Since childhood Athira Ajith, a final-year student at the College of Architecture, Thiruvananthapuram, has been storing used papers and wrappers hoping to make something new out of them.
As newspapers and old bottles were mostly kept for future use, everyone mocked me saying my closet is a dustbin, she recalled.
Life became hectic as Athira joined for the Architecture course. She picked up art again primarily as a stress-buster.
"As I had the urge to do something new, I launched an online store along with a couple of friends. The store, named ‘Naam’, offers designer t-shirts, clay art and dreamcatchers (protective talismans).
In a couple of months we started getting good response. We even exhibited the products at a fest," she said.
Athira didn't rest and wanted to do much more.
"Then my Instagram art shop named ‘Hand zoned’ happened. It is a blend of my two hobbies -- writings and crafts. These activities calm me down," she proudly stated.
Athira is multifaceted. She also anchors programmes and acts. She is about to launch her YouTube channel. Its pre-production work is on.
The best gifting option for new year can be something handmade as it is very close to one's heart. Athira designs such personalised products.
"With customized messages, the gift becomes very personal. I incorporate themes customer wants on the gift. Minion or Mickey Mouse themes or anything the customer demands I add."
Moving with the times, the young entrepreneur has decided to design completely biodegradable articles.
"Even the thank-you note along with the product is done with seed paper so that at the end of the day when they dispose it, it will germinate and paves way to another life."
Youth often face resistance as the elders fail to realise their true intent. The young architect didn't get the support at her very home initially.
"When I first started out, Amma was not supportive, but when people started asking and getting curious about this and appreciation poured in, she finally gave in. Now I get orders even from even from outside the city. I hope to start international shipping soon," Athira narrated how far her venture has grown.
Athira, who started out using old papers, now designs on material sourced from outside.
"It is difficult to get raw materials here. I order them from online craft shops. From plain charts to pattern paper, products are priced according to quality of raw materials," she said.
"The first explosion box I had designed was just a normal one but now I do a lot of background research, I study the materials online through Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube, and choose the best out of them. Many people are in to this outside Kerala but here the business is limited," the designer revealed.
The entrepreneur values her customers' demands, tastes and opinions.
"I will always wait for the feedback because I want to know what they think. It is a satisfying fact that nobody has given me a negative feedback. I even ask them to send me a video of them opening the package; thereby I know what they genuinely think of the article," she opened up.
Cards are best-sellers at Athira's store.
Customers have a never-ending love for the cards, Athira noted.
"Now I am into mini versions of them, with budget-friendly materials. Sometimes even if I had packaged them pretty well, they can get damaged while being shipped. It happened with me twice; then I will give the complete cash back," she detailed on the day-to-day hiccups.
Online customers mostly buy artworks, memorabilia and even jewelry from Naam store.
Athira lists the following as the most sought-after products at her store:
Explosion box: a box of surprise which opens many shelves of memories.
Scrapbooks: they never go out of style as the memories get stored forever with journaling and quotes.
They are not just pictures but a framed memory, maybe in memory of a trip, or for your love or a baby shower; the theme and content can vary but the feeling remains, Athira remarked.
Handmade hard-bind albums also have good demand.
Jar of love: a personalised glass jar which has some printed quotes or wishes on it; couples are more in to this nowadays, she said.
Wall hanging: another trendy product. Athira noted embroidery hoops and photo hanging hooks are almost always out of stock.
Varieties of wooden box, string art, quilling art are also sold out soon.
Even handmade accessories and tassel jewelry are well accepted, Athira observed.