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Meet Mumbai's paper (heavy)weights

Delightful gift wrappers, artsy letterheads, tasteful handmade paper décor and accents to add a dash of wow to your home or work space. Iconic paper products store Chimanlals is the place to head to with the festive season in swing

The small joys of receiving a gift by post, opening it to find aesthetically designed wrapping paper, and appreciating the texture of handmade paper is where paper products store, Chimanlals steps in. Sadly, it also remains one of the last surviving names of its ilk.

From a personal collection by Chimanlals’, featuring  traditional Indian designs
From a personal collection by Chimanlals’, featuring  traditional Indian designs

This SoBo paper store tucked in Fort’s Wallace Street, boasts of over 200 paper products ranging from `9 to `263, Chimanlals’ history dates back to almost 50 years now. “Khadi & Village Industries Commission approached our parent company, Chimanlal Paper Company (still a leading paper company) to develop and promote handmade paper.

Faya Chandani, director, Chimanlals
Faya Chandani, director, Chimanlals

The company is named after my grandfather Chimanlal Shah. He brought in my mother Bharati Dalal and her sister Pratima Azmi to start working on it,” informs Faya Chandani, director of the store. Initially, they worked from a store in Macmillan Building nearby. Later, they moved to their current premises in the early 1980s; this was after the handmade division was incorporated as a private limited company in 1974.

the guide loves the ikat-style gift wrapping papers that would look great even if framed for your curio corner
the guide loves the ikat-style gift wrapping papers that would look great even if framed for your curio corner

Initial experiments with handmade paper didn’t work well as people weren’t too happy with the texture of the paper nor was it printable. That was when the sisters thought of making decorative paper products, especially ones that use traditional Indian art and motifs. This continues to be their USP. What has changed is the demand for the products. “Previously, letterheads and envelopes were our top sellers. But since few write letters nowadays, our focus has shifted to gift packaging products,” reveals Chandani.

Paper bags are some of the top-sellers at the store. Pics/Atul Kamble
Paper bags are some of the top-sellers at the store. Pics/Atul Kamble

Chandani seamlessly took over the reins of a store that she would visit ever since she was a student at Cathedral and John Connon School nearby. Today, like her, her son and daughter (a student of JB Petit School for Girls) visit the store too. Students from the neighbouring schools and Sir JJ School of Arts have been regular customers. In addition to this, products are exported to Europe, America and Asian countries.

A product for every occasion, these simple Christmas trees will make you head to the store in December
A product for every occasion, these simple Christmas trees will make you head to the store in December

But due to its location in a culture hub, they’ve seen famous customers too. This includes customising the letterheads for artist Jehangir Sabavala, and, the dancer, late Protima Bedi who would drop by the store for a cuppa with Dalal.

This hand-drawn lamp is Chimanlals’ most expensive product, for R263
This hand-drawn lamp is Chimanlals’ most expensive product, for R263

Chimanlals also created the wedding cards of actor Sanjay Dutt’s first wedding, as the senior Dutts too were regulars at the store. Quite a few customers of Chimanlals were friends of Dalal, Chandani shares, adding that Elizabeth Hurley too had dropped by the store a few times. Chimanlals provides products to the store Paperworks in Panjim, Goa, which is now run by Dalal’s sister Azmi.

Assorted gift boxes costing as little as R9
Assorted gift boxes costing as little as R9

Competition, especially from machine-made products has always been tough says Chandani, “Today mill-made products also provide great textures. I feel the demand for handmade paper peaked in the ’80s.”

The entrance to Chimanlals, the store
The entrance to Chimanlals, the store

“China-made products too have a big share in the market. But by staying true to our traditional line of products, we have maintained a good customer base,” explains Aruna Behel, chief executive sales and exports, who has been working with the store for 30 years now.

At Taj Building, Wallace Street, 210 DN Road, Fort. 
Call 22077717

Other paper stores
Bombay Paperie is a must-visit store for their handmade paper and decorative items.
At Bombay Samachar Marg, Fort.
Call 66358171

Bora Bazar near CST station houses two stores that offer a variety of papers and bags.
Call Star Fine Papers Co (66332947)
Sun Fine Papers (67754444)

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