Success Story of Phool.co: India’s Leading Biomaterial Startup

Shalini Rath Shalini Rath
Jul 30, 2022 9 min read
Success Story of Phool.co: India’s Leading Biomaterial Startup

Company Profile is an initiative by StartupTalky to publish verified information on different startups and organizations. The content in this post has been approved by Phool.co.

The concerns related to waste management are a very crucial thing in India. It's essential for us to understand that wastes have a strong negative impact on nature and can cause any form of pollution, whether we're talking about recycling or dumping accumulated junk from our home, workplace, or industry.

The commitment of people to maintaining a clean and healthy environment falls on households as well, who must ensure that their trash is managed properly. As industries everywhere become more concerned about the effects of their manufacturing processes on the environment and continually invest in more environmentally friendly production processes. Waste management is not only healthy for the environment but also for us to have a healthy life.

When talking about the dumping of waste, the most common place to dump is water. India is a land of many temples and religious beliefs. Most of these temples are usually constructed near the holy river Gange, the Mother Goddess.

For instance, take the example of the river Ganges in Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India. Millions of people come to this place and bathe to cleanse themselves of sin. In the act, a lot of flowers are being dumped into the river, thus, polluting it with the flowers' harmful insecticides.

If someone is bringing a change in the system, and doing something about the flowers waste problem in India's rivers, is this biomaterial startup company called Phool.co.

Phool.co was founded in 2017 and owned by Kanpur Flowercycling Pvt. Ltd. The company is engaged in collecting temple flower waste dumped in rivers across India. Once collected, they use these flowers to make incense sticks and other such biodegradable products.

Read on to uncover more about Phool.co's startup story, founders and team, business model, challenges faced, competition, investors, and future plans.

Phool.co - Company Highlights

Startup Name Phool.co
Headquarters Kanpur, India
Sector Private
Industry Recycling industry
Founder Ankit Agarwal
Founded 2017
Valuation -
Revenue $15 million (approx.)
Total Funding Raised $9.4 million
Website phool.co

Phool.co - About
Phool.co - Industry
Phool.co - Founder
Phool.co - Startup Story
Phool.co - Mission and Vision
Phool.co - Name, Logo, and Tagline
Phool.co - Business Model
Phool.co - Revenue Model
Phool.co - Challenges Faced
Phool.co - Funding and Investors
Phool.co - Advertisements and Social Media Campaigns
Phool.co - Competitors
Phool.co - Awards and Achievements
Phool.co - Future Plans

Phool.co - About

Kanpur Flowercyling Pvt. Ltd., which was created in 2017, is the owner of the Phool brand. Since that time, 11,060 metric tonnes of temple garbage have been recycled. Eventually, the business was divided into HelpUsGreen and Phool.

It is reported, that in South Asia itself, about eight million tonnes of flowers are thrown into rivers each year for religious purposes. Therefore, this is causing the River Ganges, which provides drinking water to over 400 million people, to become more polluted. To help reduce the pollution, Phool came up with the idea, 'flowercycling' to become the solution to the massive temple waste problem in India.

Phool is an Indian biomaterials startup that is doing its part in cleaning up the River Ganges by collecting the flowers from temples and mosques dumped into the river and recycling them to produce more eco-friendly products. It is a for-profit company that works with Dalit women to upcycle floral waste into high-margin products including incense sticks, organic compost, and a biodegradable substitute for Styrofoam.

Phool endeavors to divert this harmful waste from the Ganges, thereby enhancing the health of the river, by collecting more than 4 tonnes of floral waste daily from temples in Uttar Pradesh.

Phool.co - Industry

Phool belongs to the recycling industry. It is quite clear that due to the high population density and growing industrial activity, which are producing large volumes of debris, both perilous and non-hazardous, India's waste management market is expanding at a healthy rate.

On the development note, these recycling industries are yet to get the right set of exposure in technology. As per sources, only 30% of the country's 75% recyclable garbage is being recycled. This poor way of waste management in the nation is caused by a variety of factors, such as a lack of effective infrastructure and inadequate regulations for garbage collection, disposal, and recycling.

The waste management sector in India has enormous potential, if only they are given innovative solutions, then India could become the primary reason for reducing waste in the rivers and oceans.

Phool.co - Founder

Phool.co is founded by Ankit Agarwal in 2017.

