#Fathersday Special: Choosing the right successor is the most significant choice in a family business, says Vikaas Gutgutia of Ferns & Petals
The virtue of being a biological son is not a good reason for a son to become the next leader. He should be capable of leading an enterprise. Values, vision and character of the company are probably more important than understanding the individual mindsets of people.
Anushruti Singh June 21, 2020
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Family businesses constitute around 79 percent of national GDP of India annually. Our country has 108 family-owned businesses that are publicly-listed. This places it at the third spot in world behind China. Legacy business owner, Vikaas Gutgutia, Founder & MD, Ferns N Petals and his son gets candid with SME Futures and talk in detail about how to choose the right successor for your family business and challenges in adopting family business as a career path respectively.
Tell us something about your business, its legacy, crests and troughs of the journey, and your achievements so far.
I have always believed that successful execution of an idea separates dreamers from entrepreneurs. This is where Ferns N Petals capitalised. I established the floral business with an objective to provide world class facility and highest quality to customers along with providing them a wide choice of domestic and exotic flowers.
It all started twenty-five years back, while I was studying in Kolkata. I then helped my uncle in his flower business from where I developed an inclination and trading skills related to trading of flowers. I opened the first store of Ferns N Petals in the prime locality of Delhi in 1994. The air conditioned ambience and myriad varieties of flowers captivated the attention of customers from the elite section of society.
After getting an excellent response, I expanded it into other regions of Delhi. There was no looking back then and the journey of delivering happiness gained momentum. Today, we lead the floral, gifting, and cakes industry with 386 outlets in more than 120 cities pan-India and across the world. Ferns N Petals commands one-third of the organised flower market in India and we are the largest chain of wedding venues in Delhi NCR.
What do you think you could accomplish quickly back in your times and do you foresee now that these could be achieved by your son or daughter?
I have always believed fearlessness is a virtue and one could achieve anything if he or she is confident and fearless. When I embarked on my journey, there were thorns and hurdles. But, I chose to focus on providing best-in-class flowers to my customers. For doing this, I had to overcome several operational challenges.
The biggest one was logistical constraints involved in delivering fresh flowers in hot weather and managing small entrepreneurs of the franchise stores of our company. I think my son Udyat understands the intricacies of business in a better way. He is passionate about his work that keeps him inclined towards achieving the growth and overcoming any challenge that comes in the way.
How did you manage the transition of leadership while passing on the baton of your business to your son?
Every company is like a new machine. Each part of that mechanism is different and so are the people working in it. Udyat’s task during the initial days was to grasp mechanism and functionality of the business and to understand our focus points. This helped him to analyse and come up with his own set of questions. I took over his queries and doubts from there. This helped him to comprehend the complete ecosystem of business and to work on ground gradually.
How did you communicate vision, values, and culture of your business to your son?
I personally feel that just the virtue of being a biological son is not a good reason for a son to become the next leader. He should be capable of leading an enterprise. Values, vision and character of the company are probably more important than understanding the individual mindsets of people. My son understands our business deeply and his determination to grow along with business inspires the whole team.
What will be your tips to business owners in order to make family businesses successful?
In a family business, choosing the right successor is the most significant choice. There will be multiple successors but you should be able to choose the right one to lead your business. If a biological successor is not worthy, you should look for an outsider who can take the company to another level. Hence, the decision should be based on the capability of an individual. He or she can be within the family or an outsider.
The Protégé : Udyat Gutgutia, Strategic Alliances, Ferns N Petals
How did you get involved in operations of Ferns N Petals?
One of my earliest memories is playing handball with my father and asking him about the highlights of his day. The complexity and depth of his business day never failed to surprise me. I think this was the beginning of an inclination towards the business operations of Ferns N Petals. This manifested in my choice of commerce as an elective course in school and management for my bachelors’ programme in London. While interning at Ferns N Petals during my breaks from college, I gained some insights of our business. My actual joining was in late 2018 for the e-commerce division of our organisation.
Do you think your diverse interests influence how you run the company today?
The e-commerce aspect of the business has always appealed to me since I have grown up ordering products online. To be on the other side of that transaction has been a very fascinating journey. With an interest in innovative gifts, I started my career by introducing Experience Gifting. After spending a few months in building up that category, I am now working in the plants division trying to leverage the huge opportunity that exists for it in the market today.
What have you inherited from your father who has ruled the business for decades and how smooth was your transition?
Transitioning from a university to a family-led business has its advantages and challenges. There’s definitely a cushioning that exists for you since you are entering a familiar set-up. Further, there is a degree of freedom as you can choose the career path that you have envisioned for yourself. But, these benefits have their disadvantages too. I try to spend my time in trying to capitalise advantages. Dad’s guidance has been always effective in negotiating this transition.
How do you manage challenges of running your family business?
Organisation is of the utmost importance. It can be overwhelming sometimes to hear thousands of opinions and suggestions. Hence, it becomes essential to compartmentalise and focus on the task at hand. Secondly, discipline should always be a priority for an entrant in a family business. This should be inculcated every time even while knowing that you have the comfort of taking things a little casually. Lastly, I think it is imperative to remain humble. One should always value the position and privilege that he or she is born with.
Describe the difference in your father as a boss and as parent?
Without a doubt, my biggest learning from my father has been his commitment to work hard without compromising on empathy. It is a delicate and a difficult balance, but when achieved can yield incredible results. I think my father’s life has been a testament to the unique benefits of this skill.
Intimate exposure to this has helped me to grow as a person and I hope that it seeps into my professional life too. In addition to this, his capacity to formulate the vision and see the bigger picture of everything has acted a guiding light for entire team of Ferns N Petals. I continue to learn each day and hope to become capable of filling his shoes that increase in size constantly.