Blooming Success: Watila’s Petal-powered Entrepreneurial Journey - Eastern Mirror
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Blooming success: Watila’s petal-powered entrepreneurial journey

By Livine Khrozhoh Updated: Apr 02, 2024 11:03 pm
Watila Longkumer/ Bouquets from Naro Ki.

DIMAPUR — Not many people would quit a government job to start their own business, especially in the context of Nagaland state where only government jobs are typically considered as a ‘real job.’

But that is exactly what Watila Longkumer did!

After working as a technical assistant in the Directorate of Horticulture for two years, she quit her job in 2010 to start her own floristry business called ‘Naro Ki,’ which means ‘house of flowers’ in Ao language.

With an MSc in Agrochemicals and Pest Management from Delhi University, Watila’s entrepreneurial journey has been recognised on various platforms. She was among the 75 successful women entrepreneurs of India honoured in the fourth edition of the ‘Innovations for You’ coffee table book series, launched by the Atal Innovation Mission (NITI Aayog) on November 4, 2022. She also received the Women Achiever’s Award 2024 from MVIRDC World Trade Centre, Mumbai.

The paradigm shift

In an interview with Eastern Mirror, Watila revealed that she spent approximately five years preparing for exam to get a government job and eventually secured a position in the Horticulture department in 2018.

However, after about a year of working, she realised that a desk job was not aligning with her long-term aspirations. It was at this point that she made the decision to resign from her job.

She explained that her technical background motivated her to utilise the knowledge she had gained by engaging with farmers in the field, rather than confining herself to office work.

“So one fine day, I mustered enough courage to drop the bomb of quitting the job, after which I joined a private enterprise (North Bengal Floritech) which was working with the Department of Horticulture,” she said.

Watila’s petal-powered entrepreneurial journey

Elaborating how Naro Ki was conceptualised, Watila recalled a field visit where a female farmer lamented about her flowers often going to waste before she could sell them.

“This struck a chord in my heart. I felt sorry to see her efforts go in vain. Hence, I asked her if she can trust me to give me her flowers so that I can try selling them for her,” she said, while admitting that she had neither sold flowers nor made a bouquet in her life at that point of time.

When the women gladly agreed to give her the cut flowers, she took them home and started selling them to people she knew. After deducting a little margin, she handed the proceeds from the sales to the farmer.

As word spread, Watila began creating bouquets and floral arrangements, catering to small events and weddings, all from her home.

Then, she began buying from more flower growers, but soon she realised that, “as clientele grew it was difficult to manage from home, and the obvious answer came in the form of opening of a physical outlet”.

So, she took permission from her partner in the joint enterprise to open an outlet with the sole aim of marketing the products of local floriculturists.

That’s how Naro Ki, one of the first flower stores in the state that deals with both dried and fresh flowers, was born. She named her store Naro Ki as she wanted a name that people can immediately connect with flowers and also to add a local touch to it.

Watila’s petal-powered entrepreneurial journey

Quitting govt. job the best decision made

Looking back, Watila said that quitting government job was “the best decision I had made in my life! No regrets at all,” while admitting that she was lucky to have “survived the initial blows”.

“Government jobs are not for everyone. Government ‘servants’ are meant to serve people but in limited areas. And they have a certain set of protocol, whereas an entrepreneur is independent and we are our own bosses and can control our work and life,” she opined.

She went on to say that entrepreneurs control their own business operations, which gives them motivation to work hard and ensure that their businesses succeed, and also grasp the real meaning of ‘job satisfaction’ when their ideas materialise.

“We also create employment opportunities for ourselves and others, which further help reduce unemployment rate and improve overall economic wellbeing,” she added.

Watila’s petal-powered entrepreneurial journey

Challenges Naro Ki initially faced

The florist revealed that her initial hurdles included competition from cheap artificial flowers flooding the market and finding the right people to work with.

The store did not do well for almost a year, and she almost gave up. However, she started an advertising strategy of gifting floral arrangements and bouquets to acquaintances on occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, housewarmings, and during times of illness.

Gradually, this approach gained traction, and people started buying fresh flowers and floral arrangement for all occasions.

Preparing and taking orders

“We try to source our flowers locally as much as possible, since Naro Ki was born to bridge the gap of our local growers’ produce to the market, but during the peak season (Feb. to Sept.) when the local produce cannot meet the market demand, we source from Bangalore, Ooty, West Bengal, Sikkim, Mao and Meghalaya,” she disclosed.

She said that once they get the consignments, they dress the flowers which include cleaning the leaves, assessing damages, cutting the stems, hydrating them and arranging them on the shelf for sale.

At present, Watila has three employees in Dimapur outlet and two in Kohima outlet of Naro Ki.

On any regular day, they end up making around 20 bouquets on an average and on special occasions, they receive orders in terms of few hundred.

Besides local clients, Naro Ki also gets orders from outside the state and abroad.

Watila’s petal-powered entrepreneurial journey

Balancing work and personal life

During the initial period, the florist said she had to ‘give 200% to make it work,’ leaving little room for personal life. But now, she can adjust her working hours and make schedules to accommodate time for friends and family.

“Also, I try not to entertain any order after 8:00 pm unless it is a state of emergency,” she said, adding that her stores are open from Monday to Saturday.

“I wish to continue to peddle in petals, adding myriad hues and fragrance to the dreams and memories of the people I work with and serve,” she said.

She also revealed that she is working to add a new service under Naro Ki and another portfolio, which she hopes will be done in few months’ time.

By Livine Khrozhoh Updated: Apr 02, 2024 11:03:52 pm
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