“I come here every six months with my family. The shop is really helpful for people like me who can’t afford shopping in those expensive malls,” said Murugananthan, an auto driver. The existing scenes at shopping malls, where only the well off gets the chance to enjoy the shopping experience made a group of three entrepreneurs Ajith Kumar, Shivaji Prabhakar and Jaybala to think of an alternative space for the poor.
In February 2018, they started ‘Thuli, a handful of happiness’ to give a shopping experience for the underprivileged and to make the public notice how little drops can combine to mark a difference in society. Thuli has its shops in Adyar and Vadapalani. The clothes are collected from all across the world.
The clothes are split according to age groups and are displayed just like how the clothes in a boutique. Apart from clothing, there are footwears, toys, books and other accessories. This is given to economically backward people who cannot afford to buy clothes on a regular basis. The customers are given vouchers worth 500 and 1000 points with which they can shop every six months.
“The main idea of Thuli is to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor,’said Uma Naganathan, a volunteer of Thuli.
“We collect sparingly used clothes from the general public and take it to the sorting centre. The first quality clothes are sent to the laundry. The second quality clothes are sent to orphanages and the remaining third quality clothes are given to people who buy scraps, they convert it into towels for the cancer patients,”she added.
Uma further said that the actor Vijay Sethupathi is now a part of Thuli and impressed by the idea, the actor joined hands to start a new shop in Vadapalani and became the fourth trustee.
The whole concept of Thuli is not just about shopping experience. “We find out what their real problem is, sometimes parents stop the education of the girl child, in that case, we counsel the parents to continue their education. We also help the jobless to find a good job,” said Yiness, another volunteer.
“We don’t want to make them feel inferior that they don’t have money and for that purpose we are providing purchase vouchers with which they can shop every six months.The main idea behind purchase voucher is to spread the message among the customers that there are people similar to them and they should give it to everyone. We talk to them from the time they enter the shop to make them feel comfortable. They choose what they want,” said Uma Naganathan.
“Thuli spread like a wildfire. People all over the world started to dedicate a bag itself for Thuli when they travel to India,” Uma added.
Customers keep increasing by leaps and bounds. They are not only from Chennai but also from Salem and Coimbatore. At present, there are around 1000 customers. Thuli has a strong bunch of volunteers which include people from all age groups. Thuli awaits more volunteers to work along with them. To donate or volunteer, contact Thuli at 7550283108
(Written by Ardra S and Heera Ramesh)