Home Chennai Elephant dolls and falafel

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Auroville-based Well Paper has a new line of dolls and DIY kits for children

THE quiet corner in Auroville dedicated to Well Paper has at least a dozen women, at any given time, busy making eco- smart products—from tea coasters to papier-mâché elephants with pearl pet bottles as its base. The founder of Well Paper, Danny Merguei, tells us, “We are always innovating. Our last product line was for Christmas, and now the elephants and dolls. We also have new earrings and accessories.” Merguei moved from Israel to Pondicherry, with his wife Orly Alon and their three children, just a few months before the tsunami struck our shores in 2005. With a predilection for social work and recycling, they initiated Well Paper as a tsunami relief effort, where ‘Well’ stands for Women’s Empowerment through Local Livelihood. It has gradually developed into a social enterprise model for women from the neighbouring villages of Auroville and Pondicherry.

pap10DIY bandwagon
Aiming at women’s empowerment and ecological awareness, Well Paper started out with handmade baskets and today has a line-up of 25 products—from eco friendly up-cycled bags to bowls, jewellery and belts. The team is also developing a new line of DIY kits for children. “Though it is in its initial stages, the kits can be a good hobby for children—to make necklaces, bowls, baskets and more,” says the 51-year-old. Initially their products were popular only among expats, with a major chunk being exported, but now Merguei tells us that 95 per cent of their products is for the Indian market. “We have started retailing in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore,” he says. In Pondicherry, their products are available at Auroville boutiques, Casablanca and Boutique la Maison. In the city, they are available in Fabindia and Silk Route.

Vegan attraction
The Well project has also launched WellCafe, a vegetarian Mediterranean and vegan restaurant that is popular among expats. Look out for their couscous and madjadra on Thursday and falafels on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Their hummus and salad platters are fast moving and available every day. As for Merguei, he loves it in Pondicherry. “I love India, especially the South. Pondicherry is one of the sweetest towns and it has a nice mix of people,” says the certified public accountant who has worked in Tel Aviv and New York. “We are here because of Aurovillian ideals and good education for our children,” he concludes.

Elephant mache dolls are priced at Rs. 210. Details: 0413 2622219

— Mrinalini Sundar

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