On hands and knees
For a business venture that started with a sum of Rs. 5000 back in 1976 which made about 4 crores last year, one can only begin to imagine what the journey has been like. Rosendo Mendonsa, founder of Mr. Farmer reminisces about the year when he planned to quit his job at Zuari Agro Chemicals, it had been just three years after working there. A nature lover at heart, Rosendo graduated with a major in Horticulture and had wanted to start something on his own and after three years quit his job there.
Mr. Farmer began out of his home in Guirim where he would plant different plants and flowers. People liked what they saw and so he decided to establish the business. He says however, “Finance was the biggest issue for me. In those days generally to get a loan took a while. And especially for me because such a company did not exist at the time. So I had to start out of my house and people would come to buy flowers there. Then in a very small way I started landscaping for bungalows.”
Soon enough, Mr. Farmer’s received their first major stint at Cidade de Goa. It was just by chance that Rosendo and his wife met an old school friend. “We were catching up and I learnt that he was working for the hotel. He suggested I meet Anju Timblo (MD at Cidade de Goa) about landscaping the property. So a meeting was set up and she was willing to give me a chance. I’ve been landscaping for Cidade ever since.”
As Mr. Farmer became the official landscaper for several hotels and the business grew, a nursery was started in Guirim 15 years ago which is now the sales hub of Mr. Farmer. “We have a farm in Bicholim where we propagate the plants and flowers. Once they are ready to be sold we bring them here. We also use it as a sales platform for all the products like gardening equipment, fertilizers, manure. Basically anything required for gardening.”
The business which is now a family affair is secure enough to expand. Sachin, Rosendo’s son has plans to take Mr. Farmer to Margao and all the states in South India. “We’ve reached a stage where we’re doing well now and we would like to take up landscaping in other states.” Mr. Famer also looks forward to representing an American Lawn Mower company in South India.
Pretty Petals florist was the first florist in Goa started in 1983 by the founders of Mr Farmer. After initiating the Mr. Farmer venture, Rosendo and his wife Noeline decided to initiate a florist trend in Goa. “We saw that no one in Goa used flowers as a gesture or even for decorative purposes,” explains Noeline. “At the most we would cut a couple of flowers from the garden. And while people were taking fruit or biscuits for a hospital visit, we took a bouquet.” She goes on to say that this act did turn many heads, “but it was something we needed to see growing in Goa. If it was happening all over the world and all over the country then we thought why not here.”
Noeline herself was not a horticulturist by profession before starting Pretty Petals, it was rather a hobby. After doing a few short courses she became familiar with the trade. “To come from that level and now see how the industry is flourishing is really a wonder. We’re happy to have been influential in starting the flower culture in Goa. Today there are florists mushrooming everywhere.” This would obviously lead to more competition which Noeline acknowledges. To this she says that it keeps the business healthy. “It’s also good because you don’t lay back and it gives you the chance to outdo yourself every time.”
The constant drive has earned Pretty Petals a reputed clientele which include some major 5 star and 3 star hotels. The florist has also catered to many weddings. But Noeline feels that word of mouth has been key in the shop’s success and counts on her regulars who vouch for their services. Her daughter Shruti who also plays an important role in the business has made it easier to take Pretty Petals to four outlets in the state – Panjim, Mapusa, Guirim and Margao and also go global. “We supply to any part of the world. And this service has been enabled by out tie ups with florists,” says Shruti.
They have been behind every important event in the state like IFFI, SAFF or even the visit of the Pope in 1984.