Blooming in Bengaluru

Tunir Biswas

BENGALURU: Yeshoda (28) and Rhea (26) Karuturi have caught the bouquet of approval. Televised for India on Monday night, two judges of Shark Tank India Season 2, Peyush Bansal, CEO of Lenskart, and Aman Gupta, co-founder of boAt Lifestyle, agreed to invest Rs 1 crore (split equally between the two) in Karuturi sisters’ Hoovu Fresh, a city-based startup dealing with puja flowers, for 2 per cent stake in the company. Watching the episode on TV on Monday, two months after it was shot, Yeshoda, CEO and co-founder of Hoovu Fresh, says she felt immense joy in reliving the moment.

“It was crazy to watch ourselves along with all of India on national television. The entire experience was so positive, and interacting with the sharks (as the judges of the show are called) was wonderful. They are all such accomplished founders, and we have heard so much about them, so to be in the same room as them and pitch to them was phenomenal. It is something we will remember for the rest of our lives,” shares Yeshoda.

The far-end goal for Hoovu Fresh has always been to be synonymous with puja and tradition. “We want to cement ourselves in the right way because when it comes to puja or any sort of prayer, it is an emotional experience. But the process leading up to the puja is so chaotic and has multiple hassles. So eventually, we want to be the brand that becomes the trusted source that would help our customers smoothen the entire process that is supposed to be very peaceful,” says Yeshoda.

Even though the startup launched in 2018, Yeshoda says they have been 25 years in the making. “My father started his rose farm back in ’94, the year I was born. Since then, both my parents have been involved in agriculture and rose farm cultivation. Rhea and I have grown up seeing that and were used to the entrepreneurial side. Early on, we developed an understanding of flowers and how the supply chain works. Bengaluru is such a huge hub for roses, so that definitely helped us as well. My father was one of the pioneers to set up the International Flower Auction Bangalore. After observing all that, we noticed that nothing was really being done with puja flowers and that revelation essentially birthed the company,” she says.

While Yeshoda is the CEO, her younger sister Rhea is the CTO and co-founder, and hence, handles the tech side of the company. “If you want to give sanitised and quality products to customers, you need to have the right tools for it. And that we figured was only possible through a machine for flowers, which is something that was never done before. In the beginning, when I used to show the designs to the vendors, they would often dismiss it. But we got lucky with a local vendor who agreed to try one of our designs. After that, we built our first machine. While it wasn’t perfect, it opened our doors to getting approval from other vendors. The machine functions on zero-touch packing where the flowers are put in the tray and then it moves through the entire system, gets sanitised in the process and comes out packed,” shares Rhea, adding that they are planning to come out with improved machinery in the next year. 

Presently active in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Mumbai, the startup has plans to expand in Pune and Chennai. “The expansion is largely for our fresh flowers. We also want to go wider in terms of rounding up the puja basket. We already offer other puja essentials like agarbattis, kumkum and turmeric  across India. But we want to go deeper. Even though we have solved the flower aspect for many, we would like to take care of the other elements and provide a great puja experience in the next three years,” concludes Rhea.

After two sharks at Shark Tank India Season 2 invested in a city-based startup dealing with puja flowers, the young entrepreneurs open up about the company’s origins, the experience of being on the show and future plans