This Independence Day, soldiers will receive rakhis from Indians across the country, thanks to these women entrepreneurs
This year, Independence Day and Raksha Bandhan fall on the same date, and what better way to celebrate both than by sending a rakhi and heartfelt message to our soldiers.Sasha R
Whether you have a loved one serving in the Indian Armed Forces, or just want to extend your gratitude to our soldiers, Atelier92, founded by Nisha Merchant and Sanika Sawant, gives you the opportunity to do just that with the Rakhi For Soldiers initiative.
Through Rakhi For Soldiers, anyone across the country can send Raksha Bandhan greetings to the Indian army stationed in Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, or West Bengal.
The startup has received over 6,000 orders with personal messages, which the team at Atelier92 has handwritten on postcards accompanying the rakhis. They also conducted offline outreach activities in schools, colleges, residence complexes, and corporate offices across India to collect letters for the soldiers. Nisha and Sanika inform us that they will be sharing pictures of the soldiers with the rakhis and notes once they receive them.
Apart from the rakhis being for soldiers, there is something else that sets these rakhis apart - they are all made by specially-abled students from St John School, Thane, Nisha’s alma mater.
"I didn't want to buy rakhis available commercially, although they would have been more detailed and grandiose. I reached out to the nuns at my school and asked them whether the specially-abled students would be able to help us with the rakhis instead. They graciously accepted my request,” says Nisha.
She adds that the students, who are always encouraged to earn their own income, will be receiving “salaries” for their efforts towards making the rakhis.
Why Rakhi For Soldiers?
Nisha and Sanika explain why they thought of this particular concept.
"The significance of Raksha Bandhan is vowing to protect one another, and our soldiers protect us every single day. Their job does not end with just manning the borders, but extends to navigating through calamities, riots or other emergencies. For all the months they spend away from the comforts of their home and family members, the least we can do as citizens is to let them know they are valued and loved."
Nisha and Sanika, both raised in the 90s, also hold letter-writing very close to their hearts. With nostalgia as the foundation, they designed the rakhi gifts with grunge-paper, postcards with handwritten messages, and envelopes with real wax seals, to complete the old-word charm.
Nisha Merchant and Sanika Sawant, both 27, dreamed of starting up in junior college. They often fantasised about a future where they would establish their own company, but ended up parting ways for university. Although the two travelled through different cities and continents, they stayed in touch and eventually found their way back to each other.
"When Sanika was moving back home from Pune, we had a long conversation about the scope in India’s gifting industry. Although sending flowers for missed birthdays and such is endearing, we felt the need for personalised and meaningful gifts," says Nisha.
In February this year, the duo turned their dreams into reality, and launched Atelier92, an online gifting platform. The startup specialises in theme-based gift hampers like the quirky "Baby Brewing" hamper for expectant parents and the life-size "Lost Treasure Chest."
Although the idea for their startup was brilliant, Nisha and Sanika say that they initially struggled with insufficient funds and sourcing manpower.
"We started up with less than Rs 10,000, which is all we had. But less than six months later with spine-breaking hard work, sleepless nights, and determination, we’ve scaled Atelier92’s revenue in lakhs,” they say.
Atelier92 now has brands like Simpson Spence Young, Qatar Airways, and Myntra among others, in its client portfolio.
The road ahead
In the next couple of years, Nisha and Sanika aim to make Atelier92 one of the biggest online-gifting marketplaces in India, which will facilitate a seamless ordering experience with end-to-end customisation and on-demand delivery across India. They also plan to expand the team and scale the startup significantly.
They also add that Rakhi For Soldiers will be a yearly initiative, and that giving back to society through similar initiatives will always be an integral part of the startup’s culture.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)