Since 2017, JK Paper – a leading Indian Paper Manufacturing Company in a positive marketing initiative is supporting Daakroom, a social impact platform engaged in revival, preservation and promotion of hand written letters among children, in its annual campaign ‘Letter to my Supermom’ on International Mother’s Day (May 14). The campaign started with 16000 participants has grown to over two lakh this year with 450+ schools participating in the Mother’s Day campaign across India, including about 15,000 tribal students in Assam.
Curriculum Magazine’s Autar Nehru spoke with Partha Biswas, Chief Sales and Marketing, JK Paper Ltd., and Shivani Mehta, Co-founder and organiser of Daakroom on the success of this campaign:
Partha Biswas, Chief Sales and Marketing, JK Paper Ltd:
Your engagement with Daakroom is now 6-years- old. What are some of the good outcomes of this association for you and how do you see children reacting to your initiative?
We are happy to associate with Daakroom as they truly believe in our vision of the need to switch to paper in the most sustainable way. They have been doing a wonderful job on the ground promoting the forgotten habit of letter writing. With the advent of mobile phones, children have become less expressive. Our collaborations with them have resulted into a successful annual campaign “Letter to my Supermom”. Through the campaign, we have been able to reintroduce handwritten communication among lakhs of school students in the form of letter writing.
Our association with Daakroom has widened our reach, and this year we could reach out to 15,000 students from the tribal belt of Assam as part of the 2,00,000 students’ campaign.
Paper as a category faces the myth that it is non-environment friendly. To dispel this myth, we have conducted school activation programmes like ‘Back To Soil’ (Bangalore), ‘The Write-up’ (Delhi), ‘Letter to my Superdad’ (pan-India, like Letter to my Supermom) with Daakroom to engage children in a dialogue and spread awareness about the actual facts and goodness of paper.
We have also been a part of Daakroom during their letter writing carnival in Chandigarh and Delhi, which witnessed footfall of thousands of enthusiastic visitors. We look forward to a meaningful engagement with them in the coming years.
Okay best wishes, but there is this basic question on many peoples head, Why would you like to emphasise back to paper for ‘digital’ native children?
Paper provides a physical presence that digital mediums lack. The tactile experience of holding a paper document or letter can create a sense of connection and authenticity. It allows for a more personal and intimate experience when writing, reading, or sharing information. Research suggests that reading and learning from paper can enhance comprehension and information retention as compared to digital reading.
You have been saying that the paper industry like yours is based on social forestry and has nothing to do with deforestation. Can you elaborate on which trees and regions in India produce raw materials for you.
We do not cut a single natural forest tree to make our paper at JK Paper. Instead, we use Agro/Social Farm Forestry. It is a program that we started in 1991, in this process, we provide high-yeild saplings to Marginal farmers across our plant locations. They grow and harvest these as crops. The trees that are cultivated for paper making are Subabul, Casuarina & Eucalyptus on farmland like any other crop. Till date in excess of 550,000 acres of land has been planted covering states of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
What else do you do to promote paper use among students in India?
We have been doing many such activities like ‘Back to soil’, ‘The write-up’, ‘Daakroom’ ,‘Letter to my Super Dad’, etc. in schools in different formats. We also reach out to students through Social Media campaigns like- Paper Day, Environment Day, Earth Day and so on.
Any Message for schools/parents/children?
Parents and schools must emphasise and promote guilt-free use of paper among the children. Today’s digital savvy children are devoid of romanticism with paper. Paper carries a personal touch and emotional significance that digital messages may lack. The effort and time taken to write by hand can convey a deeper level of thoughtfulness, care, and sincerity, making it ideal for sentimental or important messages. Extended screen time can lead to eye strain and fatigue, while reading printed materials on paper generally causes less strain on the eyes. Paper provides a restful reading experience, especially for those who spend significant time working with digital screens.
Shivani Mehta, Co-founder and organiser of Daakroom
Schools have been your major partners in all these kind of campaigns, what kind of assistance was to schools and teachers, who partricipated in this campaign?
Schools and teachers are a crucial part of our campaign. Without teachers and their cooperation, scaling up the campaign would be next to impossible. To be physically present in hundreds of schools at the same time is not currently viable for us. So, we maintain good relationships with schools that allow for a smoother implementation of the campaign.
Our outreach to schools is rigorous but customisable as well. We are always up for any query/requests that we receive from teachers. We also provide detailed guidelines on how to conduct the letter writing activity along with the free stationery kits that we dispatch with the help of our courier partners. We give timely updates to the school on their dispatch status and ensure delivery of the kits before the date of activity. So, you can say our SOP, which has evolved over the years was applied to Supermom campaing as well. Since we are a young organisation, pulling up the entire campaign at this scale is our USP.
How do you incentivize teacher/school participation? Do schools get some recognition for this?
We encourage teachers to participate in the Letter to My Supermom Video Challenge. The schools are supposed to make a video of the Letter to my Supermom activity and stand a chance to win a gift hamper from JK Paper! The Top 10 schools who participate enthusiastically with best videos win a hamper. We share the video across social media that reaches lakhs of viewers every year.
Over the years, based on your involvement and experience do you really think children can get into letter writing regularly and developing it as a habit.
Our goal is to first introduce children to these lost mediums of communication. During OUR field visits for our campaign, we were surprised to find out that children and young adults were unaware of how frequently the earlier generations used letters and postcards to communicate.
Once you build the habit and accustom young minds with writing letters especially on Mother’s Day when children are thrilled to share their love with their mothers and the sheer joy on her face is something they remember as a sweet memory. We try to connect writing letters with a happy and satisfying experience for the children. This helps children pick up writing letters in the long run.
Any memorable letter you can mention with us?
Celebrating Mother’s Day can be difficult for children who have lost their mothers or for those who may not have a mother figure in their lives. And we acknowledge and empathise with the feelings of such children. This was something we worried about initially as to how as an organisation we would address the elephant in the room. However, the solution came right back to us from one of the participants from a government school in Sirsa, Haryana. The participant who had lost her mother wrote a letter in the loving memory of her mother and kept it beside her portrait. It was an emotional yet a learning experience for us.
Last word from you.
We only have a small request to current and future participants to keep on writing letters to their loved ones irrespective how convenient instant messaging is. There is something different about writing on a pen and paper that mobiles can never replicate. If you have to make someone feel special, writing a letter would bond you to that person for a lifetime. Some things never become redundant with time and writing letters is one of them.