia, it came as a challenge. Lavish weddings were cancelled, big occasions and get together postponed, but the owner of India’s largest player in the gifting industry, Vikaas Gutgutia and the team at FNP turned it into an opportunity. Keeping up the motto – delivering happiness around the world responsibly – FNP not just launched Hotel Udman in Greater Noida but also took the digital gifting business to next level by launching – Last Journey – a funeral arranging service under its umbrella.
When several sectors like the travel and wedding industry were struggling with the pandemic and lockdowns, FNP managed to think out of the box and not just sustain but grow its business. India.Com’s Himanshu Shekhar caught up with FNP MD Mr Vikaas Gutgutia and asked him about his journey from a hardly known Vidyasagar, a nondescript place in Jharkhand’s Jamtara, to creating a gifting brand that has become people’s first choice across India. Excerpts:
What started as a flower shop in South Delhi has now turned into 400 plus outlets spread across 50 cities. The FNP umbrella has around 10 verticals under it with FNP Media and Last Journey being the new additions.
“It has been an incredible journey. It had struggles and bad weather too. But in short, it has been a merry and bumpy journey at times. It has also been a fulfilling journey as we have stayed to our theme of delivering happiness,” says Vikaas Gutgutia, the man who has been at the centre of this successful business story.
“We have had difficult patches when certain things didn’t work out. I remember there was a fire in our godown once and we were disheartened. But things happen and you deal with it,” Mr Gutgutia added giving a sneak-peek into his indomitable fighting spirit. “Ours is an occasion-based product. For example, someone’s anniversary or birthday. Our target audience is the middle class. We deliver things that’s not high budget or expensive so though we did face some turbulence but that didn’t affect major once lockdown restrictions started easing.”
How bad was the pandemic?
“Honestly, no one had ever seen such a thing in our lifetime. It was difficult for all of us. Pandemic saw life come to a standstill and so we all suffered. There were no bookings at wedding venues, planned things were cancelled. People were losing lives so everything was about around health and safety,” he added.
So what was the way forward for the business when planned things got cancelled due to pandemic?
“Because of the nature of the pandemic, the planned things got cancelled. The hospitality industry, travel and tourism suffered a lot as people were not travelling, not doing planned events,” Gutgutia said adding “but we had to rework the strategy on the digital front.”
Innovation is the key for FNP
“We tried some innovation. We had to rewrite the script so we could increase our sales,” Gutgutia revealed. “We focused more on a personalized approach. When people were unable to visit their loved ones in person, they went digital,” he underlines adding how FNP made things possible to bring things on the growth path.
It marked the beginning of services like —musicians/artists on call; online live music played by professionals, personalized video messages, customised e-posters—to performing the last rites as FNP launched lastjourney.in and services for pet care.
Gifting solutions for almost every occasion
Talk about Diwali gifts, Karwa Chauth, birthdays, personalised gadgets, indoor plants, housewarming items, good luck charms to gift for any occasion, FNP has established itself as India’s largest online gifting platform that people trust when it comes to delivery.
It was not easy to fight the pandemic but with an approach that took care of all basic human values and innovation, FNP launched Last Journey – Online Funeral Services which is the first-of-its-kind offering by a business group in India. The idea was to logistic support to a person in his time of grief, FNP founder says.
Wasn’t their resistance to something like Last Journey?
“Innovation has been the USP of Ferns N Petals. I thought death is the finale of life. It is inevitable. If the wedding is part of life, so is death. Then why not,” Mr Gutgutia said as he explained the thinking behind Last Journey.
“We have got an excellent response so far,” he further added.
Poke him more about the business and he reveals, “My father is still not convinced about the business. He thinks we should not be associated with such a thing, but this is not new in European countries.”
It was the vision of Vikaas Gutgutia and his team at FNP to reach out to customers with the right solution at the right time. “There are some online gifting players and also some retail players. We have both retail and online. We are omnichannel. That is our biggest advantage,” Gutgutia highlights. “Creating an omnichannel in the perishable commodity like us is very difficult. That is why the reason we are the largest in the world.”
“We have to keep improving every day. Persistence and patience are key to our success. For us, it is not a business but a mission,” Gutgutia added as he revealed his success mantra.
FNP Expansion Plans
“We are 400 outlets now, within three years we want to be 1000+ outlets. We want to go to every town,” the maverick FNP founder.
It is a journey that began in a nondescript town in Jamtara. Vikaas Gutgutia’s family was into the business of growing flowers. He later moved to Kolkata and eventually landed in Delhi where he opened a flower shop in South Delhi, thereby sowing seeds of what today is known as brand Ferns N Petals. It has expanded into 11 different verticals like FNP Cakes and more, FNP Retail and Franchising, FNP e-commerce, FNP Gardens, FNP Weddings N Events, FNP Media, Wedding Design Hub, Sipping Thoughts and others.
FNP has set its sight on larger goals through the private equity model. “As Ferns N Petals adopts Private Equity investment route, through this we plan to raise funds, in the upcoming financial year for expansion, deepening the distribution network, brand building which will help us serve our customers better and create value for all the stakeholders of the company. It is also a big opportunity for us to achieve rapid progression and strengthen our business model,” Mr Gutgutia had earlier said.
For more news related tip and ideas, reach out to India.com’s Editor Himanshu Shekhar ([email protected])
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