Welcome to My Garden Series by The Better India, where we feature stories about gardening and homebound farming initiatives submitted by our readers. If you have any stories to share as well, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gardening for Chennai boy Pavan Kumar Raghavendran has always been much more than just a hobby. By the time he was in class 12, he already had a thriving terrace garden that he took care of himself.
After completing his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering, Pavan joined an automotive company as an intern. But his heart lay elsewhere, and after three months of working, he quit the organisation to chase his dream of establishing a social startup.
And what a better course of action than to convert one’s passion into a profession?
Just the way he has been tending to plants and crops across his terrace, Pavan decided to model his venture upon the same lines—but on a slightly larger scale—by helping people in the city grow their own vegetables through organic indoor and outdoor gardens!
For this, he spent significant time learning various organic farming practices before launching his dream project as PKR Greens and Consultants in September 2016.
Sticking to the social venture paradigm, the company doesn’t charge customers for site visits and also gives customers the option of either requesting plants that they want or let Pavan and his team work out which plants would work best in a given amount of space.
“Besides setting up terrace and regular gardens, we also create awareness and motivate people by conducting gardening workshops in residential complexes, offices, clubs and educational institutions,” says the 22-year-old gardener.
However, Pavan explains that their primary focus rests on schools because he wants more children to learn where their food comes from. “We help them learn this through seed ball creation and free sapling distribution events in schools”, he adds.
With a core team of five, Pavan has managed to install over 400 terrace gardens along with several workshops across Chennai in the past 18 months.
However, according to Pavan, that is not the most significant achievement so far.
What Pavan is truly proud of is a flagship service that he has introduced through his venture—the unique concept of giving plants as return gifts.
“There is so much waste being generated today due to ostentatious material items that people buy as return gifts. We hope that we will be able to change this practice and influence others to make better choices. We had an opportunity to provide plants at many film events, and the ‘green’ gifts were appreciated by all the guests,” he happily mentions.
Pavan also shares that besides their core team, he is particular about hiring only college students as interns and volunteers. “Just the way I found my vocation in something I loved doing, many of these students are equally passionate about gardening. I am only providing them with a platform through part-time jobs that they can take up in a full-fledged manner later,” he says.
Besides gardening, he also finds interests in collecting and preserving heritage crop seeds from across the country.
“I grow most plants from seedlings in my home garden. So far, I have saved seeds for 30 types of heirloom eggplants, 4 types of bitter gourd and 10 types of okra. I have also started collecting rare seeds from other people to multiply them in my garden and preserve them for future. I also swap these seeds with other gardeners,” Pavan explains.
All this at the age of 22!
One must appreciate Pavan’s dedication to what initially began as a hobby, and eventually became a fully-fledged venture and his determination to push for an environmental revolution through it.
“I am only a 22-year-old with very little insight into the business world, and very few connections. But in the past 18 months, we have tried our best to reach every corner of the city, and it hasn’t been an easy ride. Even though our goal is to use business to drive social and environmental impact, we have to work hard to create awareness. I am delighted to be pursuing my passion and contributing in my own way to a better society,” he adds.
We hope that Pavan can scale great heights through his gardening venture and is able to guide more citizens across cities and towns in Tamil Nadu to grow their own organic veggies or create a green patch within their living spaces.
You can look up PKR Greens and Consultants on Facebook here. You can also reach out to Pavan at email@example.com or call at 8754445850.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)