How this Startup is making your love for plants & Urnabne lifestyle come together

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Alferd Austin, an English poet had correctly said, “The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with the nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” Growing plants give a joy in everybody’s life as it breaks the monotony from busy, urban lifestyle. It allows ones to spend their quality time with their ownself.

Entrepreneur India

But many folks who love gardening are unable to pursue their hobby due to a hectic schedule. They do not know how to take care of their home gardens, plants and more important it is difficult for them to monitor their gardens when they are away from their home.

To cater to this problem, the team of young entrepreneurs from National Institute of Design have designed a smart pot and a mobile app, known as Greenopia by using which you can water your plants from anywhere in the world with just a click on your mobile phone. So now forget the familiar story where your plants wilted away from lack of water or sunlight while you were away from your home. With the help of this smart pot and mobile app, you can relive your hobby even if you are away from your home.

Founded by Mani HK and Mayukhini Pande, Greenopia is a smart pot which have inbuilt sensors that detect exactly what is the status of your plant - has it got enough water, sunlight; is the soil too acidic etc. Based on this real-time data, the Greenopia mobile app offers you suggestions about what you should do to keep your plants healthy.

Image: Mani HK and Mayukhini Pandey, Founders, Greenopia

The mobile app is designed to give proactive information about the specific needs of your plant throughout its life cycle. It also provides a platform where you can connect with other users in the Greenopia community to share and learn from their experiences and making Greenopia a one-stop-ecosystem for all your growing needs.

Elaborating the same Mani HK, Co-founder, Greenopia said, “It has four major components- a self-watering planter which is designed based on how plants naturally take in water from the ground. So there is a water chamber from which plants keep drinking as much water as they need. A dipstick which senses how much is the soil moisture and the sunlight received by the plant. It communicates this through wifi to the greenopia cloud Greenopia cloud is where plant-care intelligence is stored. This is where data coming from your plants is analysed and recommendations are sent to your mobile app. The mobile app is where you can “hear” your plants, what they need, what you should do to keep them happy, what can you expect from them etc."

Greenopia is not just a product. It is also an ‘Internet of Gardens’ that learns. Every time you grow something in a smart pot, you create data. So whenever you grow something with Greenopia, you also participate in creating the first ever crowdsourced, contextual, real-time library of plant data, at no extra effort.

Entrepreneur India interacted with Mani to know more about Greenopia, challenges they faced while establishing it and their future expansion plans for it.

Could you take us back to the conceptualization phase of Greenopia? 

Greenopia conceptualized as a response to an international design challenge – MTS Innovatsii, the brief of which was to design something that enhances the quality of life in cities. We were raised in small towns and one of the things we missed about them when we moved to cities was gardens. When we ourselves tried growing plants we failed, for various lifestyle reasons. That was the birth of Greenopia. From then, it went through a series of iterations to reach its current form.

What was your seed capital? What challenges have you faced during the initial days?

We crowdfunded in May’15 and raised around Rs 9 Lakhs. Both crowdfunding and IOT are relatively new to India so we had to explain both things to people when we were raising money. We had to make sure that we get these concepts across within their attention spans! That was challenging. We continuously improvised on our articulation and representation and used different communication strategies with different communities - gardening aficionados, wellness conscious, tech enthusiasts.

Post crowdfunding, the main challenge has been making a hardware product within very tight budget and time constraints. Fortunately, Bangalore has a network of both technology (especially IOT) and gardening enthusiasts.

What is the technology behind this kit?

The main technology behind the kit is Internet of Things. When we thought of plant care in a busy urban lifestyle, two things were a given - something that decodes your plant’s health for you - which is where sensors come in. And something which you can access from remote locations like a work-tour - which is where connectivity came in. So IOT was a natural choice.

What is the cost of one kit?

The starting denomination against which we rewarded a single unit of Greenopia kit was Rs 5000 for crowdfunding. The market price of the same would come down once there is scale, which was not the case with crowdfunding.

What is distinguishing or the unique feature of Greenopia?

Many smart plant care products give plant care a techie, geeky feel. At Greenopia, we are very particular that we retain the beauty and joy of plant care and not turn it into something that looks like a blood test report of your plant. We are completely design-thinking driven and put a lot of effort into understanding how people connect to plants and where they fail. We are first matchmakers between people and their plants and then an IOT product.

What is your revenue and business model?

Right now we are working on pre-orders. Our next step would be to partner with Green stores and suppliers of plant consumables (seeds, potting mix, nutrients) for the Greenopia kit to create a complete solution. The revenue would be from the sale of the hardware, commission on consumables and in-app purchases.

How has been traction of customers so far?

Given that we managed to reach 113 percent of our crowdfunding target in an environment where crowdfunding is a novel concept, the traction has been very encouraging. We are also getting organic enquiries from people around the world. But that comes with logistical challenges and our focus for the next few months is going to be in cities where we have found denser communities of enthusiasts, like Bangalore and Mumbai.

Currently, where is your presence. What are plans to expand your reach? Which all cities you are targeting at?

Our backers are from all over India and 20 percent are from outside of India. Most of them are from Bangalore and Mumbai. We’d like to start with expanding in these two cities first, once our product goes through some more rounds of refinement from the feedback of the beta version, we plan to take Greenopia to all major Asian cities, where green consciousness is on the rise. A kids version of Greenopia is also in the pipeline.