Picture : Mr. G Thirumurugan, Managing Director, Petal Florist Sdn. Bhd
What first drew us to Mr. Thirumurugan was his description of the floral industry – “The Wild Bunch Industry”. A die-hard entrepreneur at heart, Thiru helps people define what true entrepreneurship is and what it takes to be a leader and helps people dispel the myths of businesses.
We are grateful for his valuable time as he shared his successes to inspire other young entrepreneurs around Malaysia.
Born in Klang, raised in Dengkil and schooled in Puchong, Thiru got to taste the hardship when he started to help his family make ends meet by working on their little farm. “Just go out and do that; nothing comes without hard work and sacrifice.”, he was told.
The Wild Bunch Industry
Malaysia focuses production primarily on two main floral product groups: temperate flowers (particularly chrysanthemums) grown in the highlands areas of the country and exotics like orchids that thrive in the hot, humid lowlands.
The floral industry is one of the higher industries in many developing and underdeveloped countries. Floriculture as an industry began in the late 19th century in the Malaysia, where flowers were grown on a large scale on the vast estates. The present day floral industry is a dynamic, global, fast-growing industry, which has achieved significant growth rates during the past few decades. In the 1950s, the nation flower trade was less than RM 20 million. By 2000, it had grown to appropriately RM380 million.
In recent years, the floral industry has grown at six percent annually. It has been estimated that at least 75,000 florists and floral suppliers are involved in the floriculture industry that contributed RM 600 million to the economy in 2016. Orchids contributed 40 percent of total value of production, followed by temperate cut flowers (33 percent) and ornamental plants (27 percent).
|33 %||Cut Flowers|
|27 %||Ornamental plants|
|RM 600 million||Economic contribution in 2016|
|A Glance at Malaysian Floriculture Industry|
Floral exports are not a major contributor to the Malaysian economy, but the rapid growth rate exceeds that seen for most other major commodities in recent years. This has caught the eye of policy makers who identified cut flowers as a priority crop group for the country, according to an FAO report.
The floral industry essentially consists of three major components: the growers, who cultivate the flowers, the wholesalers, who is the middleman, and the retailers, who sell you the flowers at the local flower shop. These roles are becoming quite intermingled with recent trends more towards eliminating the intermediaries, the wholesalers so that the flowers are made available at considerably lower prices.
Although most of the products are the bestselling flowers such as roses, tulips, sunflowers, carnations, iris, daisies, orchids, lilacs and lilies, many growers are starting to explore hybrids and other indigenous crops.
In general, the area of cultivation of cut flowers in Malaysia is determined by the climate and topography of the land. For instance, highlands such as the Cameron Highlands are the major growing areas of temperate flowers. Other cut flowers adapt better to the hot humid conditions in the lowlands with orchids constituting the major share of the production.
Malaysia has the advantage of developing and advancing its floriculture industry which could generate decent income to producers and traders and contribute to the national income. Floriculture production value recorded an increase of 23.3%; from RM 417 million to almost RM 514 million from 2011 to 2015 – MARDI
When flowers are ordered from a wholesaler or a grower, they take various routes to the buyer, depending on the flower type, the area where they are grown, and how they will be sold. Some floriculturists cut and pack flowers right at the nurseries and send them directly to the buyer through mail. Some flowers are sent to a packing company that grades them and organizes them into bunches to deliver through
Some flowers are sent to a packing company that grades them and organizes them into bunches to deliver through mail or sends directly to supermarkets or flower shops. Some growers grade and sleeve the flowers themselves before selling them to wholesale markets. The wholesalers then sell the flowers to florists who prime and arrange the flowers for their customers. If you know where to go, you can buy flowers at wholesalers even if you aren’t a florist.
What Keeps Thiru Motivated?
For Mr. Thirumurugan, mentoring and learning means a lot, he learned from everybody and is always learning.
“Some of the things that have really helped me are that I always seek help. I know I am not perfect so I am shameless about asking for help. And I don’t take myself seriously. We are going to die and go – the question is what are you holding on to?”, he says.
“Forget all your limitations, this is all I can do. Tell your own mind to shut up! We are so scared if we have everything – the talent, the will, so we use that as an excuse and sometimes become lazy.”
Listen to him talk:
“I don’t believe you have to leave something meaningful for generations to remember you. You have one life to live. I haven’t planned out my life and I think that’s why I’ve been so successful. I believe that if you plan your life completely you’re not letting your mind think about other stuff going on around you. I learned and faced a lot, once you pick up something you have to focus on it. Otherwise, you will have a personality crisis because you are trying to do so many things. Something I’ve believed is that we are more scared of our success than of our failure. Forget all your limitations, this is all I can do. Tell your own mind to shut up! We are so scared if we have everything – the talent, the will, so we use that as an excuse and sometimes become lazy. I want to be successful and create a difference. It is not about me, it’s about the jobs I generate and the jobs I can help with.”
Otherwise, you will have a personality crisis because you are trying to do so many things. Something I’ve believed is that we are more scared of our success than of our failure. Forget all your limitations, this is all I can do. Tell your own mind to shut up! We are so scared if we have everything – the talent, the will, so we use that as an excuse and sometimes become lazy. I want to be successful and create a difference. It is not about me, it’s about the jobs I generate and the jobs I can help with.”
