2001 was a year of immense soul searching. Ruf&Tuf, my denim manufacturing business was shutting down but in the back of my mind, my main thought process was around feeding animals. Yes, we entrepreneurs need to lose everything to think of values that will sustain beyond our lives. A soul-searching exercise led me to Bangkok on a vacation where the idea of Soulflower was born. The primary idea was “How can nature fund nature?” Nature to me is a part of my DNA. Animals, flora, fauna, the sunrise, the moon, the art of this universe is my main driving force. I guess never underestimate the fact that nature is a force that builds us, feeds us after giving us birth. And to nature we return. However, nature is the only thing constant. At least until the end of the universe!
So, just as a flower blooms, our idea of a business that will sustain mother nature was born when we went searching for apparel and found flowers in the Pratunam area of Bangkok. That’s the thing about nature, you fall in love madly with every hue, every feel and every feeling it gives you. I decided to buy the whole shop.
That evening, the shopkeeper visited my hotel and our talks led to yours truly buying the flower shop, the flower factory and earned me the undying loyalty of the shopkeeper. In one month’s time, 60,000 flowers were ready to be shipped to India! Talk about transporting nature from one beautiful habitat to another.
While the business of selling nature had begun, we were truly looking for a medium of spreading happiness. Soulflower, as a one word, is a flower that touches somebody’s soul. This name symbolizes thoughtfulness, giving back more compassion and gentleness. The monies from this venture has fed more than three thousand animals all across Mumbai and Bangkok. As we thought more and more about Mother Nature, she gave us more ideas for product categories and more success in developing our business to give back to her! Today we have 12 product categories and 300 SKUs. Our work is far from done. We started from our purpose of nature, happiness and compassion and we are working towards our dream of spreading kindness. Soulflower needs to reach every human being’s life creating a moment of kindness.
Kindness is not limited to taking care of Mother Nature. Kindness runs in the veins of a good entrepreneur. Kindness has to be internalized, only then it becomes part of your company’s culture.
We believe that only happy and kind people can bring out happy products and spread happiness within the lives of our customers. However happiness is transient. We believe our products bring you that happiness because it is spreading a thought attached to some happy memory of yours. How do we achieve this? Its easy to package nice aroma in a nice bottle but what makes all the difference is the experience that we provide to both our customers – internal and external.
Lets start with internal customers – our employees:
- Always hand hold a human being so that they don’t fall back
- Do not make an employee feel guilty unless it is code red
- Give your employees the chance to grow in their subconscious mind by nourishing their dreams
- Give your employee a taste of kindness so they can feel the power of it and transform their work to suit your clients
- Always welcome back employees who want to revive relationships with your company.
- Be compassionate to nature, animals, people and weave that into your DNA
Kindness towards your external customers is easier said than done. While we have many loyal customers, what we believe is that we are an extension of their happy places. A thoughtful call to our customers makes them feel integrated with our brand. We invited many of our loyal customers to give us testimonials and each and every one of them connected Soulflower to happiness. Not just our product but the name of our brand brought smiles on their faces for those few seconds.
We cater to 1000 towns in India and we wish all our customers on their birthdays. Our Gift a Smile program allows customers to gift small little useful things to underprivileged children. So far, there has not been one customer who declined this program.
We train our call center staff with a few values which I would like to share here:
- Trust the customer, no need to doubt them when they give negative feedback
- All calls need to be full of respect and an attitude of help
- Speak to your customers about what makes them happy and wish them a happy journey on their paths
- Be thoughtful in your approach to their problem as much as possible
- Give their children a reason to smile while shopping
- Send us a note addressed to one child who you would like to give a gift of happiness and we will send a gift on your behalf for no cost.
Values make a company and drives the business either upward or straight into the ground. However weaving a value into your professional tradition and thread is a continuous process. You have to live by it in every moment of your waking life. You have to infuse it into the minds of people you meet just like we infuse aroma into the lives of our customers.
Your values are not something you can forget as your business grows. It’s what grows your business.
We treat our customers and associates as part of the family and we are always ready to help. Our customer is our Soulflower. That’s who I am. That’s what nature is about to me. That’s how nature is with us. And it is perhaps the biggest lesson to learn from Mother Nature only if you give it a listening ear!