Maitri Wadher, a 26-year-old resident of Bengaluru, felt ‘left out’, ever since she was a child. As a left-hander, she would often find herself sitting at the corner of the dining table, while others merrily engaged in banter over dinner. That’s because she “didn’t want to bang her hand into others”, while writing or eating.
There are many like Maitri, who undergo daily struggles of being left-handed. To add insult to injury, they have to deal with the centuries-old social and cultural stigma associated with it. Even today, several cultures consider the use of the left hand as sinister, even though approximately 10 percent of the world’s population are southpaws.
“When I was a child, my parents and grandparents did not support me in being left-handed. They would tie my left hand in the hope that I would begin using my right hand to at least eat. To their dismay, it didn’t work out. My pediatrician also told them that it would affect my mental growth, if they tried to force me. I suffered a lot mentally,” she shares.
Maitri struggled adjusting in a right-handed world, even when it came to performing the simplest of tasks like writing, opening the door, or using a pair of scissors. That’s when her personal suffering motivated her to start The Left Out Store, an online-only store that exclusively caters to the needs of the left-handed population.
The big idea
Maitri, then 24, was pursuing her MBA from St.Joseph's College of Management Bengaluru, when this ‘big idea’ struck her. As a participant at an inter-collegiate fest, she was asked to present a business plan before the jury that consisted of venture capitalists. Within 20 minutes, Maitri had an idea in place — an exclusive store for left-handers to empower them, and make their lives simpler.
“The judges loved the concept, and encouraged me to put the idea into action. That was it, I started doing my research, and in my second year, in my specialisation of marketing, I took up this project to do my quantitative and qualitative research, and tested the waters. Fortunately, it all worked in my favour, and it has been two years since I started my little store,” she says.
Currently, the store sells an interesting range of products priced between Rs 25 and Rs 2,100 that can be shipped pan-India. These include left-handed stationery products like ink pens, spiral notebooks, folders and calligraphy sets, kitchen tools and accessories like knives, peelers, can openers, as well as scissors and paper cutters. They also offer playing cards and mugs for lefties.
“The left-handed scissors have the blades reversed, so that one can clearly see the cutting line. The pen is carefully designed for left-handers, so that they can see what they write, and it is simple for them to push the pen across the page, thereby reducing the pressure on their fingers. The blade of the sharpener is reversed, so that a left-handed user can hold the pencil in the left hand, and sharpen it easily,” she explains.
Some of the products are designed in-house, while others are imported from countries like the UK. Since her family business is into making corporate stationery, it helped her design products based on her requirements, so that they would be a ‘natural fit’ for left-handers.
Looking into the future
COVID-19 initially proved to be a dampener for their business, since left-handed products are niche and production does not happen on a large scale. But once the lockdown began to ease, the demand for products went up. Several people found Maitri on Google, and the orders haven’t stopped since then!
“We are also planning to launch golf sets, guitars and cricket sets for the left-handed population,” she informs.
Currently, the store is being financed by Maitri’s parents, but she is on the lookout for funding to scale up the business. A physical store is also on the cards in the future.
“This is a unique concept that will help the left-handed population. It is a necessity more than anything. When we can do things for the visually impaired population or those who can’t speak, why can’t we normalise products for the left-handed population? Using right-handed products is as good as an impairment for left-handers,” says Maitri.
Maitri feels there needs to be more awareness to break the stigma, which is why she has approached several schools to sensitise parents and teachers, and move a step ahead in the right direction.
The challenge is uphill, but this young girl is ready to do whatever it takes, so that southpaws do not feel ‘left out’!Geetika Sachdev is a freelance writer.