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Worried About Chemicals in Play Dough, Teacher Makes Natural, Non-Toxic Alternative

Concerned about the harsh chemicals in store-bought versions, teacher-turned-entrepreneur Deepti Bhandari launched ‘Doh Dough’ to make and sell non-toxic organic play dough.

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Sodium Borate (Borax), deodorised kerosene and sodium benzoate – these are just a few of the harmful ingredients play dough contains. For 32-year-old Deepti Bhandari, handing over play dough to her then-one-year-old son was a cause for concern.

This thought nagged her so much that she decided to make play dough at home for her son, and before she knew it, she had launched — Doh Dough. While Deepti pursued a Master’s degree in Biochemistry, she learnt rather early on in life that her interest lay in teaching. “From teaching my own cousins at home to becoming a professional teacher and starting my own activity center for children — every new role enhanced my love for teaching,” Deepti tells The Better India.

She says that her training during her stint as a teacher helped her be a better parent. “I was able to understand the psychology of a child and how to deal with them so much better after my teaching experience,” she says. In 2014, Deepti delivered a baby boy, and says that her learnings as a teacher came in handy in raising her son. “Whether it was early learning skills or games to improve hand-eye coordination and cognitive skills – I tried everything with him.”

As an educator and a parent, Deepti used a lot of play dough because of the myriad of benefits it offers.

Deepti at a pop up.

“From helping develop their fine and gross motor skills, it also helps children understand colour, shapes and sizes. It is a great tool to teach them about alphabets and even aids in pretend play,” she says. Along with all these benefits it is also a very therapeutic material that even adults can enjoy playing with.

Deepti says, “My son’s handwriting has improved manifold after working with play dough. For the longest time his grip on the pencil was not very good and playing with play dough helped strengthen his muscles and help him grip the pencil better. I have seen first-hand how much of a difference it has made to him.”

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A business of making play dough

Play Dough
Have you ever used play dough?

In 2019, Deepti started an activity center in Chamrajpet, Bengaluru, called The Milk Teeth Activity Centre, which was attached to her husband’s pediatric dental clinic. At the centre, Deepti got to work with kids of all age groups. “It was here that I started a class called Toddler Time, where kids would engage in playing with play dough. The parents were surprised at the quality of the play dough and soon enough started making enquiries about buying it.”

The store bought play dough usually dries up very quickly and cannot be used once it dries up but Deepti’s Doh Dough was different. Made from salt, flour, oil, food grade colours and water, Deepti’s play dough has a shelf-life of six months.

In a way, the activity center acted as a launchpad for the business. Deepti started participating in various pop-ups across the city and says that her initial investment was all of Rs 20,000. “The initial response was very encouraging. While friends and family bought the products in large numbers, even our organic sales started to pick up well,” she says. It was slow growth, but one that helped Deepti grow as an entrepreneur.

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Each pack is handmade by Deepti, who describes herself as the ‘jack of all trades’.

“From making the product to promotions and after sales – I handle it all from the comfort of my home,” she says. Three months ago, Deepti hired three other people to help her make the creatives and for the packaging of the products. “Hiring help has helped me utilise my time to think of more products to work on and that has been an exciting development for me.”

On an average, Deepti makes sales of close to Rs 35,000 month-on-month and ships out more than 60 orders each month. The customisation options that she offers is a huge hit amongst customers. One box of dough balls, which weighs 200 grams, starts at a price point of Rs 225 and lasts for six months, if taken care of properly. “Unlike store-bought dough, which hardens when left outside for long, the ones I make can be revived by simply adding a little bit of hot water and kneading it,” she says.

Deepti’s biggest supporter and critic is her 6-year-old son, Shlok, who gives her valuable feedback on every product that she launches.

Play Dough
Deepti with Shlok.

“Just the other day he saw a tempo carrying a huge advertisement of an insurance company and after finding out what it was, he instantly said he would like to see the Doh Dough advertisement like that. As I see it, he is an entrepreneur in the making,” says a beaming Deepti.

On Doh Dough’s Instagram page, Deepti posts several different ways in which one can use the product to teach children basic concepts. “Alphabets, shapes, sizes and even the concept of opposites can be easily explained using play dough. It is indeed a great product, and if it is natural and free of toxins, nothing better than that,” she says in conclusion.

Doh Dough can be ordered on retail platforms like The Nestery and on their website here.

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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