Phool.co co-founders Ankit Agarwal and Prateek Kumar
India’s first biomaterial startup, and fragrance-focussed wellness brand Phool.co, has raised $8 million (Rs60.5 crore) in a Series A round from Sixth Sense Ventures, a consumer-centric venture fund. The round also saw participation from existing investors Alia Bhatt and IAN fund.
Founded in 2017 by engineering graduates Ankit Agarwal and Prateek Kumar, Phool.co is a flower recycling technology startup. It uses floral waste—collected from dumping temple waste in rivers—to make patented organic fertiliser and charcoal-free luxury incense products.
The Kanpur-based startup currently accumulates floral waste from three Indian cities, which includes one of the biggest temples (Kashi Vishwanath), averting 13 tonnes of waste flowers and toxic chemicals from reaching into the river every day. Self-help women groups handcraft the waste into patented charcoal free incense sticks and essential oils through the ‘flower cycling’ technology.
Phool.co tapped the centuries-old incense industry by bringing innovation and using a digital-first approach. It is India’s first direct-to-consumer wellness brand to obtain the coveted Fair for Life-Fairtrade, and Ecocert Organic & Natural certifications. Apart from this, the IIT-backed startup has also invented Fleather—‘leather made from flowers’. With this commercially viable, vegan alternative to animal leather, the startup aims to disrupt the $550 billion global leather goods industry and make animal leather obsolete.
“In a short time, our modest efforts have managed to create a dent in the Indian fragrance industry. Phool as a brand today is synonymous with luxury fragrance products on account of our unwavering focus on superior product experience, and honest ingredients. We plan to transform the global home fragrance market, and build a distinct brand with our product range,” says Ankit Agarwal, founder of Phool.co.
With this fundraise, Phool plans to scale operations, explore the untapped domestic and global growth opportunities, and build India’s largest fragrance brand. It also aims to rapidly scale its R&D efforts to make animal leather outworn with Fleather, a vegan alternative to animal leather
A clear shift to natural and sustainable alternatives is creating a strong demand for Phool’s products, plus the under-penetrated home fragrances industry presents a large, white space to be exploited, explains Nikhil Vohra, founder and CEO of Sixth Sense Ventures. “The brand’s premium and international appeal can be easily leveraged across the globe, presenting a huge untapped opportunity for Phool's certified, Indian-origin products. Its moonshot, Fleather, is a game-changing innovation, and presents a massive opportunity.”
Earlier in a pre-Series A round, the company had raised $2.5 million (Rs19 crore) from IAN Fund, Tata’s Social Alpha (FISE), Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, IIT-Kanpur and Alia Bhatt. Targeting white spaces in the unorganised, unbranded fragrance market in India, Phool has grown 130 percent year-over-year and built the untapped online incense category.
Bhatt, an actor, who is known for her environmental initiatives
, says, “Phool incense is now my chosen gift for the most special occasions. The natural fragrances and packaging are exquisite. Less chemical and floral waste mean cleaner rivers, so these products are also a gift to our planet. I believe Phool will be an important global aromatherapy story to emerge from India. And the company’s plant-based leather will also be a more humane choice for the world’s top luxury brands. As a Phool customer and as an investor, I’m putting my money where my belief is.”