From tiny ones to large ones, from simple greetings to elaborate ones, one is spoilt for choice while shopping for greeting cards that are being sold by Ajayan on the pavement near University College. Ajayan is all smiles; business is good. “Sales will be high till the end of December,” he predicts.
And he should know. For the last 15 years, every December, he is there to greet shoppers with his greeting cards at this very same spot. “Thampi, a friend of mine, and I wanted to start a business together, something innovative. As Christmas was around the corner and stores selling greeting cards were not that common, we decided to sell cards on the pavement as we did not have the required funds to start a stall of our own. We decided on the University College as we felt it was a strategic location, there are colleges and offices nearby.”
And so, from December 1 till January 1, the duo sit with their colourful wares. The cards sourced from Chala. “We have a store in Chala from where we buy the cards. We get a commission for every card we sell. Obviously, during the Christmas-New Year season, greeting cards are much in demand. Students usually pick up cards for their teachers and friends, while others purchase them for dear ones.”
Once, the most expensive card in his collection cost around Rs. 20, now, the costliest card can cost up to Rs. 150. Cards used to be quite plain with the emphasis being on the wordings. “Now, however, people make a purchase only if the card also looks interesting. While pop-up cards are popular, cards with Christmas motifs such as the Nativity scene, Santa Claus, Christmas trees… are popular. Young kids prefer our tiny cards that cost only Rs. 3 for one, as it is easy on the pockets,” he says, pausing to serve customers.
His partners Madhu and Sanjay are busy with customers too. “Thampi is no longer in the business; he runs a stall at the Palayam market.” Apart from Christmas cards, there are New Year cards, cards with no wordings inside, Valentine’s Card… Wait a minute Valentine’s Day cards during Christmas? “There are a lot of takers for these cards. I guess people prefer buying these cards early as the cost of our cards are cheaper when compared to those available in stores,” says Ajayan. He also sells gift options like a single fabric rose, tiny teddy bears, Santa masks…
During the other months, the Plus Two dropout keeps himself busy running ‘fancy stalls’. “I set up a stall during various temple festivals, selling toys, bangles, bindis...” says Ajayan, who resides at Muttathara with his wife, Beena, and two kids. Beena helps him in running the stalls.
Ask him what he does during his free time and he says: “There is hardly any. I usually keep myself occupied with something or the other. For instance, before Christmas, I was busy purchasing cards for the season.” And why hasn’t he opened a permanent shop of his own and Ajayan says: “Where is the fund? Besides, I enjoy this kind of nomadic styled business; it is less monotonous.”
(A weekly column on men and women who make Thiruvananthapuram what it is)