By Sumaiya Malik
Ever remember standing in the greeting cards aisle of a grocery store looking for a card and walking away without one?
You are not alone. Too many people feel that there is no card out there that truly represents how they feel.
Young university graduates, Afra Nehal and Zoya Khan, with full-time jobs in the professional world remember not finding cards to their liking during Eid, the annual Muslim celebration worldwide.
The cards were far and few and they could not identify with what was available.
“When you go to Target, CVS, Walmart, or wherever, you just see the standard birthday cards, — you don’t see skin color, you don’t see representation,” Nehal said.
The longing for greeting cards that represented who they really are, prompted the two Pakistani American roommates and friends to design greeting cards as a business.
They launched The Chit-Chaat in July 2020, a greeting cards company on Instagram @thechitchaat, and within 10 days had sold over 300 cards. Their first designs for Eid kept in mind their South Asian background, and light humor.
While their first designs catered to the Muslim market, they began designing cards for their friends in the Hindu, Parsi and the Christian communities from South Asia who asked if they too could order cards for their holidays.
“That’s when we realized there’s a gap in the market, and we began to expand further into the South Asian community,” Nehal told Austin South Asian.
While sales in the print industry of greeting cards is on the decline due to online sales, the trend towards purchase is still on the rise in the millennials, a USA Today article citing IBISWorld Survey said.
The Chit Chaat has early success as their greeting cards were “breaking the mold” and providing more representation to the changing demographics of the country.
They also knew fully well that price matters.
“Our greeting cards start at $3 affordable for anyone and everyone,” Nehal said.
“We want to make it easy to send a thoughtful message to loved ones, while having access to affordable art pieces that represent their identity!”
The ideas of The Chit Chaat keep evolving. The entrepreneurs were open to asking friends from other communities to design the card that best represents them.
This prompted the two to talk to artists and influencers from different religions about their celebrations.
“Each holiday collection has been designed by artists that specifically celebrate that holiday,’ Nehal said, “Diwali collection was designed by Hindu artists [and] our Eid collection was designed by Muslim artists to ensure authenticity of each celebration.”
Their clientele is mostly women ranging in age between 16 and 40. The company offers physical and digital gift cards, as well as card displays and packaging.
“It’s been a lot of fun understanding different religions, cultures, & ways of life by talking to so many different designers, artists, & influencers about their backgrounds and celebrations,” Nehal said.
The two spend every free hour possible to work on chit-chaat. “We pretty much work 2 full time jobs, and for The Chit-Chaat we utilize late nights, early mornings, weekends,” Nehal said.
TheChitChaat.com carries their latest collections. They offer the personalized service of writing out the card and mailing it for their customers. Recently they ventured into Valentine’s Day gift boxes.
“Overall, it’s been an overwhelmingly positive response. We created a desi diaspora collection, which featured Bollywood references, birthday cards, get well soon cards with desi remedies - and people have truly enjoyed seeing their culture in everyday celebrations,” Nehal said.
“Now that people understand what we do - we’ve received a ton of requests to do custom client work, especially weddings and save the date cards!”
Parts of their sales benefit organizations such as Save the Children, Meals on Wheels, and United Against Human Trafficking.
When asked what their plans for the future are, Nehal said, “We’re currently looking for corporate partners to collaborate with.
We’re looking to grow outside of the South Asian space, and into other cultures for the future.”
They will be looking to raise a round of funding soon, in order to grow into these other spaces.
“Let us know if there’s a store in the Austin area you think The Chit-Chaat would be a great fit for!” Nehal said.
Find @thechitchaat on Instagram, Twitter and Tiktok.