After 14 years tight-fisted within the IT industry, Smriti Dalvi is now spreading fragrance through ‘Florista’, a fresh flowers and gifts e-commerce & franchised chain of stores in India. Founded in 2007, Florista delivers fresh and exotic cut flowers and associated gifts such cake, chocolates, wine, fruits to over 200 cities and globally.
Behind Florista’s success is Smriti’s never-give-up-attitude. Since childhood, she captured a quote-‘I can and I will’, in her inner-mind which helped and will always help her on the rocky way.
Why and how opening up a flower and gifting boutique digital platform crossed her mind, she speaks from the scratch to Ria Das.
Smriti Dalvi, what motivated you to become an entrepreneur and why did you pick an online flower and gifting boutique platform?
Well, I was born into a traditional south Indian family, having strong family values and bonding. I studied Electrical Engineering as that was one of the most sought path along with medicine way back then. Post that, tech and software was on the upswing so I did an extensive course on Software Programming and Applications, excelled in it, loved it and was happy to have a career path in Technology.
From Education to Development, I worked with couple of software companies and enjoyed travelling in India and few other countries to meet different organizations for Business Analysis and developing software solutions.
I working as a COO for a software company and realized soon that when I’m spending over 12-14hours out of home to work for someone else, so might as well put in efforts for something of my own where I can manage things at my own terms.
It was one of those evenings in a coffee shop when my husband Sameer, who successfully runs an advertising agency and I realized that we should to do something different in our lives, and start something new and exciting and challenging. We thought over several businesses which were fragmented and not organized and unanimously narrowed on the flower industry. We knew that our experience in corporate sector, technology background, we could add value by organizing and standardizing this space. Also, flower gifting in India is a dominated culture now. Either we wait on few organizations or depend on exports mainly. I wanted to bring this culture live, start a chain store and make lives easier and consumption-proof in the country which will simultaneously help the growers as well.
Eventually Life turns my plans to reality and the entrepreneurial calling happened, and Florista became my life’s purpose. We started our first store in Mumbai and are now a chain of floral designing boutiques.
What is Florista’s working style? What plans do you have to take it to the next level?
Florista is a customer care center which is the fastest growing online and offline professional flower retailer of the country. It caters to exotic arrangements of fresh and artificial flowers and a large variety of gift accessories such as candles and glass, ceramic and brass vases.
We operate under 3 verticals:
Online : This is the thrust area as our distribution network currently spans 200 cities in India and globally via our partners, Our customers can order for flowers and related gifts to be delivered to their choice of city through our e-commerce website www.florista.in.
Corporate – Our corporate client base is spread across Banking, wealth management and healthcare sectors. We undertake corporate bulk bookings for flowers and gifts to be delivered to their employees and clients during special occasions.
Franchise & Owned Stores – Besides obvious Tier 1 and 2 cities and towns, we do really well as we have successfully managed to penetrate the growth in smaller Indian cities such as Vapi, Nasik and Mangalore. We currently have over 15 franchised retail stores in 10 cities and one store in Bhutan. Our team is trained for large scale floral décor for corporate events, weddings and festivals.
The idea behind the Florista brand is to capture the gifting space in India from flowers to associated gifts. We plan to expand into Complementary gifts such as fragrances enabling opportunity for multiple growth verticals.
Increase our franchise store count to 150 in India, Singapore and UAE.
We also plan to start an event management division as a part of our vertical integration.
Starting-up a very-hard-to-find e-commerce platform, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as an entrepreneur?
Challenge was to keep pace with the rapid demand that came by, Space, manpower, tech everything became a huge constraint and we had to think and re-strategies fast as we were losing not only money, we were also losing pace.
Focus has been on tirelessly creating the back bone of our business – which is operations, supply chain management, delivery networks both nationally and globally.
Further, we are in the perishables business, so inventory management was always an issue but investments in technology and staff have helped boost our bottom line by better management processes.
Managing cash flows, ensuring fund availability for continuous investments in technology and innovation has been some challenges.
What skills are required to become successful as an Entrepreneur?
I think you need to have
A ‘NEVER GIVE UP ATTITUDE’
Be a good team manager and a quick decision maker.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement so far?
I don’t think I can put anything as greatest achievement. There are milestones that you meet and move on to the next, There’s no stopping for an entrepreneur.
Do you thank any organisations or networking groups for helping you on your journey? How did you manage funding for the base operations initially?
Absolutely! Have been associated with several networking groups at different stages of the business. Each one has its benefits, access to resources, opportunities for collaboration or just listening to other people can give you a lot of useful insights.
And most importantly you make really good friends from across industries.
Initial Funding came from personal savings and from good friends
Who inspired you to startup?
Well, It will definitely be Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, her journey at a time when there were so few women venturing into businesses and starting her company ‘Biocon’, from a garage and creating an empire along with outstanding contributions to science, is remarkable.
Picture Credit: Smriti’s own