Flower-Puff Girls: Entrepreneurs behind 'Hoovu Fresh'
It was an emotional rant by her mother during the Sravanamasa of 2018, the auspicious puja season in Karnataka that made Yeshoda Karuturi sit up and take notice of the problem.
It was an emotional rant by her mother during the Sravanamasa of 2018 (auspicious puja season in Karnataka) that made Yeshoda Karuturi sit up and take notice of the problem.
Her mother Anitha complained that the puja flowers reach late and are often wilted by the time they arrive at the households, even in Bengaluru, the so-called Flower Capital of India. “There was truth in what she said. Wastage and stale flowers are the biggest banes of this business. Every day, the puja flowers see 40 percent wastage. The flower bouquet business has grown by leaps and bounds, but the traditional puja flowers market, which is four times its size, has remained unchanged for three decades. That is when I felt that I needed to step in with my entrepreneurial abilities,” says Yeshoda, a 27-year-old alumna of Washington University.
The same year, her younger sibling Rhea, 25, a Stanford University graduate, echoed her sentiments to step into this business. Thus, Hoovu Fresh was born on February 14, 2019. Hoovu is a flower in Kannada. “Our father Ramakrishna ran the world’s largest rose farm (based in Kenya) in the 90s. So taking up flowers as a business came naturally to us,” the Karuturi sisters say.
But, how did they address the problems of wastage and wilting?
“We ensure that the flowers we pick up are cleaned thoroughly to make them bacteria- and moisture-free. We flush out the above using a gas which ensures that the shelf life of flowers (typically two days) increases up to 15 days, thus saving 40 per cent wastage. We also deliver ready-to-sell flowers at the doorstep of the typical Indian flower seller. They don’t have to now hire an autorickshaw to go to the market to pick this up,” explains Rhea.
They have over 50 stock-keeping units ranging from loose flowers to intricate garlands to greens such as Tulasi and Darba grass that are used for puja.
Today, the Bengaluru-based floral firm is considered the largest puja flowers brand in India. Started with an angel investment of `10 lakh, they have seen a 10-fold growth with over 1,50,000 orders per month across Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mysore, Pune, Mumbai, Gurugram and Noida. The pandemic helped them increase their online sales via Big Basket, JIO Mart, and Swiggy as they were giving zero-touch flowers using their flower packing machine.
The latest is that two prominent temples in Bengaluru––Gangamma Devasthana in Malleshwaram and Shaneeshwara Gudi in Shivaji Nagar––have started buying their flowers from Hoovu.
“With Varamaalakshmi festival this August, we will launch our puja kits in the southern cities. The kits will comprise everything you need for puja–– from wicks and incense to kumkum and puja book––besides fresh flowers,” say the flower-puff girls.
Hoovu Fresh launched its agarbathis made with sacred flowers used at temples in July 2021. They are hand-rolled and chemical-free, with no charcoal, ensuring minimum or zero toxicity.