This fast growing segment requires a touch of creativity and a love for plants. Hiring the right people and scaling up fast is quite a challenge though
As Dev Gujral steps out of his home every morning, he has plants on his mind.As the owner of Landscape Development, a family-run company that has been around for three decades now, Gujral gives plants on rent to some of the big multi-national companies and PSUs. This is part of the bigger business of landscaping, which is the core activity. He also deals in garden accessories through 600 dealers across the country.
|Popular Plants for Rent|
Giving plants on rent is a fairly new business, having picked up over the last few years, but it is now growing in a big way. "In the last seven to eight years, I have seen it grow very fast. Instead of buying plants to decorate their premises, many companies now rent plants," says Gujral. The major customers for companies that give plants on rent are corporate houses, event management companies and wedding planners. Gujral boasts of clients such as Dell, NHPC, IBM and E&Y.
In Mumbai Ravindra Wadekar, who runs Ujjwal Enterprises, gives plants on rent. A horticulturist himself, dealing with plants is his passion and this "plant library" gives out various varieties to interested customers. "Just like you have a book library, similarly, you have a plant library from which you rent out plants," he says. Some plants need to be changed every eight or fifteen days, he adds.
It starts from the farms and ends at the client’s site, which could be the office premises, an event or a wedding party. The business involves renting out plants to interested parties. The varieties could vary depending on what the customer wants, the size of the premises, the occasion and the money that the customer would want to spend. “We give green plants. Basically there are eight to ten varieties that do very well,” says Gujral, who grows these plants at his 40-acre farm on the outskirts of Delhi. He claims to have a well-equipped greenhouse; here he can maintain the temperature at 25 degree Celsius even in Delhi’s summers when the temperature touches 45 degree Celsius.
|• Corporate houses|
|• Public sector companies|
|• Event management firms|
|• Wedding planners|
|• Business centers|
This is quite a creative business where one has to add to the beauty of the customer’s site. A certain level of personal involvement of the owner and his artistic intuition is put to work. While there is a limitation to the number of plant varieties one would place at the site, the way they are placed makes a big difference. Thus, those in this business have to work closely with the interior designers to ensure that the placement of the plants is such that it adds to the beauty of site location. It’s not the number of plants that matter, it is also how they are placed that makes the difference.
Maintenance of the plants is a significant part of this business. Just installing alone won’t work. Plants need regular care, particularly when put at an indoor site where there is limited sunlight. So, you need skilled people to take care of these plants. In case the plant is getting dry, it needs to be replaced fast.
Like any other business, this one too is seeing some innovation. Initially, customers would only want plants to be installed at their premises. Now they demand more. Instead of pots, they now ask for planters, terracotta or metal pots. They are also very particular about the placement and the color of the leaves that would go with the interiors. The recent taste is for a “Lucky Bamboo” on each desk. Some companies seek active involvement of their employees to take care of the plant.
|What is the business?|
|Plants on rent involve installation, maintenance and replacement of plants at any premises that could be an office, a home or an event venue.|
Getting new business could be either through direct contact with the company or through an intermediary, which could be a facility management company that serves large office complexes. The touch point at a company would be someone from the administration or the HR department. A formal contract is signed, which specifies the monthly rent for a certain number of plants. Most contracts are annual, and often go into the details of maintenance and replacement in case of damage or death of the plants. The rent could vary from Rs 25-75 per month per plant. This is a volume business. The more the number of plants you rent out, the more money you make. Usually, large companies take 1000 plants on rent. Rent covers everything from transportation, installation, maintenance and replacement of plants. “A single 14-inch potted plant is rented out at Rs 60-80 per month,” says Wadekar. The cost takes into account the labor and transport charges, he adds.
Although the number of companies and events taking plants on rent is a fairly new concept, it is growing in a big way. Both private sector and public sector companies are adding to the customer list. It is still a very fragmented business “Homes generally don’t go for plants on rental basis. Such a demand is very rare. Taking plants on rent for a day or two is not very cost-effective,” says Gujral.
Challenges involve changing plants on a regular basis otherwise the customer would get bored. Given the limited variety of plants that can be placed indoors, keeping them in rotation is quite a challenge. The other challenge is about getting the right people for the job. Two sets of skills are required: one that works on the farms in growing these plants, and the other that would place the plants at the premises and maintain it. “People usually move on once they have learned the skills. So we have to keep them involved and help them upgrade their skills,” says Gujral. The training comes on the job. On a site usually there is a supervisor and two workers.
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