According to the website of Phool.com, the founder Ankit Agarwal was sitting on the banks of the river Ganga at Kanpur when the idea of the company came to his mind. It was the day of Makar Sankranti which is celebrated by taking a dip in the holy river. Agarwal observed that temple flowers were being dumped into the river. As these flowers are filled with pesticides, the chemicals mix with the river water and create harmful compounds.
After enough research and data, Agarwal came up with ways to recycle the flowers from the temple. He along with Prateek Kumar, both IIT Kanpur graduates, then founded HelpUsGreen in 2017 which was later renamed, “Phool.com”. They started making rose incense cones, Phool vermicompost, and other products using flowers from temples across India.
Their first challenge was convincing people that flowers, once used, could be incorporated into new products. The idea wasn’t considered as something to be taken seriously. The team spent hours experimenting, meeting stakeholders, and pitching their idea of managing temple waste in the country. It took a year and a half of research in a makeshift lab for them to develop flower incense, their first recycled flower-based product. Besides providing a livelihood to local people, the company also wanted to preserve the Ganga river.
The company raised $1.4 million in a pre-Series A funding round in October 2020. It was led by IAN Fund and San Francisco-based Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation. The startup has developed several eco-friendly and flower-based products like “Florafoam” and “Fleather. Floral foam is a 27 percent cheaper alternative for thermocol. In February 2020, this startup was presented with PETA India’s ‘Best Innovation in Vegan Fashion’ award for using Fleather as an alternative to animal leather.
Talking about the vision of the company Agarwal says, “Through our efforts, we aim to build natural alternatives to synthetic chemical-based products by using deep-tech and research. We are perhaps India’s first natural incense brand taking a digital-first approach and have a first-mover advantage as bio-leathers are barely available in India. Phool.co has expanded its operations to Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh.”
In October 2021 Actor Alia Bhatt joined in as an investor of the company. “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 employing women in India’s heartland,” said Alia.
The company has been recognized for its efforts to create sustainable products with several awards, including the United Nations Young Leaders Award for Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations Momentum of Change Award at COP 2018, the Asia Sustainability Award 2020 in Hong Kong, the Alquity Transforming Lives Awards in London, and Breaking the Wall of Science in Berlin. The company has achieved a 130 percent year-on-year growth in the last two years.