This story is an ode to entrepreneurship and refutes the idea that the corporate machine, in this case, Ferns ‘N’ Petals, the much preferred go-to shop for fresh flowers and floral arrangements across India, is any better because of its omnipresence than the much smaller shop with no infrastructure and no front door.
During my winter’s stay in New Delhi, I was charmed by the rustic roadside flower stalls across the city’s residential neighborhoods. I love flowers: they can be beautiful, smell great, make you feel positive, and evoke a nostalgia that is almost palpable. Flowers know no bias and can also make others happy too. On a couple of sporadic occasions, I had approached flower vendors with a desire to make a purchase. In my abject Hindi, I attempted to negotiate a fair market price for the remaining flowers of that day — to not feneggle would be unlike this NRI (non-resident Indian). Most of the time I had felt like I was being ripped off and walked away.
However, on 15 February I mosied over to a Delhi branch of the immensely popular Ferns ‘N’ Petals (FNP). This time I absolutely needed to buy flowers, one bouquet that I would offer that day; another I anticipated a few days later.
In India, Valentine’s Day is without a doubt an overdone, commercialized mega-social event where schemes and tactics, beginning at least one week before, are meant to lure buyers, lovers, cheaters, and faithful types into spending copiously on chocolate, flowers, lace, and more.
Of course there should be ample flowers to choose from on 14 Feb but also on 15 Feb and any day, really, if you are as reputable as FNP. This company is monied enough to be able to supply its stores with the very merchandise to be carried year-round irrespective of the social calendar. I suppose this corporate brand is known for quality and variety. I suppose their florists know how to put together bouquets with taste and understand how to artfully marry florals and foliage. But my first (and last experience) with FNP was utterly disappointing and the store design and layout were unimpressive too. Here, the manager was insolent as he sat almost hidden behind the counter providing no guidance whatsoever. The few flowers which remained were gaudy V-themed bouquets with glitter and fuss. He blamed Valentine’s Day for the spare offerings. Huh? Inexcusable!
Upon exiting FNP in a huff, I stumbled upon a gentle-mannered independent flower shop vendor a mere stone’s throw away from the big bully brother. I peered into the flower bins and liked what I saw. I asked myself how this “little fish” had a satisfactory selection of fresh flowers the day after the day before and again how come FNP was so grossly ill-equipped and their customer service non-existent. No matter, I knew I would never be going back there. From under this make-shift tent off the dusty road, I chose accordingly.
Days later, on a Saturday morning, I returned for my second arrangement: my florist had been expecting me. I felt as though I was building a relationship with him and was looking forward to another friendly transaction. He was kind and worked thoughtfully. He took my suggestions, helpfully offered his own, and arranged my selection in the best way — with care, heart and rigor. In no time my Indo-French bouquet was ready!