Bangalore: Valentine’s Day may infuriate India’s Muslim and Hindu fundamentalist groups, but the festival signals boom time for the world’s biggest rose grower.
Bangalore-based Karuturi Networks Ltd—which grows flowers in India, Kenya and Ethiopia—has shipped about 18 million roses to Europe and other markets for Valentine’s Day, four times last year’s sales, a senior executive said.
And local sales at one million stems are 25% up, ahead of Valentine’s Day on 14 February. “We are going full,” said Prasanna Pai, the firm’s chief financial officer. “Exports have multiplied after our acquisition in Kenya last year.”
The company purchased the Kenyan business of Dutch flower producer Sher Holland BVin October 2007 for €50 million (Rs280 crore then).
The move raised Karuturi’s annual production to 650 million roses from about 130 million, and it has ambitious plans to increase production to one billion stems over the next three years. Pai estimated the annual global market for flowers at about $80 billion (Rs3.1 trillion), dominated by trade in roses.
In India, Hindu and Muslim groups have in the past targeted dating couples celebrating Valentine’s Day.
A women’s separatist group in Jammu and Kashmir last month told local Muslims not to celebrate Valentine’s Day, saying it promoted “immorality”. The “younger generation in particular” were warned by the Dukhtaran-e-Millat to avoid celebrations.
Hindu hardliners, who maintain that celebrating the festival of love is against local culture, have also attacked couples and shops selling Valentine’s Day merchandise in recent years.
But it is gaining popularity in a country of 1.1 billion people where more than 50% of the population is under 25 years old. Newspapers are running articles on celebrating the day, advertisers promote romantic evenings and shops are selling chocolates, heart-shaped trinkets and soft toys.
Karuturi was founded by entrepreneur Ramakrishna Karuturi, who gave up the family business of manufacturing cables and transmission towers to grow roses. The inspiration came one Valentine’s Day, when he went around Bangalore in search of roses for his wife and couldn’t find any.