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Breathing life to waste: Phool

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The biomaterials startup Phool, founded in 2017, crossed 10k orders within just 3 months of the launch

Bengaluru: is an Indian biomaterials startup co-founded by Ankit Agarwal and Prateek Kumar in 2017 to collect temple flower waste dumped in rivers in Kanpur. It uses flowers from temples across India and creates useful products such as rose incense cones and Phool vermicompost.

Getting the trend on-point

Before Phool entered the category, the team knew that this was an offline-heavy category and there was absolutely no precedent for incense to be sold online or even a brand to make online the focal point of sales. “In retrospect, I think all we had was confidence in our products and the belief that consumers would give them a chance irrespective of the medium. We have entirely relooked at traditional incense making and made a product that is charcoal-free, has chemical and artificial fragrances free, and is certified natural.

Up until we started, incense was mostly used only for pooja purposes. We made incense a “me-time” product for millennials bringing so many more consumers back into the incense consumption category,” Apurv Misal, Head of Marketing and Sales at Phool explains how the brand spotted that need gap to tread rightly from the word go.

Phool was born out of a mission to give millions of tons of waste flowers a new life. About 8 million tons of floral waste gets dumped in Indian water bodies every year. The team figured out a way to upcycle these waste flowers into certified natural incense sticks and cones. They currently upcycle about 4-7 tons of floral waste on a regular basis and employ more than 140 women from marginalized communities. However, the initial road was bumpy, and selling fragrance online was quite unheard of back in the time Phool entered the market, “making sure we could transfer the experience of our products through mobile and desktop screens was by far the most challenging aspect. Once we were able to do that the products really did the next part of helping us establish a strong customer base,” Apurv notes.

Growing with power

The highest point in the brand’s journey was the response they got during the ť rst wave of Covid when despite being unable to ship products they had so many customers placing orders and asking the brand team to not worry about delivery. This gave the team the much-needed confidence to stand back on their feet! Taking every high and low as a learning experience, the brand holds the customer at the center of everything.

Apurv when talking about the marketing initiatives taken by the brand, mentions “Our social media communication, packaging experience, and honest conversation through products connecting the makers (our female workforce) with customers has helped us build great relationships with our customers. I believe a great product is far better than the best marketing strategy. We do lay a lot of emphasis on the experience. Apart from that honest communication and availability on all channels for communication is what gives us a push. We also ensure we are relevant in the consumer’s year-long festive experiences ensuring high relevancy”.

Taking the big leap

Innovation is and will always remain at the core of everything at Phool. The brand’s USP is the thought process – ‘how can any product we do be good for the consumers, good for the people who make them, and good for the environment’.

Keeping innovation in mind, the brand wants to grow by putting the right foot forward with technology. They partnered with WebEngage pretty early and that has helped them establish far better communication channels, moreover, they are now aggressively looking to build a tech stack from logistics to CRM. Keeping on the growth streak, Phool wants to build India’s largest fragrance brand and take this story globally.

Brownie Points

  • The brand started selling online in April 2019.
  • Phool crossed 10k orders within just 3 months of the launch.
  • In August 2020 the brand raised pre-series A funding from IAN Fund. And raised Series A in April 2022.
  • Phool has experienced double revenue growth in FY 2021.
  • The brand is also experiencing 2X growth in customer strength every year.

First appeared in The India D2C Yearbook 2022

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