R Ramdev And His Unique Trees
March 10, 2013 Leave a comment
Born in the Iberian Peninsula some 800 years ago – when Muslim caliphs still ruled large parts of Spain – the hoary olive trees on the left have traveled thousands of kilometres to Hyderabad,the city of Nizams, where they wait to be bought by some nabob.
The olives, and many other exotic trees that share space at a 250-acre facility on the outskirts of Hyderabad, have been imported by Unique Trees – the biggest name in the business and the first to get an import licence from the agriculture ministry in 2011.The client list of Unique, which sells these imported trees for prices ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 12 lakh each, looks like a roll-call of the rich and famous, and includes Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, tourism minister and veteran actor Chiranjeevi, and Telugu superstar Junior NTR. Most celebrities buy these trees, whose ages vary from 10 years to 800 years, to beautify their homes and are not averse to spending some big bucks. Back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that many of them allocate as much as 10% of their home-building budget for landscaping.
“The focus is mostly on importing tough and hardy trees that are well-suited for Indian climatic conditions and require no extra care after they overcome the initial shock of transportation,” says R Ramdev, the founder of Unique Trees. “We offer only those trees that survive and thrive in our climate and all they need is normal, regular care a tree requires in a garden.”
Incorporated in 2011, Unique Trees reported sales of Rs 8.5 crore last fiscal and hopes to close the current fiscal with over 12 crore in revenues. The inventory of imported trees at its nursery in Hyderabad is valued at over Rs 30 crore.
Specialised chemicals are injected into the trees after they are uprooted to turn them dormant. They are then carefully packed into containers in which the temperature is set at about eight degrees Celsius. Once the trees reach Hyderabad, the temperature is raised back to normal in a phased manner. At the facility, the trees are quarantined and checked for adaptation and acclimatisation. About one in five dies during relocation.
Unique Trees has tied up with agencies in the US, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Mexico, among other countries, to import the trees. The range on offer includes topiary trees of the ficus family from East Asia, some rare varieties from Australia and Madagascar, palm trees from various countries, as well as aged olive trees from Southern Europe.
According to ,Gangadhar, personal assistant to actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi, the star was impressed when he saw the trees at a stall set up by Unique at Hyderabad airport.He wanted to get some varieties for landscaping at his building in Jubilee Hills in Hyderabad. So his people bought half-a-dozen ‘Lucky Ficus’.
According to Ramdev , it usually takes a week to complete the process of soil preparation and planting at his client’s landscaping location for a tree that is available at his nursery. Otherwise, it could take two to four months to import, quarantine and then landscape.
Apart from celebrity homes, there is also demand from airports and hotels for these trees.Clients include the GVK Group who bought a lot of trees from Unique for the Mumbai International Airport and Marriot Hotel that bought trees for its Chennai hotel.
Buoyed by the response, Ramdev is preparing to double the size of his nursery to 500 acres, and hopes to expand it further to some 1,000 acres over the next five years. Ramdev, who has spent over Rs 25 crore so far on his business of imported trees, estimates the expansion will cost another Rs 20 crore. He hopes to fund the expansion largely through internal accruals.
A first-generation entrepreneur, Ramdev started out with Unique Inflatables, set up in 1984, which produced larger-than-life cold air inflatable replicas of products, brands and logos. While Unique Inflatables has grown to nearly 100 crore in annual sales, Ramdev now owns businesses with cumulative assets of over Rs 500 crore.
He also plans to set up a large garden within Hyderabad city limits that will be a one-stop shop for all garden-related products and services.