Meet The Maker: Ayesha Wadhawan & Sanaa Jhurani – The Papier Project

Engrave speaks to the ladies behind The Papier Project, the successful start-up that's satiating the country's need for handy and beautiful stationery.

“In a world that is inundated with options, where it has become exceedingly difficult to stand out from the crowd, we find that more and more individuals are seeking to adopt alternatives that help lend a distinguishable edge. Through The Papier Project, we aspire to help them find the edge that they so eagerly seek.” – Sanaa Jhurani, Co-founder – The Papier Project


Sanaa & Ayesha – Co-founders, The Papier Project

The baby of Ayesha Wadhawan (25) and Sanaa Jhurani (26), The Papier Project is a stationery brand that was created by stationery fanatics, for stationery fanatics. Before starting out on this incredible entrepreneurial journey, Ayesha and Sanaa were both employed at Heel & Buckle. While Sanaa handled Marketing and PR for the brand, Ayesha looked after E-Commerce — and that’s where they picked up the tools of the trade. Eventually, the two quit their respective jobs in 2015 to start a brand that sells some of the prettiest, most gorgeous and intelligently designed planners, greeting cards, stationery gift sets, and much more. We had the opportunity to speak to Sanaa Jurani earlier this week and we used it to learn more about the owners themselves as well as their stationery start-up. Read on to know more…

Tell us a little about the beginnings of The Papier Project.

It was a far more organic decision than one would imagine. Our story begins at around Christmas in 2014, when Ayesha was in Dubai and was avidly seeking a new planner for the next year. Around the same time, I happened to be in New York, and being the stationery hoarder I am, I had splurged on a ton of stationery. While discussing this, it came to our notice that Mumbai is definitely lacking in a serious stationery enterprise that is easy to access — one that has a young, vibrant and internationally influenced design aesthetic.

So as they say, one thing led to another and it was decided that if there was anyone who could bring this stationery enterprise to India, it was us. People often ask us if we started The Papier Project because we simply wanted to start out on our own or had this pressing need to exit the corporate job world. In truth, it was simply because of the identification of a need and a gap in the market that we felt driven enough to attempt to fill ourselves.

What the story behind the name?

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 a wistful charm of a forgone era that was dotted with letters of love, postcards from fondly remembered holidays, the yellowed pages of a favourite novel or a fading photograph that is testament to yet another fading memory.

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.

Since we really are all about paper, we combined this Parisian romanticism with a title that expressly communicates everything we’re about. With the French word for Paper – Papier – we hope to convey that we are a project; an entity that is all about Paper, yet, not quite your mundane 6-subject notebook paper. Paper and more specifically, handwritten communication, that aligns with our pursuit to #speakthroughpaper and to bring back the forgotten beauty of a handwritten note.

What’s the creative process like? How do you two go from a mere idea to a finished product?

Ayesha and I are actively involved and look into every process ourselves. The designing is entirely looked after at our studio as well. We have a team of two talented graphic designers who help bring ideas to life by communicating our thoughts on to the actual files that are then sent out for production. Another part of our team handles the production work and the coordination between the various vendors involved. Before any product is dispatched to the customer, however, either Ayesha or I do a final quality check. And of course, we make sure we send out a handwritten note to expressly thank them for their support of our venture!

Do you remember the first piece of stationery you ever made? When, and what was it?

Well, the first collection of stationery we ever designed was the Nautical collection — which is still retailed by us two years later. It was a collection completely inspired by our love for the beach, for sunny days and travel.

In simple words, what does stationery mean to you?

My fondest childhood memories are associated with stationery. Be it doodling around with a set of crayons, or the customary tradition of hand-drawn birthday cards that almost always came with misspelled professions of a bursting-at-the-seams-kind-of love, masterpieces that are certainly not going to make it to the walls of any art showing, but will certainly always hold an invaluable place of pride in the hearts of their recipients — that’s what stationery helps create.

Even today, if you walk into our studio, our pin-up board is interspersed with tax filing deadlines, important reminders and thought-felt notes from our dearest well-wishers. Whenever we’re struggling through a particularly rough day, stationery works as a quick reminder of just how many people we have rooting for us with their undying faith in us and our dreams. It’s just the pick-me-up that we need!

What’s your best selling or most popular creation, in your opinion?

In our opinion, our bestselling category is our greeting cards. Funnily enough, this is the one category that everyone advised us not to go ahead with. Everyone we spoke to seemed to believe that in this digital age, the whole concept of sending across a greeting card has become rather redundant. However, we were quite stubborn and decided to go ahead with it anyway, and the results have been nothing short of terrific. It’s the one category that requires the most number of design hours from us, and is in fact quite tedious to include in our portfolio — but it’s also the category that best encapsulates the reason why we founded The Papier Project in the first place. Sending across a handwritten note begins with a greeting card on a birthday or an anniversary. So how could we not offer this to our customers? And much to our surprise, this category has met with the most enthusiasm and has been our best performer so far.

What’s the most challenging bit about running a business like yours?

Going in blind was easily the hardest part about starting out on our own. And frankly, we’ll be the first to admit that we don’t have all the answers. For instance, we have very limited technical knowledge. From setting up our website, the back-end system that we’d operate on, designing our customer interface, ensuring easy navigation and the myriad technical details that needed to be addressed, we found ourselves in over our heads. We had to blindly rely on the expertise of another team of people and trust the fact that they’d deal with this as thoroughly and as meticulously as we would have ourselves. So yes, it’s hard to just trust someone and go in blindly, especially when you have so much riding on the outcome of this decision, and you have no concrete parameter to help make this judgement.

And well, what makes it fun?

No two days look the same — or even remotely similar! Each day it’s a new challenge, a new task to be dealt with, a new emergency that needs our immediate attention, or even every now and then, a new milestone to be celebrated. We’re still a relatively new brand and are thus experiencing a lot of ‘firsts’. We haven’t yet reached a point where we have a fixed routine set of things we tackle, so the sheer novelty of each day is an exhilarating adventure that we certainly hope doesn’t come to an end!

What can we expect in the future from The Papier Project?

In the immediate future, we are looking at retail expansion. We’re looking to open another store and hopefully get on a few more portals to be more accessible to our customers.

In the long run, there’ll hopefully be plenty more patrons who’ve signed up for our mission to speak through paper. Maybe by then we’ll have opened that quaint coffee shop, filled with romance novels and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, still encouraging every patron who walks through those doors to pick up a pen and write out that handwritten note. That’s the dream, anyway!

Visit The Papier Project Shop on Engrave.

Rameez Shaikh

Rameez Shaikh is a twenty-three year old writer. With a degree in journalism to his name, he's an aspiring author with an absolutely astounding admiration for alliteration. Leisure propels him to read, dance, pen fiction and gloat about himself in third person. On weekdays, he works as a features writer. On weekends, he's a Manchester United fan.


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