Priya’s creativity and talent comes out through her work. I had never even heard of quiet books till I came across Cubs and Calves. And if you look at the pictures that follow in detail you will be amazed at the creativity , attention to detail and hardwork that goes in building these books. And we recommend to buy these books not because they build up your child’s imagination but it will also teach them the value of #handmade.
First Priya’s choice of music … and when you would read her books you would just feel – What a wonderful world
And her favorite words of wisdom via Tom Robbinsin Still Life With Woodpecker.
“Difficulties illuminate existence, but they must be fresh and of a high quality.”
Now is a good time to grab some coffee or chai ( if you please) . Listen to Louis Armstrong and just slow down …
Some bits from my conversation with Priya Ravishankar founder of Cubs and Calves :
PITR : Please tell us about quiet books . Why would you recommend kids to have them?
Priya : Quiet books are a rare kind of toy in the form of a book. It is made out of fabric, has an activity on each page and skills to work on.
Imagine tying shoe laces, zipping up a jacket, learning to button a shirt, braiding hair, telling time, solving puzzles, hanging laundry, harvesting fruits and vegetables, playing peek-a-boo – all by turning pages of a book that you can carry anywhere!
They are great tools for interactive, hands-on learning. The child is playing , having fun, physically touching and feeling objects, making inquiries, attempting to answer them, actively engaging with it….and learning along!
What is appreciable is that it does the LEAST encouraging the child to do the MOST. So the focus is on what the child can do, rather than what the toy can.
Quiet Books allow the child to explore and work on skills that strengthen hand dexterity, fine motor, concentration in an entertaining and interactive way.
And whats more, they are easy to carry, easy to store, durable, reusable and make great gifts and keepsakes.
PITR : What inspired you to start making quiet books ?
Priya : My daughter and my love for art.When my daughter was 2 years old, I stumbled upon the concept of Quiet Books on the internet and went looking for one. I soon realized that my options to buy a good quality quiet book were limited, not easily accessible and affordable and decided to make one myself. That was when I realized we would fill this gap in the industry with our own line of locally made quiet books that are easily accessible to many.
It was important to me that our quiet book collection be as functional as they are stylish, easy on the environment and everything be made right here in India that support the local economy, and under our supervision.
PITR : Who designs the books and what is the inspiration behind your designs ? Tell us a bit about the creative process and your design routine. Is it time consuming?
Priya : Although I have a lot of help in executing the ideas once conceived, I conceptualize nearly every book.
We are constantly fed by parents and children, especially children – their stories and ideas, watching them play, understanding what they truly love to engage in, and speaking with and listening to our customers. We value all of this and build on them. We are receptive to anything and everything because we never really know when or where the next idea or inspiration may come from.
My creative process starts with design. I always keep a notebook on hand so I can make note of things that inspire me everyday and sketch ideas on a whim. Sometimes a really amazing fabric can inspire a collection, sometimes the words of a song. A person. An object. It’s hard to tell. I’m always designing inside my head – day and night. It is like a labyrinth into which you enter, and you have to respect its rhythm and its own pace. Sometimes you are done within hours , sometimes it can take days.
PITR : Who makes the books and where? How did you manage to achieve the production of a labor and material intensive product.
Priya : The prototypes and samples are developed in our design studio in Mumbai. Once we are happy with the samples, the collection goes into production in Delhi. Every book and all parts of the book are handmade by our talented aristans. Every single piece is carefully sewn to create a quiet book that kids love to play with and parents can feel good about buying.
What we’re extremely happy about is how we’ve scaled up so far – from idea on a napkin to prototype to in production. The first step was to standardise the design and raw materials. But even a standardised quiet book without compromising on the design and appeal – had around 15 different fabrics, 30 colors of felt, at least 15 different accessories (buttons, beads, laces, etc), 200+ pieces (often very tiny and intricate) to work with, cut and sew. Now to produce this in bulk came with its own complexities – finding skilled artisans, convincing them to work for us (why sew small intricate pieces when we can stitch trousers and shirts comfortably was the constant question), streamlining the production process while keeping a tight lid and watch on cost, quality and consistency. Right from the beginning, we were conscious of using scalable production models and design. We maintained extensive data and process files – every process step was documented and broken down into clear simple work instructions. We also invested in various cloud based software for different parts of the order journey at a very early stage. It also helped that one of the members of the founding team came with a valuable experience of production design and management.
PITR : What would you recommend parents keep in mind while buying and using toys? Five must have quiet books from your store and where can one buy them from?
Priya : More advanced toys aren’t always better. Toys need to be developmentally appropriate for them to be educationally relevant. Ask not what the toy can do but what the child can do with the toy. And don’t discard a toy or assume it is a failure simply because the child is not interested in it anymore or its staying power has worn off. Often a parent’s involvement and assistance is inspiring enough for the child to start enjoying it again. Its crucial that we get play right.
Picking five quiet books would be tough because they’re all equally good and unique in their own way. But if I were to shop from www.cubsandcalves.com today for my daughter, I would shop for Me All Day or Oh Boy, Ullu – The Pink Owlet, The English Alphabet, Fast Car and Nature. Oh, Wonderland too because she loves Minnie, Kitty, Tom and Jerry! And then keep an eye out for all the new releases
PITR : What is unique and special about Cubs and Calves Quiet Books ?
Priya : Handmade, 100% Sewn, Fabric Based Quiet Books of high quality at a competitive price. First ever product of its kind at a global scale.
PITR : A memorable moment in your entrepreneurial journey so far ?
Priya : I’d like to think that start-up highlights are ongoing, but the first time one of our customers called us from a place that is difficult to spot on a map to share how delighted they were to receive the book there, how happy it made their child, ease of the shopping process and that if not for Cubs and Calves, they might have never been able to get hold of a quiet book, was a standout moment for us. This , and when we packed and shipped our books to Europe to be retailed in the EU market. More on this soon.
PITR : Name a woman(or women),past or present whom you admire or look up to.
Priya : I don’t think I believe in heroes but I have enormous respect for many individuals, East and West. I learn something from everybody – the believer, the confused, the sinner.
PITR : In moments of self-doubt or adversity , how do you build yourself back up ?
Priya : Some of the most substantial toy and game brands in the market today were spawned by small, independent female entrepreneurs who followed their passion and persevered in spite of daunting challenges to bringing their ideas to market. I learn about them. It is up lifting.
PITR : What is the biggest sacrifice you have made in starting or running your business ? What about Work/Life Balance?
Priya : I don’t know if I can call it sacrifice but it is the time that I would have otherwise spent with and for my daughter that I sometimes wonder about. The score changes from one to nine all the time; it’s never zero, but never ten . And work/life balance – There is none now! Cubs and Calves is my second child. There is no separation from it. I’m always talking about it ,and my daughter and husband have always been involved – so there is just no separation.
PITR : Future plans?
Priya : We have grown from a spare bedroom to a couple of production units. New quiet book designs (plenty of them actually) will be the flavour of the coming months. We are simultaneously working on expanding the product line within the brand. B2B opportunities are opening up as well. We hope for the best!
I want to thank all our customers for their continued support.Much love and respect from me for reading this if you managed to come this far! Thank you!
You can buy Cubs and Calves on their Online store here
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