The first thought that comes to mind when we check Pikkabox's website is: 'Why didn't we think of this?'
Six months ago, New York-based couple, Anuja Joshi, 34, and Gaurabh Mathure, 33, signed up with Remote Year, a start-up that facilitates travel for digital nomads. While the two didn't initially have their entrepreneurial idea, they discovered it within a month — a mystery box of curated products wrapped in storytelling to give a cultural glimpse into a country.
Gaurabh Mathure and Anuja Joshi
"Pikkabox is our passion project," Joshi, an industrial designer who moved to New York after studying architecture in Mumbai, tells us over the phone from Kyoto. Her partner, on the other hand, is a creative director with a digital agency.
Presently the two are freelancing. "We are on a break, but not from work," Joshi points out.
What's in the box?
In each country they visit with the Remote Year community, the couple scouts for lesser-known souvenirs they find through chats with locals, encounters with artists and sellers.
A Turkish Pikkabox
"The products in the box mean nothing without the stories we tell. For example, everybody knows of Turkish Hamams or baths. But we wanted to deliver the experience through products and tell the story of these age-old baths. So we curated products to tell the entire story of Hamams from past to present. The idea is to serve a cultural perspective about a city," says Joshi.
There are 60 participants in the pilot programme, started by Chicago-based Greg Caplan and Sam Pessin. And, all are travelling together. For a monthly fee of $2,000 (1.3 lakh approximately) per person, Remote Year takes care of their transportation and stay at apartments. It also ensures co-working space and throws in a few community lunches. In its first year, the founders are travelling with the group as well. The group is currently in Kyoto, Japan, and the duo is apprehensive. "It is harder than I thought, for we must tap into products beyond matcha tea and hand fans.
"While Pikkabox is our individual venture, the start-up offers a platform that allows individuals to travel and work. Even though we are on leave from our jobs, we still have to earn a living. When we first signed up, we were not looking at doing business but work that would help us sustain ourselves," says Joshi, who hit upon the idea while sending a box of collectibles to family and friends back home. "The box contained things we picked up on our travels. That's when the idea struck us."
Their first stop was Prague. "We added stationary like postcards, utilities like soaps and a bag from a local NGO. When we were in Slovenia, the locals make their guests remove their footwear and offered them slippers to wear at home. We stumbled upon this fact, which would usually be relevant in an Asian country," says Joshi.
Cost of the box
So far, they have sold 70 boxes in the US and India.
"We are not doing bulk orders for now. We started with $75 (Rs 5,000), but the shipping cost was a challenge.
Today, we sell our boxes for $115 (Rs 7,600 approximately)," says Joshi, who says this phase is more about a lifestyle change than quitting a job. "Even today, I wake up, switch on my laptop and start working."