To make gifting plants more fashionable than sweets or flowers

PAST LIFE

Annu Grover, 26, completed his MBA from the Birla Institute of Management Technology, Greater Noida. In the final year, he earned a scholarship to study at the FH Joanneum University of Applied Sciences in Austria, graduating with a degree in strategic management and international business in 2009. As part of the course, he worked for four months in Austria with Myindia.eu, a consultancy firm. “It was a plush job, but the entrepreneur in me kept surfacing," says Grover. He returned to India in May 2009 and started a non-governmental organization (NGO), Empowerment of Youth for Environment Conservation. Soon, however, he realized it wasn’t sustainable. “I was idealistic, I thought money is secondary. But soon realized that there was an education loan to be repaid and family responsibilities," he says.

EUREKA MOMENT

Salad days: Annu Grover got the idea for his firm after a friend gifted him a potted plant on his birthday. Priyanka Parashar/Mint

GENESIS

Nurturing Green’s first store opened at Shipra Mall, Ghaziabad, in February 2010. It has since opened one store in south Delhi and two more in Gurgaon. “The beginning was tough. My family is cool so they didn’t say much but there was an unmentioned pressure. Some friends supported me, some laughed. I had left a well-paying job. My father has a footwear business in Lucknow. I could have joined that or taken up a job in a consultancy. My father wondered if I would make any money selling trees. But I knew it was a good idea and it would pick up," says Grover.

Salad days: Annu Grover got the idea for his firm after a friend gifted him a potted plant on his birthday. Priyanka Parashar/Mint

At Toyota dealerships in the National Capital Region (NCR), a plant, rather than a mithai ka dabba or flowers, is gifted with every car that’s sold. The office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the Noida Golf Club too give his plants as mementos at events and conferences, says Grover.

Nurturing Green is spreading its branches. On Sunday, it started a website for online retail; it has also tied up with Shoppers Stop to open 10 new Nurturing Green stores in the coming year. It has been importing plants from China, Thailand, Taiwan and recently, the Netherlands; these range in price from 200-20,000. There are 2- to 50-year-old bonsais, stress-buster plants, plants gifted according to zodiac signs, flowering and medicinal plants.

REALITY CHECK

“For a year and a half, I couldn’t sleep well at night. Now I’ve become so used to it, I hardly sleep 4-5 hours. A start-up of your own always causes anxiety. One good contract and you feel on top of the world. Next day, a big fish comes in and you’ll be swallowed whole," says Grover.

He understood early that a concept can be replicated, so he needed to make Nurturing Green distinctive. “We have the first-mover advantage, I’m now concentrating on how to make our product a good brand," says Grover.

He believes that people in the 25-40 age group find gifting a plant thoughtful, but teenagers don’t. “‘How can I give anything but red roses to my girlfriend on Valentine’s Day?’ they ask. So we’re thinking of doing a campaign where some youth icons can endorse the idea of gifting plants," says Grover.

PLAN B

Grover believes in not having one at all. “If you keep a back-up, you subconsciously don’t give your current project your best shot. Though through the lows, I used to consider returning to Austria," he says.

SECRET SAUCE

The concept strikes people at an ethical level. Gifting green helps you rid yourself of guilt, says Grover.

komal.sharma@livemint.com

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