11-year-old Sara* really missed having her mom around for lunch. Her mom, a techie in one of the largest IT parks in Bengaluru, unfortunately could never make it home during lunch time, due to the huge workload at her office.
Sara decided to do something about this. She sent a beautiful handwritten letter to her mother’s boss, requesting him to let her mother have lunch with her. Extremely touched, the boss allowed her mother to not just grab lunch with Sara but also to drop her off at dance classes before making it back to the office. One might ask how an 11-year-old wrote such a well-worded letter. Sara has the Indian Handwritten Letter Co. (IHLC) to thank for drafting the letter for her while adding a personal touch. .
The Bengaluru based start-up, founded by Anubhav Ankit and Jashwant Cheripally, is striving to keep the old world charm of letters alive in this e-mail driven world. The Indian Handwritten Letter Co. takes requests from customers to design personalized and attractive letters for a variety of recipients. The process, however, is not that simple.
The co-founder, Ankit tells us, “Most customers do not have any idea of what they want the letter to say. After a series of e-mails and phone calls between us, a rough draft of the content is created and then sent back to the customer for approval. Once that is done, the message is worded accordingly by us and inked on a premium sheet of paper in a stylized handwriting or even a clumsy style for the added realistic feel. This is then sent to the given address using the old-fashioned method of post.”
While the money received from each card is not enough to pay professional calligraphers, the company tries to achieve a middle ground between calligraphy and nice handwriting.
The company stems from the founders’ staunch belief that nothing can replace the warmth of handwritten letters. Sara’s story is one of the many successes IHLC is proud of. Upon getting a request from her on their website, they called up her mother for approval and jumped at the chance of helping Sara.
Although this particular case was pro-bono, the charges are Rs. 99 for a hundred words on each card, including all the stationery and posting costs, with an extra Rs.50 for every hundred words after that. This way, around 60 cards are written every day. Being a self-funded start-up, their only revenue is through selling these cards.
For Ankit, it all started as a hobby. He says, “We were forced to write letters to our family every day while I was in boarding school. After a point I got bored of describing mundane daily things and started innovating with the content. That is when letter writing for me became beautiful and interesting”.
Just a blog site till last October, the start-up grew after the overwhelming response it received, becoming a fully fledged website. Initially, the requests they received were only for personal letters – to lovers, parents and spouses. They later expanded to include business letters too – from cover to resignation letters, personalized accordingly.
These business letters are selling like hot cakes, making these their current strong point.
IHLC recently bagged the contract of one of India’s largest e-tailers that wanted to send personal letters to around 800 of its lapsed sellers asking them to return to sell their products using the website during the upcoming Diwali sale.
In another instance of success, one of their clients from the UK wanted to quit her job but didn’t want to do it through e-mail. She asked IHLC to send the letter to her boss, the result being that not only did her boss request her to not quit but also offered her a 67% raise, compelling her to stay on.
While they write letters for the world, many write fan mail to them, pleased with their work and asking to be associated with them. Two founders, four editors, four freelancers and four vernacular experts are all it takes for IHLC to spread this warmth.
Ankit admits that technology is quite important in their line of work as most correspondence with clients happens over e-mail and on their website. Moving forward, they want to stop producing content for the letters and only concentrate on presenting the content provided by the customers in a nice manner.
Despite a few pesky customers and a growing lack of funds, the Indian Handwritten Letter Co. is bent on preserving the intrinsic value of these handwritten letters.
*Not her real name