Ankit Agarwal

Ankit Agarwal, Founder and CEO of Phool.co
Ankit Agarwal, Founder and CEO of Phool.co

Ankit Agarwal is the founder and CEO of Phool.co. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from PICT in Pune before going on to complete a Master's degree in Innovation Management at Symbiosis International University in Pune.

Ankit started his career as a project intern at Symantec and later on became an Automation Engineer at the same company. He has published around 17 research papers and a Patent. He is a member of Asia Society as Asia 21 Young Leader 2016.

Ankit Agarwal has been featured in Forbes 30 under 30. Recently, he also has received many accolades, such as the prestigious United Nations Young Leader for Sustainable Development Goals Award, the Takeda Young Global Entrepreneur Award, the Unilever Young Entrepreneur Awards, and The GSG Millennial Honor.

Phool.co - Startup Story

The idea of Phool came into existence when Kanpur-based Ankit Agarwal visited the ghats in his hometown with a childhood friend. Upon seeing the river, when many devotees came and performed rituals, they were shocked to see the amount of trash bottling up the river.

An idea struck Ankit that if he had to improve marine life, then he has to collect the wasted flowers and recycle them. At first, it was challenging as none of the temple management was ready to give up their flowery wastes.

But, this didn't stop Ankit, as he would still go about and pitch his idea of recycling to various stakeholders, and deliver the notion of taking care of temple waste management in the country. After much research and waiting for the right opportunity, the company finally manufactured its first flowercycled incense.

Phool.co - Mission and Vision

Phool.co mission is loud and clear by the way they do their work. Their mission reads, "our mission is to repurpose the waste coming from places of worship, it was the birth of Phool."

The company visions itself to empower vulnerable people and preserve the river Ganges from pollution.

Phool.co - Name, Logo, and Tagline

The name of the company is derived from the Hindi word 'Phool', which means flower.

As we can see, the logo appears to be the word Phool itself with its tagline underneath, "Made from the Temple Flowers"

Phool.co - Business Model

The business model of Phool is a circular economy model. It encompasses both B2B and B2C business models. The company's business is to collect flowers and convert them into diverse products such as organic vermicompost, incense sticks, soap, vegan leather goods, and other biodegradable packaging materials.

The R&D department of Phool is their greatest asset. Technical entrepreneurs find fulfillment in developing new goods and finding solutions to issues. Their main focus is to worry about how to create a product rather than commercialising their products.

The products at Phool are handcrafted by women from vulnerable backgrounds who go to collect flowers from the temples, giving them the source to earn livelihood themselves while managing the waste issue.

Some of the products by Phool are also made using Tulsi, or holy basil, seeds, which are impregnated in seed paper and ink simulated from vegetable dyes to developed compostable packages.

The user only needs to unfold the paper, bury it in a pot with dirt, water it frequently, and watch the seeds grow into a Tulsi plant after using the incense or flowers.

Customers who buy these compostable packages can post pictures of their plants and receive product discounts by scanning a QR code on the pack, which directs them to a microsite.

One of the other major product ranges by Phool includes vermicompost made from 'mitti', which means mud. This mitti is is an enzyme and nutrient-rich mineral shot that energises the soil. The entire production of 'mitti' is produced using biological methods, has no carbon imprint, and is devoid of all chemicals and carcinogens.

A source of income for the local women

Phool has employed women from the local villages who used to be manual scavengers. Before joining Phool, these women used to earn their bread and butter by removing human waste from dry latrines and sewers, loading it into cane baskets, and bringing it outside the village to be disposed of. Today, these women are proud of joining Phool, where they have secure bank accounts and access to safe and healthy drinking water and toilets and earn over Rs 7,000 per month.

Key Products of Phool with its business model

  • Incense Sticks (B2C) - These include, DIY Incense sticks, incense cones, and flower grow kits.
  • Fashion Industry & Packaging Materials for Products (B2B) - Vegan leather goods made from flowers, packaging material called 'Florafoam'.

Phool has its incubation centre at the Startup Incubation and Innovation Centre, IIT Kanpur.

Phool.co - Revenue Model

Phool generates its revenue by selling incense sticks through its online e-commerce website, 'Phool.co'. They have a wide variety of products displayed on its website from which customers can choose depending upon the product they like.

The company is also involved with Business to Business markets such as the fashion industry and offers packaging materials, from which they yield their revenue.

It is estimated that the company's revenue is approximately $15 million as of now. The previous two years have seen 130 percent YoY growth for Phool, which has increased its operations.

