By Aarian Parikh | Opening Doorz Editorial | July 09, 2018

In this world there are those who ‘say’ and those who ‘do’. ‘Thuli’, an initiative by Shivaji Prabhakar and his partners Jey Bala and Ajith Kumar, is certainly the work of those who ‘do’.

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The founders of ‘Thuli’ (From L to R): Jey Bala, Ajith Kumar and Shivaji Prabhakar

With its commencement on February 18, 2018, ‘Thuli’ marks the achievement of being the first store inside a Mall for the less privileged. It was an idea born from the thought of the trio who have witnessed the vast disparity between the income groups in the city of Chennai, India, and also the effects of various events and natural calamities that occurred in the city, recently.

They simply felt “Charity needs to be given with Dignity” and with “A sense of happiness” to the person at the receiving end, rather than dumping it upon them. Thus came to life ‘Thuli’, which in detail incorporates an appreciation for people, a love of music and the arts, and a high regard for nature, its mysteries and beauties.

Once the idea settled in their heads, they soon went to the drawing board to chalk out their road map and quickly put the concept through. The concept picked up like wild fire and received an extremely positive response from hundreds of people across the country. The shopping system ‘Thuli’ implement is one which not only allows for its shoppers a sense of pride but a sense of also feeling the joy purchasing something!

The employment of a voucher system, where each person visiting the mall gets a voucher of between rupees 1000 to 2500, allows families to feel the sense of money exchanged for the goods being ‘bought’ rather than feeling like they’ve been given someone’s leftovers. The garments are collected from 20 collection centers around the city. They are then sorted according to various age group, colour and style before undergoing a strict quality control check to ensure that the shoppers receive garments of quality. This procedure is topped with the clothes being sent to a laundry to give it that fresh, new look.

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‘Thuli’ has already catered to more than 4000 shoppers and counting, ranging from newborns to even senior citizens. The venture is uplifting in every sense.

Being a personal venture, ‘Thuli’ aimed to go a step further than the government and have a community driven program whilst inculcating a sense of the value of money amongst the people who are privileged. Having just been functional for five months, the store has already catered to more than 4000 shoppers and counting, ranging from newborns to even senior citizens. The venture is uplifting in every sense.

Opening Doorz caught up Shivaji Prabhakar to find out more about this noble venture which is spreading smiles amongst the underprivileged.

Excerpts:
Do you think, given the chance, ‘Thuli’ could be implemented in other cities as well, with the right associations?
‘Thuli’ can definitely spread its wings in other cities too if there are like-minded people who would like to support our cause.  We have a limitation in terms of infrastructure and finances, as we do not take donations in the form of money as of now. So for us to expand to other cities, we would require such support from the right associations.

What were the reactions of the families who visited your store for the first time?Every family visiting ‘Thuli’ has had an opportunity to shop for great clothing and accessories for the entire family. They are really spellbound by the variety and number of collections (which is not within their reach), as we have the best of brands on display. Ninety per cent of the children have never accompanied their parents for shopping; this is an experience for them when they come to our store to choose on their own. The ‘trial room’ gives them an ultimate sense of happiness and joy as they get to choose the right fit as well. All families realize that a minimum voucher of Rs 1000 is equivalent to a higher number in terms of the total cost of clothing they would have shopped for, which matches almost six months of shopping cost.

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“The ‘trial room’ gives them an ultimate sense of happiness and joy as they get to choose the right fit as well.” —Shivaji Prabhakar

Which of them is your fondest memory?
Every day is a fond memory for me and my partners as children get to choose beautiful outfits for their upcoming birthday, for their school cultural programme or even ‘buying’ a shoe for their favorite sport.

Through which NGO’s could people in other cities, who wish to donate, do so?
People need to donate directly to ‘Thuli’, as we are not associated with any other NGO, nor have we directed any NGO to collect on our behalf. Anybody interested can courier them directly to the following address: Thuli Trust, No: 51 Third Floor, Gandhi Nagar, First Main Road, Adyar, Chennai 600020.

The primary concern for our country’s underprivileged is unemployment, could ‘Thuli’, in the coming future, be used as an instrument to employ those seeking work?
As we receive garments of various conditions, the second quality clothes are being sent to NGOs that run tailoring units that recycle them into cloth bags and make a living, thereby helping with employment. We also employ people on minimum wages to help us sort and run quality checks on garments that reach us.

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The garments are collected from 20 collection centers around the city. They are then sorted according to various age group, colour and style before undergoing a strict quality control check to ensure that the shoppers receive garments of quality.

Finally, what plans does ‘Thuli’ have for the future?
We have been collecting a database of the real needy and underprivileged people who have been shopping at the store with the intention to aggregate with various educational and vocational NGOs to guide children for better education and employment.

Like we mentioned, in a world of people who ‘say’ and ‘do’, Shivaji, Jey and Ajith have truly picked their rightful spot on the side of those who ‘do’. ‘Thuli’ not only functions as a beacon of happiness for the under-privileged but also as a source of inspirations to those who wish to make a change—helping them realize that to make a difference all it takes is an idea and the coming together of like-minded people.

Also Read: A skatepark in Janwaar!

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