It was a tough decision she took, when she quit her job after ten long years, says Komal Garg, Founder, Plant People. But then it has paid off. In a candid chat with Anahita Masters she explains how the journey has been.
1. Tell us a little about your venture Plant People.
I see Plant People as a larger entity than the venture itself. It’s not just about me and my team and the nursery. It’s about everyone who loves plants and wants to nurture them, and learn about them. Simply put, we are a bunch of Plant People seeking to connect with more Plant People. Nowadays, almost everyone I meet wants plants either for positive energy, for beautification, to stay close to nature, for going organic like with herbs, for gifting, even forindoor air-purification and many more reasons. Ifulfil this need in many ways – through my nursery by selling many varieties of plants, through my green décor services where I go and design specialised spaces for clients – be it homes, offices, restaurants or gardens, and through my online delivery service, which reaches the entire country. Our motto is Green Karo Scene! J
2. When did the passion for plants and gardening begin? Any particular inspiration? Was there an “aha” moment?
My mother has always been an avid gardener. And being an Army wife, she usually had a lot of garden space to play with. Added to that, moving from one state to another every few years – she ended up collecting all kinds of plants from various places and painstakingly taking care of them so that they adapted to their new environment. I remember mornings as a child, especially weekends, being spent assisting her with trimming the hedges, loosening the soil, sowing seeds of the season, harvesting the kitchen garden – the list is long!J I’ve inherited a lot of knowledge about plants and growing them from her. I’ve pretty much followed in her footsteps, in the garden so to speak, and felt the time was just right to turn this passion into a specialised venture.
3. Do you think being a woman entrepreneur worked to your advantage or brought challenges to your path?
In this particular field, I feel being a woman entrepreneur has played to my advantage. The nature of my work has a lot to do with homes, aesthetics and of course, nurturing plants. My guess is that people have inherently felt comfortable working with a female energy to beautify their spaces with greenery and plant-based design.
4. What would be the top 3 things to watch out for if you’re a woman looking to start her own business?
I am sure things are overall much more conducive for women entrepreneurs in India today than they were, say, 15 years ago. That said, some of the issues I face are very much of an expected nature and so very basic! For instance, I source my plants from all over the country and I like to handpick each one of them. Most of the time, I travel to the suppliers that are all far away from cities. Needless to say, it’s always a challenge travelling alone.
Apart from that, of course, all kinds of people trying to arm-twist you, mistaking you for being soft/ weak just because you’re a woman – right from suppliers to labour to sometimes even clients.
Another thing – in our society, where it’s still considered an ‘option’ for a woman to work or earn her own living, it can be quite a high to be running one’s own business (somewhat successfully, if I may add :P) and can get you carried away or lead you to become arrogant. To stay grounded, to stay humble and stay focussed is very, very important.
5. How has the support of friends and family played a role in your being a successful entrepreneur?
My family probably had more than a few nervous discussions over my plans since I started Plant People (:P). Quitting a profession I’ve worked in for over 10 years… Putting in most of my savings into a new business…I’m sure they had their concerns but those worries have never turned into discouragement on their part. In fact, they’ve shared my excitement over each and every project so far and have passed on tonnes of good vibes. Everyone around me is well aware of my passion and have seen the potential in Plant People. Friends and family alike, have played a huge role right from being my first few customers to spreading the word about Plant People on social media, and lending a hand whenever I needed that extra support. All in all, I’ve been quite fortunate to have the support system that I’ve got.
6. What next for Plant People and Komal?
I could go on and on with this one as there are SO MANY immediate next steps I have in mind – right from opening our Garden Store (very soon), to influencing corporate gifting to go green, from setting up small scale botanical gardens for people so they can organically grow (at least some of) the food they consume, to buying farm land as soon as possible…! J
But if you ask me about my ultimate aim through Plant People, here goes…
I hashtag a lot of Plant People’s Instagram posts as ‘#greenstartup’. In the long run, I intend for Plant People to be an organisation that would make a real, tangible difference to the environment for the better. I believe thatit’s not the government’s responsibility alone – it’s mine, yours and everyone else’s too. It may sound ambitious right now, but I’m constantly working on ideas to make it a reality. My father, during his serving days in the Army, commanded an ecological battalion in Rajasthan, some 100 kms away from Bikaner, in the middle of nowhere, where his battalion planted 18 lakh trees during his 3 year tenure alone, with a hundred per cent survival rate in the desert! And they saw the rainfall in that area increase within his tenure itself! That’s inspiration as well as encouragement for me – if just 3 years of sustained effort could do that, the possibilities are endless, exciting and so REAL! And I’m hell-bent on making it happen.