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The thing about stationery as a gift is that it has a long shelf life and an element of personalization that no other gift can quite replicate. “Gifting journals, or personalized paper items show the thought and effort gone into selecting a gift. People can use them beyond the festive season as they are non-perishable," explains Anu Tibrewala, 44, co-founder of Paperfields, a Mumbai-based start-up in the business of selling luxurious stationery. Tibrewala and her partner Ambika Singhania Kothari set up shop three years ago because “there was a dearth of good stationery providers in Mumbai, something that appealed to our design sensibilities", says Kothari, 41.

The origin

Pushkar Thakur, 34, who runs Grafiosi, a graphics design studio in Delhi, decided to set up Origin One about three years ago because he believes that stationery, and a beautiful one at that, makes for a thoughtful gift. “I believe people buy good stationery not just to gift to others, but also to self-consume. Also, how many other gifting options really lend themselves to bespoke options like stationery can?" he asks. Thakur sells his products online, but also has a studio in Delhi where one can meet him by appointment only.

The youngest of the pack, Vallari Mangeshikar, founder of the Compulsive Doodler, currently uses Instagram as a platform to market and display her collection of stationery. A Mumbai-based former interior designer, Mangeshikar, 28, started out by uploading one doodle or drawing a day since 2016 because she “wanted to share my artwork with the world. The response was good. That is what got me thinking and I decided to set up a stationery outlet", she says. “It took me some time to decide that I wanted to use my designs on stationery products. As a consumer I love pretty stationery and figured that these work very nicely as gifts too. I started with notepads and notebooks." In April, Mangeshikar launched her line with 11 designs based on themes like unicorn, rainbow, beach, etc. “All of the 11 themes were inspired by the personalities of my friends, each has a story behind it," she says.

The challenge

For Tibrewala and Kothari, one of the challenges has been to increase awareness around stationery as a great gifting option and urging people to use the age-old tradition of sending handwritten notes. “We wanted to create products that would encourage people to buy here in India rather than abroad. But for all of this we need reliable delivery services and finding these can be a challenge," notes Tibrewala.

The travel set from Origin One.
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The travel set from Origin One.

Another challenge is getting the correct spelling of the person’s name to whom the gift has to be sent. “We insist that for all personalized items, the person who is placing the order spells out the name in an email or on WhatsApp. If there is a mistake, the product is useless and we don’t want that," says Kothari.

For Mangeshikar, the challenge was to set up her business from scratch. “I had to physically visit people who sell paper, and understand what kind of technology worked for printing," she says. Another problem she encountered was that sometimes the final product and the image of doodle did not quite match. “Now, I make sure to WhatsApp the image of the final product to a customer ," she adds.

Festive talk

While Thakur of Origin One does curate gift boxes for Diwali, he adds that people don’t necessarily always opt for these only. “Last year, we made a few special gift boxes and included coffee, chocolates, etc., from the brands we like along with stationery. But even in the festive season some of our best-sellers continue to be the travel stationery boxes or the kitchen and home options. People also like to pick up boxes with greeting cards, planners, etc.," he says. While, this year, gift orders for Diwali have been slow until now, Thakur says things will pick up. “We usually take under 48 hours to personalize a box and believe as the festival comes closer more orders will pour in," he adds. Origin One’s Twenty 1819 Festive Gift Box starts at 1,000 (taxes extra). The Compulsive Doodler line starts at 200 and Mangeshikar can curate bespoke gift sets as well, while Paperfields’ gift kits start at 2,800.

If you are looking for gifts that leave a mark, customized stationery can be one option this festive season.

The Gift Basket looks at unique gifting options for the festive season and the people behind them.

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