Outside every mall in India, one can find beggars squatting on the pavement. They are impervious to the shopping experience that the rest of us enjoy – since they are not even allowed inside these malls.
But is that fair? Well, three entrepreneurs – Shivaji Prabhakar, Jeybala and Ajith Kumar started a non-profit in Chennai on February 18 in an attempt to remedy this.
‘Thuli’ is an initiative that offers a shopping mall experience to the underprivileged sections of our society. It aims to do “charity with dignity”.
It assembles all the clothes and accessories it receives from charity and sorts them according to their usability. After this, they are dry-cleaned and arranged according to size, age and gender at a godown. They are then put on display, in the racks of the shop.
It is the shopping part where the real innovation lies. Those coming into the shop are handed free vouchers of Rs 500, Rs 1000 or Rs 2000 which they can then redeem at the shop, according to their choice.
They get to pick and choose the items that they take back home, eliminating the choicelessness of charity products.
“About a month ago, we started circulating information on Thuli on social media. We got a mind-boggling response,” said Kumar, who also works at Nsight, a healthcare support service organisation in Gandhi Nagar, while speaking to The Hindu, in January.
They have already received 2042 beneficiaries at their shop in the two months since its inauguration in February.
Now they are trying to get other NGOs to provide other services like eye-check ups and special courses for their beneficiaries to study.
Thuli has partnered with Aloft Hotel, who provide free laundry services and Parveen Travels, who has agreed to offer their transport services for collecting and delivering the items to-and-fro the store. Beyontec Solutions and Omega Healthcare have promised to send volunteers from their organisations to help sort the items during weekends.
The shop also allows people to collect vouchers and distribute them to those in need.
When asked how the idea of “Thuli” came about, Ajith told dtnext,in -“We had been doing social service in an ad-hoc manner for a while and were looking for ways to make it permanent. Once this idea came to light, we set up an air-conditioned showroom at Gokulam Arcade in Adyar. We didn’t expect the response to be this viral; now we are facing a shortage of collection trucks and volunteers.”
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)