We have been accustomed to seeing greeting cards in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and textures. Some even have in-built music to grab our attention and convey emotion, but they have always been on a plain paper surface, and have never quite made the creative leap into the third dimension. That is exactly why a 23-year-old Sonam Kumar sensed an opportunity and gave birth to Lokta Cards: an exceptional fusion of general and quilling arts that introduces a refreshing edge to the age-old business of sharing wishes.
The flowering of the idea
After completing his +2 in Science, Kumar had fully made up his mind to pursue engineering until a period of internship in his father’s factory profoundly changed his mind. He was on a break from his studies when he was selected for the International Youth Summit held in Lahore. On the way to the embassy, he witnessed an able-bodied woman begging on the street. Upon contemplating solutions for the problem, he came up with the idea of collecting wastes i.e. paper, plastic and organic, as a form of social business. However, the colossal investment required put a halt to his dreams and forced him to come up with a secondary business to serve as a stepping-stone. That is when he delved into the business of greeting cards. He recalls, “I roamed around US cities with a prototype of a greeting card in my hand asking random strangers what they wanted to see in the card. I took all the feedback and decided to fuse general and quilling arts together to create a unique blend of greeting cards that weren’t seen before in Nepal.“ That was how the idea of Lokta cards took form.
Toughest moments and present challenges
“It would take around 4 months to come up with a single prototype,” he recalls while lamenting the lack of professionalism in Nepal as one of the causes of its sluggish development. Problems such as the inability to meet the right person at the right time, or the government’s bureaucratic red tape and unnecessary procedures, delayed the registration of the company by weeks.
With regards to the technical difficulties, he added, “Development of the prototype was very difficult due to the uniqueness of its concept, and I failed more than 50 times. It demands the skill and patience of an artist: the colours, angles, shapes and sizes have to be just perfect so that the quilling can form accurately.” After searching desperately for artists on Instagram, he hired one; Currently, there are three working for the company. One of them is the first-ever quilling artist of Nepal, and another one being a woman with a hearing disability who had been practising the art for 7 years after learning it from Youtube. She was used to selling them on the streets to support her family before he met her. Now she works for Lokta Arts from her home.
Though Kumar guarantees high quality with his cards, he found it disheartening that people often overlooked that fact over the price: “Stories are abound about products of low quality being at high prices in the guise of a social cause. It’s a form of cheating, and I am against that trend. For me, quality is paramount, and it is obvious when you see our work.”
Kumar hopes to set up a factory in the near future to manufacture the product from waste papers and employ homeless people to handle it. He also plans to jump into the plastic furniture business in partnership with two different organizations. His lifelong goal is to make people aware of the usefulness and recyclability of certain types of wastes. For this purpose, he is planning to conduct workshops in schools to teach young minds the importance of segregation before throwing away wastes.
He confesses that the journey of Lokta Cards has had a good start. “The epidemic of jobless graduates leaves me with no regret for having taken the break from studies.” he adds, “Though education is still important, knowing oneself is even more important.” Overall, his story proves the fact that Nepal is brimming with opportunities and talents that can be tapped for profit as well as for the overall benefit of society. All it takes, as Kumar states, is for someone to think a little differently.