Shabistan Khan: ‘This girl can do it’

From a career in finance to follow her passion in floriculture, it has been a fascinating journey for Shabistan Khan – one that is about to take her in a new direction as co-founder of a new Kenya-based company, Flower Cliq.

Shabistan Khan’s life revolves around three principles: family, friends, and flowers. She has a passion for flowers and is naturally drawn to them. But it took her a few years to unravel the path to follow her passion and convert it into a profession.

It may sound insane, but she gave up her equity research career at the Bombay Stock Exchange to explore the beautiful world of flowers and everything which brings joy to our hearts and peace to people’s souls.

She loves all aspects of floriculture – be it the ‘breeders’, who are aiming to develop the best flowers, the ‘growers’, who aim to supply the best quality flowers, the ‘florists’ who create masterpieces and the ‘designers’ who transform any space with flowers into a dream and create a heaven to make people’s special day extra special.

Shabistan Khan: “Flower Cliq seeks to be more than just a middleman – we want to become a trusted advisor for our customers by providing them with valuable insights about Kenyan floriculture market trends and helping them source only the highest quality products at competitive prices.”

FloraCulture International: Tell us about Flower Cliq?

Shabistan Khan: “I am a co-founder, and a sleeping partner is involved too. Flower Cliq is a service provider specialising in helping clients access fresh-cut flowers from Kenyan farms. We are consolidators, consultants, marketers, and exporters of fresh-cut flowers from the region. Our team understands the local flower market and knows how to match customers’ requirements with the best Kenyan flower farms available.
Our technical assistance includes testing the freshness and quality of flowers, inspecting shipments for proper labelling and packaging, and ensuring order specifications have been met before goods are shipped. We provide quality assurance services and advise on the best flowers for a client’s particular needs – helping our clients save time searching for the perfect option.
We can also help floriculture companies throughout the supply chain – from farmers to florists – with their digital marketing. We’ll help them to build an online presence through content creation and run social media campaigns for them, for instance.
Ultimately, Flower Cliq seeks to be more than just a middleman – we want to become a trusted advisor for our customers by providing them with valuable insights about Kenyan floriculture market trends and helping them source only the highest quality products at competitive prices.”

What is it about working in this industry that you enjoy the most?

“It’s the opportunity to be creative and use my problem-solving skills to find solutions for customers’ orders. It’s also the challenge of coordinating shipments from multiple farms, which requires a lot of communication and coordination with teams throughout the supply chain. Additionally, I love the feeling of accomplishment when I can help customers overcome their supply chain hurdles, whether finding an alternative source or other options if there are shortfalls due to low production or last-minute quality rejections at the farm.
Once a shipment has successfully gone out, it’s a massive adrenalin rush. I absolutely love working in the flower industry. It is an incredibly unique and rewarding experience.”

Which countries/regions are your clients from?

“Mainly, the UK, Australia, Singapore, and the Middle East.”

What type of flowers do your customers order?

“Seventy per cent of our orders are roses, and 30 per cent are non-roses such as Chrysanthemums, carnations, Gypsophila, Delphiniums, and greens fillers.”

You were raised in Mumbai, but you’ve lived in Nairobi for the past few years. What is it like living there?

“So far, I am enjoying living in Nairobi; I am learning much about the flower industry and myself here. Kenya is among the world’s largest cut flower exporters, so I meet many people here who also work in the industry. I love networking and talking and writing about flowers. Working in this industry has enabled me to develop deep relationships with many members of the flower community, from farmers to florists and other stakeholders. This network has allowed me to learn more about this fascinating industry and, through my blog, share knowledge with others who are passionate about flowers as much as I am!”

Having started your career in floriculture in India, can you tell us a bit about the Indian floriculture market?

“Flowers have always been a central part of India’s diverse culture. It, therefore, grows lots of flowers for its domestic market. In India, wedding flowers are a big deal. This is partly due to the growing popularity of destination weddings in India. E-commerce flowers are booming in India now. India grows roses, Chrysanthemums, Gerberas, carnations, jasmine, marigold etc. However, it’s still mainly roses and jasmine that are exported – typically to the UK, The Netherlands, Australia, the Middle East, and Japan. Overall market trends in Indian floriculture are moving positively, domestically, and internationally.”

Have you always wanted to work in the floriculture sector?

“A few years after I’d completed my course, I wrote to Arif Fazani, the managing director of Soex Flora – India’s largest exporter of fresh-cut roses. I’d always been into writing, and when I worked in finance, I wrote for a magazine about Muslim entrepreneurs. We had hoped to interview Arif’s father, but, as it happened, the interview never materialised. Nevertheless, that was a crucial connection point.
Arif is the one person, after my parents (who have always been incredibly supportive), who has supported my floriculture career immensely. He taught me a lot – from floriculture sales and marketing to on-farm operations. After a couple of months of working at Soex Flora, he told me that he would never have hired me based on my resume – but when I came into the office for the interview, he could see how passionate I was about flowers, and something in his heart told him: ‘This girl can do it.’”

Shabistan Khan changed her career from finance to floriculture.

Why did you move to Kenya?

“Whilst working at Soex Flora, I wrote floriculture-related articles on LinkedIn. In 2019, my article entitled “The five best red roses from India for this Valentine’s Day” was read by the managing director of Black Tulip Group. He contacted me and asked me how I’d feel about working for them. The training was in Kenya, and so off I went.”

Are you still blogging on ‘flowersandeverything’? If so, what motivates you to do this?

“Yes, I am still blogging on ‘flowersandeverything.’ Being able to share my knowledge and experience of working with flowers is what motivates me to continue with this blog. Flowers have always been my passion, and I love sharing my stories and experiences with others. I have encountered a lot of interesting learning opportunities while working in the flower industry and have also had the chance to meet some amazing people along the way. Something that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about if not for my blog.”

What prompted you to set up Flower Cliq?

“I worked for Black Tulip for two years as their sales and marketing manager before joining Orchard Picks in Kenya. This was a start-up specialising in fresh produce and floriculture. When they decided to focus on the fresh produce side of their business, I realised it was time to pursue my passion and focus on creating a business around something I love – flowers.”

This interview was first published in the December 2022 FloraCulture International.

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