Isn’t it beautiful to be surrounded by greenery in the lap of nature? As someone who has recently been promoted to the status of being a ‘plant parent’, going back home and looking at my plants gives me a kind of joy that is very hard to explain. Surrounding yourself with plants also has a positive impact on mental health, shows a UK based research. So, wouldn’t it be great if we could enveloped ourselves with nature’s bountiful goodness, especially in the middle of the urban jungles we live in?
Nineteen-year-old Engineering student Zuber Mohammad understood these merits of living in the midst of greenery from a very young age.
“During our ancestor’s times, we used to have big homes with large, designated spaces for gardens. But, times have changed now especially in the urban spaces where people struggle to even find a big enough house. With an increase in construction, green spaces are also diminishing quite rapidly,” states Zuber matter of factly.
Living in concretised cities, there are many who long to surround themselves with the tranquility of greenery yet lack of time limits their industry. Also, it is not easy to find people offering services of urban gardening in small spaces.
Seeing the gap in what people wanted and lack in such services, Zuber officially founded Paradise Gardens in July 2019. The Bhopal-based urban gardening startup sets up gardens for clients who crave for green spaces.
In a very short span of time, the startup has had tremendous growth. So far, they have bagged about 100 projects in Bhopal. In total, they have helped transform 22,680 sq. feet of land into gardens while 33,600 sq ft of land is under construction!
Birth of a young entrepreneur
Zuber first developed an interest in gardening in 2015 when he was studying in the 10th standard.
“A friend of mine was looking for people who could transform an area in his house into an urban garden but there was no one who was offering such services. That is when I realised that this could be a successful business idea in Bhopal,” recalls Zuber.
Fuelled with a lot of enthusiasm, Zuber even started a Facebook page for the same and discussed the idea with his parents.
“I told my parents about my ideas but they sort of brought me back to reality. I was still in school and wouldn’t have been able to manage such a business. On top of that, I did not have any business plan nor did I know much about gardening. So, I put this idea on the back burner with the hope that I would get working on it one day,” shares Zuber.
But the one thing Zuber was sure of was that he did not want to ever go for a 9 to 5 job. So, when he finished his 12th board exams, he launched a small business in 2017 which was called, ‘Bhopali Food’— online food delivery management system.
But, the initial success of this venture petered out soon due to logistical issues and Zuber had to wrap up the business.
“Although we would get a lot of orders, yet we didn’t have the right logistics in place, and we would fail to fulfil all the orders. After shutting down this venture I realised that I need to have a business plan in place to succeed,” says Zuber.
Meanwhile, he enrolled for a degree in Electronic and Communications Engineering from the Sagar Group of Institutions – SISTec. But, the wish to properly start a business venture in the garden space lurked still at the back of his mind. So, he spent an entire year reading up thick encyclopedias on plants and gardening.
“No one in my family had ever ventured into the business world. But, I was confident that if I had all the knowledge, I could run a successful business. When I was sure I knew enough, I took the plunge and founded Paradise Gardens with Rs. 7000 that I had saved from the first entrepreneurial venture,” says the Engineering student.
Bringing paradise to your doorstep
Once Zuber had a small team of gardeners and supervisors in place, he started marketing his services on social media platforms before officially founding the startup.
“My team came up with a website and put up an online form and many enquiries poured in. That is when we realised that what we were embarking on would be successful,” states Zuber.
Those enquiries have seamlessly moved on to become projects that Paradise Gardens is working on. The startup’s team fixes an appointment to visit the site once they receive an enquiry by a prospective customer.
“We inspect the area and ask what kind of a set up they want. The kind of flowers, plants, grass, compost and down to the kind of pots, we ask them everything before going ahead with the project. Depending on that, we quote a price,” explains Zuber.
The startup does anything and everything related to plants. These may be flowering plants, trees, indoor plants or even kitchen gardens or gazebos. They even help people with small balconies convert them into a green space. They have catered to clients with spaces as small as 36 sq. feet and now people in apartment complexes have started approaching them to help set up kitchen gardens.
Zuber still remembers the first client that he worked for.
“The customer wanted to transform an 800 sq feet space in his home compound into a garden. There was a lot of pressure on us to do this well. We quoted a price of Rs. 30,000 and made the space green by adding lawn grass, shrubs and even flowering plants. Needless to say our first customer was impressed and super happy which further gave us the confidence we needed at that point,” informs Zuber.
Since then, there have been many success stories and happy customers. Shahwar Hasan is a perfect example.
“We already had a small garden at home but my mother wanted to create a garden on a 400 sq ft area that was lying barren. Since she loves plants, it got me researching who could offer these services. That is when I discovered Paradise Gardens about three months back,” recalls the 27-year-old travel company founder.
It took Paradise Gardens just 12 days to completely revamp the space! “I was so impressed by their services. They were extremely professional and consulted me at every step. They went above and beyond what they had promised. I have already recommended them to so many I know,” says an excited Shahwar.
The startup also provides services for maintaining these gardens and the charges start from Rs. 2000 onwards.
The grass is not always green
Zuber usually begins his day by studying his engineering books and then quickly shifts gears by looking at the agenda for the day. He also reads up books on economics and finance to equip himself with the knowledge to efficiently deal with the business operations. After that, he visits a few sites to oversee the on-ground operations.
“As a bootstrapped startup one would think staying afloat is a challenge we face. However, as of now, our profit margins are really good. In fact, investors have approached us but we do not need that kind of help at the moment,” explains Zuber.
However, there are quite a few challenges that they have faced.
“One key challenge when we started out was finding the right people who would want to work with us, be it the supervisors or the gardeners. Then, even training these gardeners was a challenge as they were reluctant to change their approach to a lot of gardening practices,” states Zuber. But, by taking his time and choosing the right people, Zuber successfully overcame this challenge.
The young entrepreneur also has a few pro tips for other small business owners like him.
“No work is small. There will be a lot of nay-sayers that you’d meet on the way but remember to always work hard. It might take a few days, months and even years but in the end, you’ll always succeed. You don’t need much money to start something new but determination is key,” says Zuber.
So, what does the future hold for the young entrepreneur?
Zuber informs TBI that there are in fact a lot of big government projects that he is looking forward to. In addition to that they are also planning to come up with a more comprehensive form on their website and then ultimately an app. This would help them understand the space and quote a price without having to visit the sites personally at an early stage.
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“Cities need greenery and it is imperative to revive what we have lost over the years to rapid urbanisation. By next year, we want to scale our operation to 10 more cities. Our ultimate goal is to bring more greenery so all of us can lead a better, healthier life,” says Zuber signing off.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)