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How this 32-year-old college dropout set up a Rs 4-crore marigold nursery business

After initial losses, West Bengal’s farmer Arup Kumar Ghosh learned about producing high-quality marigold seeds in Thailand. Passionate about flower farming, he now sells 1200kg of marigold seeds and 2.5 crore saplings across India every season

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Rashmi Pratap
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Arup Kumar Ghosh at his marigold farm in Purba Medinipur, West Bengal

Growing up in Kolaghat, one of the largest producers of flowers in West Bengal, Arup Kumar Ghosh was no stranger to floriculture. The Kolaghat flower market in the Purba Medinipur district supplies flowers to wholesalers and retailers across India.

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Yet, Arup noted that farmers had not kept pace with the newer varieties of flowers and lacked awareness about improving farming methods. In 2010, after completing the second year of his graduation in commerce, he decided to drop out. “I quit my studies after the second year. Most people study to get a job, but I had no interest in 9 to 5 routine work,” says Arup, now 32.

Though his family cultivates paddy on their own land, Arup had observed that traditional farming is not very profitable and did not leave enough for the grower and his family after a lot of hard work. 

So he zeroed in on floriculture -- cultivating and propagating flowers and ornamental plants for commercial purposes. India’s floriculture market was valued at Rs 23,170 crore in 2022 and is expected to reach Rs 46,000 crore by 2028 due to the high demand for flowers and potted plants, as per market research firm IMARC.  

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Also Read: Building contractor turns agri-entrepreneur, earns Rs2 lakh per month from 9,000 sq ft organic nursery

tennis ball marigold at arup ghosh farm
Tennis Ball Marigold variety at Arup Kuamr Ghosh's farm. Pic: Courtesy Arup Kumar Ghosh

From Kolaghat to Hyderabad and back

Having observed the local flower business closely, Arup decided to visit Hyderabad’s Gudimalkapur Flower Market, which procures genda ladi (marigold strings), tube roses and other flowers from Kolaghat. In Hyderabad, he took up a job at one of the shops to understand the flower business better. 

“I worked at the shop for Rs3500 per month. While the salary was low, it was a good learning opportunity,” says Arup. 

“When I was coming back after three months, the owner offered me a monthly salary of Rs60,000 but I wanted to return home,” adds the flower farmer. Hyderabad gave Arup exposure to the quality and type of flowers which fetched good money. 

Also Read: Lavender cultivation pushes up J&K farmers’ incomes 4 to 5 times

He went back to Kolaghat and began to pack and sell marigold strings and gladiolus to flower shops in other cities. Marigold flowers are in demand throughout the year as it is extensively used during social and religious occasions. “I would purchase marigold strings at Rs120 per piece and sell at Rs140 to Rs150, making a profit of Rs2,000 to Rs3,000 on 100 strings.

While selling the marigold strings, flower farming bug bit him and he also took one bigha (0.25 acre) of land on lease. 

“In 2011, I bought local marigold saplings and planted them on the land and followed the local farming methods. The resulting flowers were small and I suffered a loss. But this was made up by the flower-selling business,” he recollects.

The farmer at his farm
Work in progress at Arup Kumar Ghosh's farm. Pic: Courtesy Arup Kumar Ghosh

Bringing Thailand’s Tennis Ball Marigold to India

In 2011-end, he decided to visit Thailand, which is home to one of the biggest flower markets in the world – the Bangkok Blossom Market. There, he saw high-quality flowers including the Tennis Ball Marigold variety, which is a dense flower well suited for long-distance shipping as it doesn’t crush easily. The yields are high and there is a big market for this variety. 

Also Read: How this Punjab farmer became a flower millionaire

“I asked one of the flower sellers about the seeds and how they were procured from the flowers. He took me to a farmer, who directed me to a local nursery. I came back after the five-day trip and then again went to that country,” he says.

During the next three months in Thailand, Arup learned how to prepare seeds of the Tennis Ball Marigold variety. 

“I also brought 25 grams seeds of each marigold variety – yellow and orange – and started marigold farming on the one bigha land I had leased,” he says.

13 acre farm of arup kumar ghosh
Arup Kumar Ghosh now cultivates marigold over 13 acres of land. Pic: Courtesy Arup Kumar Ghosh

In 2012, Arup harvested a good amount of marigold flowers and sold them in the Kolaghat market at Rs100 per kg while the local variety fetched Rs90 per kg. “The local farmers began asking me for plants. Then I expanded to six bigha (1.5 acres) and started making saplings and seeds for others,” he says.

The floriculture business

As the word spread about Thai marigolds growing in Kolaghat, people started approaching him to buy seeds as well as saplings. Now he has expanded cultivation to 13 acres of leased land.

Arup sells 1200 kg of marigold seeds annually at Rs25,000 per kg (Rs 3 crore in revenues). He also sells around 2.5 crore marigold saplings at 40 paise per piece annually, earning Rs 1 crore.

The saplings are ready for sale around October. “The plants are sold across India till mid-February. The maximum sales come from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan (Pushkar and Ajmer),” says Arup, adding that people have to place orders in advance. Otherwise, he cannot meet the growing demand.

Also Read: Engineer leaves high paying job at Microsoft for Gerbera farming; creates jobs in his village

He adds that marigold seeds are also sold out by January or early February every year. Flowers are dried and their base is split open to collect the seeds, which resemble black and brown threads. These seeds are air-dried and are then ready for sale. “One marigold flower gives around ten seeds,” Arup points out.

Saplings and seeds
Marigold saplings and seeds. Pic: Courtesy Arup Kumar Ghosh

He employs 70 workers on his farm who help in the preparation of saplings and seeds and also in harvesting and packaging of flowers. They are involved in every stage of flower cultivation and seed production. 

“Per acre operating costs are around Rs3 lakh a year (Rs 39 lakh for 13 acres),” he points out. It includes labour charges and land rent.  

He also cultivates marigolds for sale in markets across India. “I have 13 shops in all in Kolaghat and Howrah. From there, we not only supply flowers to the rest of the country but also procure flowers like rose, gladioli and other varieties from various cities for sale in West Bengal,” he says.

These shops are managed by 60 locals who need financial support to run their families. “I take a nominal share from the monthly sales and allow the staff to keep the rest of the money. It is heartening for me that they are able to look after their families well and educate their children using this income,” the young agri entrepreneur says.

For him, the biggest success is not having built a Rs4-crore business at the age of 32. “What gives me happiness is the ability to help others by employing them at higher-than-market wages on my farm and in the shops,” he adds.

(Rashmi Pratap is a Mumbai-based journalist specialising in business, financial and socio-economic reporting)

Also Read: Flowers turn into a big blooming business in Kashmir

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