They boldly declare themselves as cheesy and corny and yet people are absolutely loving it. Just in case, the offerings at Hallmark and Archies have become a tad too conventional and mainstream for your taste, Little Things present to you their collection of cards, mugs, totes and bookmarks all designed with a unique signature of quirkiness.
It hasnâ€™t been long that co-founders Abha Dhital and Sabin Bhandari began catching peopleâ€™s attention with their merchandise at Kathmanduâ€™s Art Market but itâ€™s clear that they have hit the jackpot with their concept.
â€œOur designs are very simple. Iâ€™m just having fun with my doodles and playing around with some cheeky lines,â€ says Dhital. Also judging by the feedback they have had so far, she shares that their decision to retain a certain â€œNepalipanâ€ in their products seems to have particularly appealed to the customers.
And indeed, going through their cards and totes, one catches many references of old Nepali pop songs. There are lyrics that many of us have grown up listening to, with lines (according to Dhital) â€œso corny and funny, you just canâ€™t get it out of your head.â€ The combination of that nostalgia and their cute doddle designs is helping sell out many of their merchandises. Phrases like Luki chipi, Aago lagyo dil lai ma, Suna bhanna make some of their most popular products.
Then there is the use of day to day references, the need for a steaming, hot plate of mo:mos on a rainy day to the rather playful use of the poop (hug, get it?) emoticon, Little Things have cleverly channeled sentiments that every Nepali can relate too. Dhital too confesses that the inspirations for these designs and products have stemmed from their own random experiences out and about in K-town.
While such cheeky, DIY greeting cards have already proven to be very popular abroad, the Nepali market has yet to cash in on the publicâ€™s sense of humor with such creative products. We may have businesses like Hastakala bringing out stationeries with Nepali paper and traditional Nepali art, however, Little Things are probably one of the first few ventures to go a step further and experiment with clever one liners and doodles that appeal to the Nepali masses.
Though their plan is to eventually expand, right now, Little Things is still a very small-scale enterprise. They are still in the early adopters phase and are still experimenting. They havenâ€™t even invested in any kind of paid marketing yet. Whatever growth the business has witnessed has apparently been organic so far.
Dhital shares that she could spot a market for her quirky cards the moment she first shared her designs on Facebook. It was only a little more than a year ago that her first doodled DIY card for motherâ€™s day sold out among her friends and neighborâ€™s circle; itâ€™s what encouraged her to take this business seriously. Nevertheless, despite the encouraging response, she suspects that as all creative businesses in Nepal, it will be difficult for hers to grow rapidly as well.
Dhital explains, â€œKathmandu is a growing art hub but the population is still very small. Businesses like ours naturally have a very niche market. There definitely wonâ€™t be any mass production any time soon. Most people will still go for the traditional Hallmark and Archies cards. Besides, we also need people to understand our brand of cheekiness, sarcasm and have a sense of humor.â€
The good news though is that Little Things have already managed to garner a loyal customer following. Those who are interested in their products keep a lookout for new designs and constantly keep coming back for more. On this aspect, they have had it rather easy and Dhital, once again, guesses it is largely because nobody else in the market are offering what they are.
Little Things are also very open when it comes to collaborating with their customers on ideas and concepts. They welcome such input and apparently it is quite common for them to incorporate details as per their customerâ€™s taste and create custom designs. Recently they have even been approached by a Nepali couple in the US who are interested in designing a customized quirky wedding invitation. Dhital revealed that they are looking into the prospects of this offer.
At the end of the day, in a world full of clichÃ©d messages, Little Things simply wishes to give options to those looking for a quirky alternative. The fact that they have been able to preserve a strong sense of â€˜Nepalipanâ€™ along the way is a big bonus for us Nepalis. Those who have come across them at the art market and paused by their suitcase full of goodies can surely attest to this fact. Even though some may argue that, bit by bit, greeting cards are, regrettably, becoming a thing of the past. However, with such cute, creative and unconventional options, who can resist?
Photographs: Pratik Rayamajhi
By Priyanka Gurung