Phool.co - Challenges Faced

The biggest challenge faced by Phool is collecting the thousands of flower waste from the rivers. It is calculated that more than 800 million metric tonnes per year of flowers are thrown into the River Ganges. These flowers rot and fill the water with their chemical insecticides.

The company is largely involved in manufacturing incense sticks for which, they need these flowers fresh. If the flowers are left for a longer period in the water bodies, then it loses their importance.

Phool.co - Funding and Investors

In total, Phool has raised $9.4M in investment across 4 rounds. The company had announced that the Bollywood actress, Alia Bhatt is one of the investors of the company.

Here's what Alia Bhatt said about her investment, "Phool incense stands out for its fine natural fragrances and amazing packaging. I admire the founder's vision of making incense and bio-leather from recycled flowers that contribute to keeping our rivers clean, creating a humane alternative to leather, and providing employment to women in India's heartland."

Phool is also backed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. The institute has helped the company grow since its early days.

Date Funding Round Amount Investors
April 4, 2022 Series A ₹605M Sixth Sense Ventures
October 7, 2021 Seed Round Undisclosed Alia Bhatt
Aug 27, 2020 Seed Round $1.4M Indian Angel Network, The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, and IIT, Kanpur
Apr 3, 2019 Non-equity Assistance - -

Phool also claims it has other companies as its funding partners such as TATA TRUSTS and Balmer Lawrie & Co. Ltd.

Phool.co - Advertisements and Social Media Campaigns

This year during Holi time (2022), Phool came up with the campaign #PhoolWaliHoli to encourage people to use organic colors that are actually made from flowers. During that time, the company unveiled 'Phool Natural Gulaal' made with 100% pure plant materials in its social media campaign.

Phool.co - Competitors

Here are some of the competitors of Phool:

Holywaste

Founded in 2018 and based in Hyderabad, Holywaste recycles flower wastes from temples. It has cooperated with many temples, organisers of special events, decorators, and anybody else who produces floral waste. Today, it operates 40 temples, two flower stands, and a market area that diverts over 200 kg of floral waste every day from dumps and lakes.

Yuvan

With assistance from the Dr. Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry in Nauni, businessman Ravinder Prashar of Una created incense sticks utilising floral gifts from temples. It offers fragrances like rose, sandal, and lavender.

Essent by Apran

Children from the SRCC Chapter of the Connecting Dreams Foundation started the social innovation company Esscent by Arpan to quickly turn dried flower waste into high-quality floral incense products like twigs, cones, and candles.

Aaruhi Enterprise

Gurugram-based entrepreneurs Poonam and Pinky started Aaruhi Enterprises in 2019. So far, the company has been using garland strands to create dhoop-baati, idols, ornaments, and even air fresheners. Five women are currently employed by Aaruhi, and 500 more have received floral product manufacturing training.

Phool.co - Awards and Achievements

Phool has received several international recognitions as follows

  • United Nations Young Leaders Award for Sustainable Development Goals
  • United Nations Momentum of Change Award at COP 2018
  • Asia Sustainability Award 2020, Hong Kong
  • Alquity Transforming Lives Awards, London
  • Breaking the Wall of Science, Berlin
  • Wharton India Economic Forum
  • BIRAC Innovator Award 2021 for FLEATHER by The Hon’ble Vice President of India Shri Venkaiah Naidu Ji

Key Milestones:

  • There have been 11,060 metric tonnes of temple garbage flowercycled till date.
  • 73 households who used to work as manual scavengers, now make at least six times as much money after being employed by Phool.
  • Phool has impacted 365 families by raising living standards and ensuring steady earnings.
  • After joining Phool, mothers of 19 children who previously worked as manual scavengers have begun enrolling them in school.

Phool.co - Future Plans

As the flowerecycling industries are growing slowly in India, Phool is planning to expand its operations. The fact that what Phool is doing in terms of recycling can be easily duplicated by other competitors.

The company currently operates in four cities in Uttar Pradesh and is in talks to expand to other countries like Bangladesh, and Nepal. Phool is already in the discussion phase with the Government of India to scale up its growth across India.

The company is also planning to hire more women to increase its production process.

FAQs

Who is the founder of Phool.co?

Ankit Agarwal is the founder and CEO of Phool.co.

How was Phool.co started?

When the founder of Phool.co visited his village Kanpur where he saw the waste and then planned to use wasted flowers and recycle them.

When was the Phool.co founded

Phool.co was started in 2015.

Must have tools for startups - Recommended by StartupTalky

Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to StartupTalky.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to StartupTalky.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.