Meet the 24-year-old woman entrepreneur who’s made papercraft her business and is reviving the lost art of letter writing

Kozhikode’s Sana Khader runs the popular Instagram page Zannist where she sells handcrafted products made out of paper. She also wants to revive the art of letter writing and has 55 pen pals from 34 countries.
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Sana Khader, from Kozhikode, Kerala, is 24 years old and has just completed her engineering in computer science. She now runs Zannist, a popular store on Instagram, and is also passionate about reviving the lost art of letter-writing.

A woman with myriad interests, Sana began expressing her creativity with art and craft from the age of three, fashioning different creations out of paper.

Today, that creativity has grown wings with Zannist, a portmanteau of Zana (a variation of her name) and ‘artist’, and is giving her both fame and money via her Instagram page.

The beginning of Zannist

Sana's Creations. (Image: @zannist Instagram page)

Sana’s interest took an entrepreneurial turn when she was in Class 12 and a greeting card and an album made for her friend evinced a lot of interest from people. Others asked her to make customised greeting cards and scrap books. She soon realised that people were taking her for granted, and that her efforts and time needed to be acknowledged by way of a fee.

A look at Zannist’s Instagram page reveals interesting stuff ranging from greeting cards, colourful envelopes, customised albums, printed T-shirts, stickers, pins, tassel work, giveaway contests, and much more.

“I started by uploading images of my creations on Instagram. I stared with 300 followers, which has grown to 75,000 people around the globe.”

While at engineering college, she used to come back home on weekends and work on orders that were pouring in on her page.

“I had a nook to myself, a sort of workshop in my home, where I worked continuously on Saturdays and Sundays. Before I left for college, I would hand them over to my mum who would then post them via India Post,” she adds.

Her business grew over the years and Sana is proud that she could pay all the expenses for her last two years in college from the income she generated from her business. That is also when she realised that one did not need to follow the conventional route when it comes to a career.

“People thought I had gone nuts doing all this. This was nowhere close to what I had studied in college. They saw me working day and night, travelling to the post office regularly, and thought it was a frivolous pastime. But I guess I proved them wrong.”

In three years, Sana has executed over 700 orders from all over the world and made 1,500 handcrafted products. Her work has now expanded to include illustrations to be replicated on paper and enamel pins, and she has also designed patterns for T-shirts, etc. Prices for her products start from Rs 800 and go up to Rs 5,000, depending on the time spent, material, and content.

Putting pen to paper

Sana has another passion – letter writing, which is almost non-existent in today’s world. She has 55 pen pals from 34 countries, and communicates with them regularly. “I like to learn about new places, new cultures, and interact with people of different nationalities. This sparked my interest in letter writing and I write around 15 letters every week,” she says.

According to Sana, the joy of waiting for the postman knocking at the door with a letter has to be experienced to be believed.

“There is a lot of patience involved in it. The paper, ink, and putting your thoughts on paper is a wholesome experience. I have a friend called Alicia from Ireland with whom I share everything only through letters, without even texting once,” she says.

To promote the art of letter writing, Sana also started a campaign where one could send a letter, and she would send three cards in return, which they could send to others. She couldn’t sustain because of time constraints but hopes to revive this project soon.

Aiming for a collective

Sana is planning to start her own website where she can sell her products. All set to get married in three months, she says that “is not going to change anything. Zannist will continue its creative expressions, in bigger, better ways”.

Stating that she is making more than she would have if she had opted for a campus placement, she says: “I am happy being my own boss and also for the support of my family who is fully with me in this.”

In the future, Sana wants to start a collective, a community of artists that will exhibit the different talents of women, especially homemakers.

“Many women feel caged as they cannot express their creativity. I want to support them by giving them a space and the opportunity to grow.”

(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)


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