Chennai

Twinning in their passion to empower people with disabilities

#Aatmanirbhar At the plate manufacturing unit; Sunder Ram, Sriram and Karthik founded the Twin Twigs gift shop in January, 2021 Special Arrangement  

It all started with the bauhinia leaves.

Ten years ago, Sunder Ram and Sriram Ramesh, 30-year-old twin brothers with cerebral palsy, a congenital neurological impairment, discovered a business idea in the mantharai plant. Dried, stitched by hand, and moulded by a machine, these leaves could be used as cups, saucers, plates, bowls and tumblers. Not only would they smell good, but they would also be eco-friendly. And most important of all, the business would help the twins become self reliant.

In January 2021, Sunder and Sriram realised their dream by opening a gift shop of products made by people with disabilities, under the brand name, Twin Twigs, in Navallur.

“We sell our leaf plates, along with wooden, cane and terracotta products, crockery, marble paintings, and cloth bags,” says Sunder, who is the point person at the shop.

Sriram, on the other hand, is more interested in the manufacturing aspect of things; they have a unit to mould plates, attached to their home. Before the pandemic, they had up to 10 people at the factory employed under them. They are partnered by their friend, K Karthikeyan, who also helps them with their special needs.

Their mother Radha Ramesh explains further, “Sunder is the one who likes dealing with people and taking orders, as his interpersonal skills are more developed. Sriram is more routine oriented, so he supervises the manufacturing.”

Twinning in their passion to empower people with disabilities

Radha has been instrumental in setting up the business. When her children were toddlers, Radha went to Vidya Sagar (formerly The Spastics Society of India) in Kotturpuram to become a special educator. “I did not want to be dependent on anyone to understand them,” she says. Soon, she became a teacher there, and is now the Director at Vidya Sagar.

Sunder and Sriram too, were given ‘life skills training’ there. No formal schooling meant they can not read or write, but that does not stop them from their chosen career as entrepreneurs.

“They use apps that incorporate assistive technology to suit their needs. Instead of letters, data can be input pictorially, and the app does the calculation,” says Radha.

At the shop, the footfall is the highest during the weekends. “With Twin Twigs, they wanted to create a platform for the products made by people with disabilities,” says Radha, translating for Sriram. The products on sale here are procured from all parts of India, including organisations for people with disabilities such as Vidya Sagar in Chennai, Umang School in Jaipur and Koshish in Delhi. Radha’s contacts at Vidya Sagar came in handy while building this network.

Despite the setback of the pandemic, Sriram and Sunder are persevering. “We want to expand this unit so that it provides more employment opportunities to disabled as well as non-disabled people. This is just the start,” they say.

Twin Twigs is at D5, OMR Bazaar Street, Navallur. Contact 9444060993.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 3:38:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/twin-twigs-chennai-gift-shop-by-people-with-disabilities/article34375752.ece

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