The Left-Hand Shop: A Hyderabad-based safe haven for Left-Handed teens and adults1 month ago Shravani Maddirala
Undeniably, we tend to take certain inane abilities such as smudge-free writing, painless application of scissors, and unhampered writing speed for granted. We often undermine the needs and more importantly, the struggles of left-handers. Left-handers makeup 10-15% of our population and includes eminent personalities such as Mahatma Gandhi, Ratan Tata, Amitabh Bachchan, Bill Gates, etc. Simple tasks become herculean to left-handers simply due to the lack of proper tools. Though adults eventually learn to adapt themselves to the right-centric world and its accessories, it’s particularly difficult for children not to fit into the normative.
Catering to their specific needs is the Hyderabad-based Startup ‘The left Shop.’ It is an exclusive Shoppe featuring exceptional products specially adapted for left-handed people. They only sell through their online store and do not have any brick and mortar store in any city. They pride themselves to be the first store to offer full range of these products in India at prices comparable to right-handed products in the Indian market.
The left shop was commenced in 2016 after careful deliberation and research by the Hyderabad-based couple Sandeep and Pavitter. As parents to a left-hander, they established a store tending to the requirements of left-handers after being exposed to their perils themselves. In 2015, their 10-year-old son Gurinder who had just entered 5th grade had trouble in school. Having been performing well till then, his worrisome parents delved into the cause for his troubles. It dawned on them that their son was a left-hander caught in the normative loop of right-handedness. To help him out, they began researching for alternatives that helped him write better and aided his craftwork.
“We saw him facing the issue of smudging when he was using gel pens and had a different posture to write leading to a slowdown in his writing speed. He was also unable to efficiently use stationery like a sharpener, scale, and scissors. That is when we started researching on left-hand stationery and found that either you had to import them or ask friends and family to get them from the US or elsewhere. There were no dedicated left-hand stationery makers available in India,” Sandeep said adding the available products were at exorbitant prices.
Though taken aback by the prices, they were still willing to purchase the same. However, it also made them realize that they were probably not alone in this for there must be other parents looking for the same. It left them perplexed that nobody in the market was dedicatedly addressing this need. They thus took the matters into their own hands and set about on their entrepreneurial adventure and it definitely wasn’t a smooth journey.
They hit their first bump when many Indian stationery manufacturers refused to get on board stating the ‘scale and cost’ reasons time and again. They then diverted to getting them imported to India after being manufactured abroad. “We reached out to stationery manufacturing companies in France, Germany, and other countries and showed them the potential market in India,” Sandeep said. They soon realized that importing it would result in difficulty to keep the costs low.
The French company ‘Maped’ joined the couple with their venture. It took them a year to act on the plan and convince international manufacturers to make products feasible to the Indian market. They even convince domestic manufacturers to understand the untapped market. A Pune-based company making rulers agreed to customize them for left-handed users, and a Gujarat-based entity agreed to manufacture pencil sharpeners. Other companies agreed to customize clipboards, blade cutters, and hand-writing books catering to the needs of left-handers. The other products include a pouch, clay, and playing cards. ‘The Left-Handed Shop.’
Over time they convinced the manufacturers to start making them in bulk and started putting them on their website which was launched in 2017 as a Facebook page initially and then developed into a full-fledged e-commerce portal.
The portal has scissors for all age groups in different sizes, two types of sharpeners, specially designed pens for left-handers, scale sets, and few articles on how to correct children’s posture while writing with the left hand through the use of a specially-designed clipboard. The Left Hand Shop is now working on launching products in the kitchen supplies category as well.
MyLeftHand supplies scissors and pens made from Maped, while the remaining products are made in India under and sold under the brand MyLeft, registered under Diffstuff E-commerce Pvt Ltd. “We spent seven months in figuring out how to cut down on pricing. It was agreed to cut down on profit margins, logistics, and on marketing,” Sandeep explained. They decided to ship their wares along with other products in small amounts, and spend nothing on marketing.
“We do not have an advertising or marketing budget, and the business is purely by word of mouth or online search results. Even with about 100 percent increase in customers annually, we were only able to breakeven with investments,” she added. The company now wants to expand beyond stationery products. “We are working to explore opportunities if scissors can be manufactured in India and hoping to reach a viable figure for sales on those lines,” says Pavitter. Pavitter added that there are other products – like can-openers, vernier callipers and guitars that potentially have demands. With an organic startup story emerging from necessity, ‘The Left-Handed Shop’ has successfully tapped the left-handed market.