This story today proves that it is never too late and age is just a number. Today’s start-up story is about a 62-years-old woman who started with her entrepreneurial journey at the age of 60. As I said, age is just a number!
As a young girl, Lily grew up in a small town in Hooghly district of West Bengal, where ‘green’ was more the norm unlike it is today. “Climbing on fruit trees and munching on fruits in the neighbour’s garden was a prank that I commonly indulged in as a child. Later in life, I got myself a Master’s degree in Botany from the Calcutta University. Inherently, proximity to plants has always made me happy,” smiles Lily.
She continues, “When I got married, I had to move to an industrial township, namely Bokaro Steel City, along with my husband, and in the later years, we had the privilege of a huge space in the front and backyard of our quarter. That was my first foray into formal gardening – landscape gardening with ornamental plants, flowering plants and a big enough vegetable garden,” says Lily describing what may have been her first tryst with gardening.
As fate had it, she got transferred to Kolkata in the late 90s and lost the privilege of a ‘garden’ almost overnight. Lily pined and craved for the company of her plants and as a result, began nurturing potted plants on the small terrace space in their house. (though it was much smaller than her garden in Bokaro).
Eventually, she began experimenting with other natural materials and objects that could be used for creating miniature gardens for urban living spaces. It began as a personal hobby, but soon Lily’s friends and relatives began asking for copies of a couple of her creations!
“My daughters egged me on to create more such collections to be offered to the world outside. When I retired in June 2016, I almost instinctively turned to my plants and thus, Udvid Plant Boutique was born. My husband too, has been by my side, always. We often go to scout for plants and other natural materials together. He also participates with me at exhibitions. I could have definitely not ventured into business without their support. The first formal attempt to get it up and running was through a Plant Show at our house in August 2016. Since then, there has been no stopping despite other commitments of mine, though I admit that I am still more of a creator and a plant-nurturer rather than a businesswoman,” mentions Lily.
Asking Lily that how did she come up with the name, she replied “Udvid in Sanskrit and Bengali means ‘plants’. Since we are curating plants in different formats, we call it a Plant Boutique.”
Lily is a mother and hence her mission behind this journey is also so motherly. It is to help every individual be responsible for their own share of oxygen.
When we asked Lily about her educational background, this was something that we got to know about her: “I have a Master’s degree in Botany, but my love for plants stems more from nurturing them, rather than studying about them. I have been a Science and Biology teacher in Kendriya Vidyalaya for over 35 years. My wish was to help everyone have their own plants in small formats and feel the joy that I experience every day. That led me to venture into Udvid Plant Boutique.”
Thinking of being an entrepreneur at the age of 60 is really a great step, especially when you have no entrepreneurial background. Lily is a true inspiration for all those who are still thinking of the barriers and not thinking of how to overcome all and live your dream.
About Udvid Plant Boutique
Udvid Plant Boutique curates ornamental plants ranging from ferns, crotons, coleus, begonia, euphorbia, creepers, succulents, a few ornamental flowering plants, and a few in the bonsai format. Their specialty though, lies not in the plants they curate but the way in which Lily puts them together for city dwellers who have less space, limited sunshine and limited time to spare. Their miniature garden format is good for urban residents who love a house with a garden, for example. The price varies depending on how rare the collection is, or, the amount of time and effort spent in assembling the collection in appealing formats. It ranges from Rs. 200 and goes upwards of Rs. 2000. Sadly, there’s very little awareness of such kinds of plants. But the fact is, Lily explains, that it is not important to know what these plants are. It is important to just have a loving eye towards them. Being a living organism, they tell us what they need in their own way – just watching over them daily, checking the soil condition or, the freshness of leaves and watering them, is good enough for one to learn as they go; and for all Udvid customers, she is just a call away. “The entire collection is my baby and I curate each plant personally. This is not something I want to outsource to anyone. It’s a very soulful and satisfying experience for me to put together each and every collection. The pleasure involved in making them far outweighs anything else that we encounter while putting them on sale,” says Lily.
Why do your customers select you over your competitors?
We haven’t come across any competitors at least in Kolkata. But, when we participate in exhibitions and people choose to pick up a plant over a piece of clothing, jewellery or any other lifestyle goods, I feel very happy. That’s the change I am trying to bring about through my business. I will feel successful when people consider buying or growing plants as a priority just as much as healthcare or education.
Talking about the issues Lily faced in with this business, Lily mentions, “Firstly, each piece we create is a work of art for us. It is not something you will find at a nursery on the highway. So, we handle them like babies. It is a logistics intensive business, especially when we have to carry the plants from one place to another. We can’t ship them like any other consumables.”
However, what concerns her most is dealing with the mindset of the people. “I feel disappointed when some prospective buyers visiting my boutique say they don’t have time for even watering the plant daily. It’s like saying we don’t have time for our bath or meals,” shares Lily with regret.
“When we are at lifestyle exhibitions or even organic farmers’ markets, we are always competing with consumables like – clothes, jewellery, food and other lifestyle products. Some of us even spend thousands of rupees on things that we already have at home. Whatever attention we have got so far amidst that clutter, thanks to my children – my dear plants, has been bliss. People ask how I make them; will the plants live like that forever and so on. My plants definitely pique the interest of passers-by. The demand is yet to pick up though. I trust that there will be a time when people will feel the need to pay for the ever-so-generous oxygen providers, just like they pay for food, clothes, house or anything else,” smiles Lily.
Lily further adds that she would be happy to help people think differently about the need for plants. That’s why she invests a lot of time and effort in putting together plants in formats that can thrive in low light, less space and with low maintenance. “But they are living beings, so one cannot make that purchase in the same manner as living room furniture,” she adds. One can tell her passion when she says, “Sometimes, the pain of giving one of my children (my plant) away to someone else is higher than the joy of making a sale, but I revel in the joy that my creation will lend oxygen to someone else.”
For any queries or assistance, you may contact Lily Mitra and Udvid Plant Boutique at:
Location: Kolkata, West Bengal, India