“We didn’t set out to become entrepreneurs. We simply noticed a gap in the market, addressed a category we were passionate about, and chose to fill the gap ourselves. The entrepreneurial bit was simply an outcome of a desire to bring back the art of the handwritten note and provide good quality stationery to like-minded patrons in India,” says Sanaa Jhurani, Co-founder of The Papier Project. Sanaa, and her partner in crime Ayesha Wadhawan, founded the Mumbai-based stationery startup because the self-confessed stationery addicts couldn’t find what they were looking for in the city. “One thing led to another and we decided that if there was anyone who could bring this stationery enterprise to India, it was us,” says Sanaa.
Colleagues to best friends to co-founders
Ayesha and Sanaa met at their previous place of work, Heel&Buckle, ‘and it all pretty much took off from there.’ Ayesha handled e-commerce while Sanaa handled PR and marketing. “We were, as they say, a match made in heaven. Colleagues to lunch partners to best friends, and now business partners,” writes Sanaa.
The Papier Project
Ayesha and Sanaa envision The Papier Project to grow into a serious stationery enterprise that is easy to access – one that has a young, vibrant, and internationally influenced design aesthetic. Papier means paper in French. Sanaa explains, “There’s a certain romantic sensibility associated with a charming Parisian afternoon, an indescribable emotive response that has you going weak in the knees with the wistful charm of a bygone era that was dotted with letters of love, post cards from fondly remembered holidays, the yellowed pages of a favourite novel, or even a fading photograph.
The Papier Project was founded as an ode to this emotive response, an ode that was meant to encapsulate the beauty of the written word and the sheer magic of being able to pen down our thoughts, of the possibility of creating and leaving a legacy, an imprint – one that stands the test of time and serves as tactile proof of our feelings.”
Sanaa and Ayesha designed the offerings of The Papier Project to be an amalgamation of the bold novelty of modern contemporary design and the traditional simplicity of classic styles. The two ladies are avid travellers and their visual philosophies are almost entirely influenced by their travels abroad. Sanaa says, “If we aren’t travelling ourselves, our voracious appetite for reading, a vast majority of which is satiated by romance novels, is inspiration enough to ensure that we are constantly bringing something new to the design board. A lot of our design work is a reflection of our personalities, our personal preferences and our individual interpretations of the myriad influences we encounter in our daily lives. Most of our customers see the design, but only we see each piece of art as a tiny bit of our soul.”
The Papier Project employs a three-pronged approach. “One arm of the business is our manufacturing and designing wing – where we produce a whole range of products under The Papier Project label. These products are then retailed through our own e-commerce portal, through our retail store at the new domestic terminal at T2 Chhatrapti Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, and through other third-party portals.
The other arm of the business is our customisation studio where we work with clients to create complete custom stationery solutions to complement their requirements. Most of the clients we meet typically look for these custom sets to gift to newly married couples or specific sets for their children.
Finally, the third arm of our business model is associated with an endeavour to promote our portal as a one-stop-shop for all things stationery. We are moving towards an aggregators model, where we will host other stationery brands alongside our own homegrown label, so that a client can essentially be presented with the opportunity to peruse all the various options at their disposal by visiting our portal,” Sanaa offers.
Founded in 2015, The Papier Project is a bootstrapped venture that is hoping to break even through ambitious offerings in its immediate future. “We’re looking to expand into multiple physical retail and product variants. We want to make The Papier Project more available to our customers and also host other budding indie brands that match our design aesthetic. Eventually, the goal is that when a customer thinks of good-quality stationery they immediately think The Papier Project,” says Sanaa.
They haven’t put a number on the customer base, but say the response has been favourable. “In the initial few weeks after our launch, a lot of the sales that came in were primarily from friends and family or personal referrals. The first time a complete stranger took a gamble on us – and kept coming back to us for more – we knew we were doing something right,” Sanaa exclaims. The biggest landmark was a complete surprise for them. She explains, “We had customised a wedding planner with the name ‘Bipasha’ – and a few days later we read about it in the news – which is when we realised that this was for Bipasha Basu!”
The Papier Project is on a three-year timeline to break even and so far, Sanaa confirms, they are on schedule.