How a 20-yr-old in Bhopal is bringing nature closer to urban living spaces

Topics Urban life | gardening | start- ups

Zuber Mohammed is helping others opt for a healthier lifestyle by incorporating more green spaces in their offices and homes.
City dwellers endure alarming levels of pollution in the concrete jungles they live in. They breathe in toxic air while living inside climate-controlled and airtight buildings, hardly getting any exposure to nature. 

With such an arrangement, green spaces become a casualty despite their vital importance in ensuring people’s health and well-being. But what if someone helps you find a middle ground, paves the way for some greenery to surround you working around the challenges?

That’s precisely what 20-year-old Zuber Mohammed from Bhopal is trying to do: Helping others opt for a healthier lifestyle by incorporating more green spaces in their offices and homes. This second-year engineering student has founded a start-up, Paradise Gardens, which provides solutions to design gardens and landscapes in urban homes and offices.

Talking about his initiative with Business Standard, Mohammed says: “Gone are the days when people used to live in big homes with designated spaces for large gardens. Now, times have changed and we live in compact houses where green spaces are diminishing quite rapidly. We aim to provide garden solutions for people who crave green spaces but don’t have space or time to surround themselves with the tranquillity of greenery.”

And a green surrounding offers more than just tranquillity. The 2019 Lancet Planetary Health study points out that green urban spaces can help people live longer. A recent survey by UK-based firm Arboretum found out that greenery could have a beneficial impact on mental health. As many as 42 per cent of the 2,000 participants said that being around plants improved their mental health.

Budding entrepreneur

The start-up has completed 100 such projects so far in the past one year. It has already helped in transforming 22,680 square feet (sq ft) of land into gardens and greenery projects on 33,600 sq ft of land are still underway. When asked about the beginnings of this start-up, Mohammed says, “It was in 2015 when I stumbled upon the idea. A friend wanted to transform a piece of land into a garden and no one in Bhopal provided such services.”

He adds: “I was still in school back then and did not have the needed knowledge of starting, running a business. For the time being, I put the idea on the backburner but despite that, there was always this idea of launching a business in the back of my mind. I began reading up on plants and techniques of gardening. Finally, it was in July 2019 I launched Paradise Gardens with just Rs 7,000.”

He further recollects how his first client wanted an 800 sq ft space within the compound of his home to be turned into a garden. “We transformed the space using shrubs, lawn grass and even flower plants. He was happy with the end result and satisfactory completion of the first project gave us the much-needed confidence boost.”

A project completed by him
Armed with a team of trained gardeners and a swanky website, Paradise Gardens is one of its kind ventures in Bhopal. “On receiving an inquiry from a customer, our team visits the site for an inspection and we figure out what the customer needs — the type of plants, type of compost, space, and all other parameters are taken into account before embarking on the project,” Mohammed says. 

From gazebos and small balconies to terraces, this start-up can change any kind of space into a tranquil green zone.

Is the grass always green?

Keeping a bootstrapped start-up afloat can involve dealing with various challenges. As Mohammed puts it: “When I founded this start-up, finding gardeners willing to come on board and learn new tricks of the trade while changing their approach towards existing practices, was difficult. Once this aspect got figured out, the next challenge was acquiring the technical know-how on landscape gardening. Finding adequate funding was not a challenge for us because such a model is not investment-oriented,” the 20-year-old said.  

Branching out 

Within the next nine months, Paradise Gardens aims to expand to 10 cities and provide their services to more homeowners and help them create green spaces in their homes. Mohammed says: “We also want to develop community gardens. The model is still on the drawing board.” The idea is to create a garden for each resident community in the city. The garden will be designed on government land and it will be maintained by the community members. “The community members will be taught how to grow their own vegetables using effective methods. This way, they can eat healthy, organic and fresh produce and also spend some time amid nature on a regular basis,” the youngster explains. A pilot project will be first launched during the monsoon season in Bhopal this year.

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