What’s in a perfect gift box?

What’s the best part of opening a gift box? Some love the element of surprise and have fun peeling the wrapper curiously while others wonder about the thought process that went behind the wrapper. What if a gift box had both?

Conceptualizing, designing and assembling boxes with thoughtful curation is a passion for some independent female entrepreneurs.

Radhika Timbadia, owner of Champaca Bookstore, a library and cafe in Bengaluru, launched its subscription boxes in 2020. The boxes were launched to extend their preservation outside of the bookstore and into readers’ homes.

Based on a theme chosen by the team for the year, each month subscribers receive a carefully curated box that includes a set of books, a note, stationery items handpicked by independent artists, and membership in the reading Club. The books explore different dimensions of the theme, while featuring never-before-seen stories, voices, and diversity.

“The biggest challenge is finding books that complement each other,” says Nirica Srinivasan from Champaca. She remembers when the team put together a box set on magical realism and when Gabriel Garcia Marquez was the first author that came to mind, “The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree” by Shokoofeh Azar, a lesser known Iranian author, translated from Persian, was chosen. “We realized that the translator did not want their names mentioned in the book for fear of persecution. It was an important story to tell,” she adds.

Besides the books, the team sources handmade, eco-friendly stationery from independent artists and sometimes creates their own artwork, which is included in the box.

While the previous theme was travel, the current theme is loneliness and connection.

‘Story in a Box’ was born out of Sowmya Sarathy’s love of children, crochet and her deep interest in early childhood development. A trained special educator based in Mumbai, Sowmya started the business to collaborate with her older students on the autism spectrum.

She collaborates with Akshaya Nathan, a non-verbal writer and spectrum student from V-Excel Educational Trust, Chennai, to design the boxes. “I wanted the world to experience the word magic that these non-verbal individuals bring with their writing, combined with the wonder of sustainably handcrafted toys,” she says.

The initiative is inspired by children and their original imagination. Each story is based on a season. “Winter, for example, in its coldness and tranquility, leads to withdrawing and finding hope and magic, so we tried to bring that element into our story.” In our Little Barry Beetle Beard, the wind plays an important role and Akshaya wanted a yarn string to be added as a prop that one could spin. The intention is to empower people to believe that anything can become a prop to present a story,” adds Sowmya.

Each box contains a written and illustrated booklet with handmade characters from the story, suitable for ages 3-8. Sowmya’s Little Hive Crafts company has released three gift sets so far: Two Little Mice, Little Barry Beetle Beard and The Magic Stones. The boxes are deliberately designed for open storytelling and imaginative play.

All characters in the box are crocheted with 100% cotton yarn and stuffed with recycled stuffing or natural fiber. All elements are handmade, recycled or from natural yarn, bringing different modes of tactile experience for the child and encouraging voluntary movement through puppet play.

Woohoo! is the sound of any party and Chennai-based Sacheeta Kamath has curated the perfect box for one. The brainchild of this former advertising professional and new mom, Woohoo box is essentially a “celebration box” or themed box, designed for anyone who wants to throw a little party at home. It includes a combination of themed props and decors, themed games and giveaways from multiple vendors across India.

Sacheeta describes herself as a “happy 90s kid who will never get over the simplicity and sweetness of birthday parties at home where parents designed everything from the menu to the decor.” Utility is the key idea behind the design of these boxes, though Sacheeta’s design experience helps put together aesthetic elements. The “Hello World” box is intended for future parents and baby showers. It contains a personalized card, a banner to welcome the little one home, high contrast cards, milestones and highlights, magnets, art prints and a time capsule.

These boxes use eco-friendly and sustainable materials such as cardboard, paper, fabric and glass, with the aim of reducing the use of plastic. “Balloons are definitely something we hope to eventually replace with more environmentally friendly alternatives,” she says.

Design challenges

Printing and managing variables is difficult. Since the palette of each box is carefully chosen and painstakingly illustrated by hand, the main challenge is to find a printer that would give the best quality in terms of color, texture and faithful reproduction of detail. Another big challenge is managing variables and finding suppliers to make items.

Portfolio factor

These boxes cost between Rs 1,499 and Rs 2,999 plus shipping.

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