Artificial flowers look good, do not disturb the environment and do not fade in a hurry, but there's a catch - they cost five to seven times more than fresh ones. Perhaps that is why artificial flowers don't sell well in India, making manufacturers look to Europe and the Middle East for a blooming business.
In India, the market is still small compared to fresh flowers.
"It has a total turnover of around Rs.1,000 crore a year whereas the fresh flower market has a turnover of around Rs.8,000 to 9,000 crore a year," Vishal Gutgutia, managing director of leading Indian florists Ferns n Petals, told IANS.
He added that in India the total natural flower business covers 60 percent of the floriculture market, artificial flowers contributes 30 percent of the total turnover and 10 percent is taken up by dry flowers.
According to the artificial flower sellers in India, there are many bulk producers of these flowers, but with the market here attracting few takers, the producers have to look westwards.
"Since the Indian market is mostly 'need driven', the demand for them (artificial flowers) is less here. Only the affluent sections have the pocket to splurge on products such as these to decorate their homes. We usually export them to Europe and the Middle East," said Saif Shah Nawaz, manufacturer, Candle & Blooms.
Incidentally, due to vast improvements in the quality of artificial flowers as well as lifestyles that demand low maintenance home decorating accessories, the market for them has grown into a multi-billion dollar business in countries like Thailand and China.
The higher price is perhaps the main reason for the lower demand of the artificial flowers in India.
Talking about the price range of these flowers, Chetna Garg of Delhi's Ranga Rang Creations said: "A natural rose flower costs Rs.10, while an artificial rose flower would cost a minimum of Rs.50. The price may rise depending on the design and the material used."
Manoj Rajani of Mumbai's Agro-Care Products also agreed, adding that artificial flowers are usually priced five to seven times higher than their natural counterparts.
"That is one of the reasons for their lower popularity in the Indian market; so we export most of our stocks. A limited quantity is sent to local markets, that too at a cheaper price," he added.
Flower producers feel that these flowers do have their advantages.
"People like to throw grand parties, so they want decorations to be over the top. These (artificial) flowers can be of good use without disturbing the environment and they can be reused also," Rajani told IANS.
As per retailers, there is still a prevailing mindset that artificial flowers mean that they are made of cheap, shiny plastic - perhaps with a plastic dew stuck to a petal.
"Most Indians are quite wary of buying artificial flowers because most of them think they are only made of plastic, but in fact innovations and intricate work are used nowadays," said Mahesh Setia, who sells artificial and dry flowers at his shop, Florina.
Artificial flowers are available in an infinite variety - besides plastic, they are made of paper, cotton, parchment, latex, rubber, satin, porcelain and dried materials, including flowers and plant parts, berries, feathers and fruits.
"Our raw material comes from China and Japan, and we put in a lot hard work to make them look like the real ones," Setia added.
The people engaged in producing these flowers feel it is more profitable to buy artificial flowers as they require less maintenance, lasts longer and are hassle-free.
Prominent beautician Shahnaz Hussain is a lover of artificial flowers and is known to decorate her workplace and home with them. "I feel they are a wonderful way of adding beauty to the home and surroundings. The colours of the flowers and the leaves are natural," she told IANS.