His vision for the Malaysian Indian business scene is summed up as follows:-
“First, to do the stuff you want to do, but you have to deliver value and do it consistently, and second, you should be able to have a clarity of thought. A true entrepreneur can explain what they do in any language that his stakeholders need to understand it. You should be able to explain it to yourself and have clarity.”
“From an Indian context, we need more Indian entrepreneurs. It is important not only for economic well-being, and that it makes business sense, but also from a societal perspective. If children have a business family, they treat their families very differently, with a lot of respect.”
“It’s better when a Malaysian born Indian can be a role model for their community. It changes a person’s life forever and they have something to look forward to. We have a long way to go for economic empowerment in Malaysia, but it will create a whole generation of citizens who are more inclusive in their thoughts. Right now, we are behind on creating the generation that could be thinking differently forever, so this is very important to me that we are changing lives more and more in that way.”
Right now, we are behind on creating the generation that could be thinking differently forever, so this is very important to me that we are changing lives more and more in that way.”
Should you intend to open your own flower shop, you must enroll under the empowerment program that Thiru has started at Petal Florist Sdn Bhd. It is ideal that you start at an entry-level position and work your way up to the top so you know all the intricacies of running a flower business. He arranges to provide the necessary mentoring and guidance to ensure your success.
There are many different kinds of careers open in the flower industry. Among the entry-level occupations are:
- floral shop helpers, who perform various duties in a flower shop;
- delivery people, who deliver flowers right to the home of the customer;
- floral designers, who create floral arrangements for events such as weddings, birthdays or funerals;
- salespersons, who sell fresh cut flowers and other floral related goods at the shop
Mid-level occupations include:
- the assistant manager, who is responsible for coordinating sales, design, delivery and the office;
- the owner entrepreneur or manager who is in charge of merchandising, management and operations.
Business is Always a Bungee Jumping Challenge
Thiru describes his start-up:
“My brother was the one who triggered this Petal Floral idea since he has some working experience in the fresh flower industry. We wanted to get it started immediately, but I was scared off as it was a purely unknown business for myself.
We took the first step, but the next few steps become difficult, especially when we faced challenges to get continuous supply. As newbies, we are very judgmental, even of ourselves, we are self-critical and we tend to carry a lot of baggage.”
“Without much knowledge or information, I and my little brother started this business in Pusat Bandar Puchong. We were about to fail, because of inconsistent customers and limited knowledge but it didn’t take us long for us to find our niche.”
“We did some big hotel functions and weddings, we did fail there too but my interest pushed me to learn more. After a few attempts and lots of counseling, especially with friends, I identified a niche business model. Coupled with lots of learning from bad experiences, blessings from my family, friends, and partners, we rebranded and energized Petal Florist Sdn Bhd at Taman Tenaga, Puchong Jaya in 2012.
“Even the simple stuff like handling documentation, we had to seek external feedback – this made us see what is not good! I don’t know why we have put on a resolution to be perfect all the time. I remember Buddha’s quote ‘Look inside yourself and you will find all your answers…You are your own best motivator.
Listen to your mind……DREAM.’ At the end of the day, we are just human beings, with one life to live; I decided to reinvent the business model.”
Those inspiring words remain the foundation and building blocks for Petal Floral to venture further into the “The Wild Bunch Industry”’
Direct Answers to Probing Queries
Q: Who are your main consumers?
A: Malaysian Indians do have a lot of functions, we do business with them on daily basis, but almost 70% of our business is contributed by our Chinese and Malay customers. The main reason is the amount.
Q: Who will be your referral point for good supply?
A: It is still hard to find a good and better floral supplier, till now. After a long struggle and with the help and support of my childhood friend, Datuk T. Mohan, we do have 3 branches in central region now.
Q: What is your current direction and vision?
A: As I told earlier, we had identified our own niche and I always wanted to do something different. To get this started, we are planning around 15 wholesale shops around the nation thru our entrepreneurship program. We will be giving training for them to extend their knowledge and improve delivery; also, how to manage the finance as well. This will add the ertical business to the industry.
We are also planning to start a flower boutique, to concentrate more on floral arrangement and gift wrapping. Our wholesale network will serve the entire retail chain of between 80 to 150 kiosks located strategically and operated independently by budding entrepreneurs.
Q: What is the backbone of your organization?
A: Plans will remain as plans, if we have no one to take orders, execute it innovatively and achieve our objectives. After years of struggle, Petal Florist is currently being steered by 20 strong staff members. Our staff are our ambassadors, thanks to them for their support. The company has an ambitious plan to expand staff numbers to 200 in next 3 years to steer our overall Malaysian operations.
Q: What makes you proud?
A: My primary strengths are self-confidence and knowledge; my shortfall for the time being is lack in marketing activities. After a few years, most of my competitors learned to follow my patent initial business model. That make me proud but, ironically, finding another method will be really helpful for me.
Yellow Chrysanthemum is one of most in-demand flower, offered for prayers not only by the Hindus but also by the Buddhists. Scientifically, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has found that Chrysanthemum Indicum is able reduce indoor air pollution.