Black Tulip Flowers is one of the largest growers and exporter of fresh-cut flowers from Kenya. Black tulips have their farms at various locations in Kenya and employ thousands of people. They have their presence in all verticals of floriculture business from farms, wholesale, retail florist shops, and modernized online flower delivery business. Their operations are spread in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Doha, Muscat, Malaysia, India, and Ethiopia. Mr. Mohan Choudhery CEO of Black Tulips discusses the changing landscape of the floriculture industry and the rocky path to recovery ahead.
By Shabistan Khan
In the middle: Mr. Mohan Choudhery
“March 2020 is the worst month in the history of floriculture, we were ready with our full production for the U.K. and Arabic Mother’s Day. The demand for holiday flowers is always high during this time and we plan it a month in advance so we could tackle the demand for the flowers on that day. This year all has changed during this time as countries went under lockdown and international flights got canceled and the world was on standstill due to the spread of COVID-19. We have to discards millions of stems at farms, it was disheartening. We acted quickly to the situation and take action to safeguard the people who work with us and business at large. We have made some critical decisions of limiting the number of the workforce at farms, cutting back plants to reduce the production of flowers as there were no markets for it. We try to control costs as much as possible to manage the day to day operations” says Mr. Mohan.
“In the last week of April we have seen some momentum for the mothers’ day flowers, but during that time to get space to ship the flowers was the biggest challenge. Very few flights were operating and freight rates were very high, more than double for some destinations this damaged the revenues”, added Mr. Mohan.
“Covid-19 has changed the floriculture landscape. The way we operate, function, and communicate. Its a labour-intensive industry and due to social distance norms, we have to minimize the number of workers at the farms. we work on the ways to improve our efficiency. Online meetings with the teams and other stakeholders are the norm now. We still have challenges, on the production, quality, and airfreight fronts. Due to bad weather conditions, flower quality has suffered, our decision to cut back the flowers backfired, as there is a huge demand for rose and chrysanthemums, and other flowers but we don’t have a production to match the current demand. We are expecting production to come to a normal in 2 to 3 weeks.” Says Mr. Mohan on the current scenario.
On what we learned from the COVID-19 crisis Mr. Mohan says,” The COVID has taught us many lessons. We should not take anything in life for granted. It teaches us the value of the things and appreciate what we have. It has given us time to reflect and analyze our business model and get a deep understanding of what is working for us and what is not working for us. We should not depend on a single market. We should have a diversified market for our product. Its also given us the opportunity and parameters to screen our clients, until now we have not received the payment from a few clients for the valentine shipments. We knew now which clients and market we should focus on and whom to give the priority”.
On how he sees the floriculture in near future Mr. Mohan said, “The floriculture industry depends on nature, in other words, we are dealing with uncertainties such as bad weather, fewer rainfalls, floods, and crop failures. But all these uncertainties do not stop us growing flowers. We farmers by nature are optimistic people. We believe in putting in 100 percent and going in with full force. With businesses re-opening and travel restrictions being lifted, in many countries, our orders are coming to normalcy. We are seeing some uptick. We are working closely with our clients, airlines, and other stakeholders. We are enhancing our efficiency, working on our holiday assortments and adding new varieties to offer our clients. We are optimistic and have faith that the industry will bounce back. The road to recovery might be slow but we will have a good times ahead”.
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Black Tulip Flowers