Kaja's Kairaasi - A story about Trunkboxes and Stencils

A.R.Kaja Moidheen is a passionate trunk box maker who got associated with Kairaasi 8 years back. It was a stencil making work to design the logo for Kairaasi that got him started here. Kaja, 34-year-old lives in Trichi and started his work in a market side shop. He has graduated himself into owning 4 shops of his own providing employment to 4-6 people. He exudes passion in his work that he has learnt and explored over the years. He has attempted, innovated variants of the same the products including creating Tea trays, Iron chairs, trunk boxes and various types of stencils. His craftwork on Hindu temples shows passion for art knows no bounds! 

 From which Year you started with trunk box business?                 

I got into this business from the year 2004. It was cascaded down from my grandfather and we have been doing this for the past 50 years. We have modified the style and usage according to the market requirements. Since the old pattern of doing the trunk boxes involved a lot of handwork and cannot be replicated by machine, it used to take 6 to 7 days to complete one piece. It is hard to do this kind of craft right now. 

 What interested you to this trunk box making and do you think the pursuit of trunk box making will continue? 

It was more of a family business and family situation pushed me into this field right from the age of 5. Using my education I was able to improvise the way of doing things. Earlier we made 6 to 7 pieces a day but today we can do 100 pieces in just a few days. While the next generation is into academic pursuits, I personally feel blending education with this craft will help bring new ideas to upgrade, expand our business. I feel there is a 60- 70% probability that our next generation will follow our footsteps. 

 How is the popularity growing for trunk boxes?   

In India, trunk boxes were introduced around 40 to 50 years ago, prior to which only wooden trunk boxes were available. There is a popular demand for trunk boxes in factories, industries, school hostels, offices for storage and in ships to transfer items from one region to another. Other than office needs, the demand for personal usage has gone down as it is increasingly replaced by Plastics.  Mostly old people above 60 years prefer these boxes to store money, files,etc. June and July of every year is a peak time for our business. 

 What is the difference between the old trunk and new trunk?

Initially, trunk boxes were made using wooden materials with great detailing. People were not happy with the durability as wooden materials were damaged by termites. So later MS steels (mild steel) boxes were introduced and they were considered durable not affected by termites. However, they got rusted over time and soon got replaced by iron. Iron wasn’t rust-resistant well.  5 years back we introduced trunk boxes made out of stainless steel which is quite costlier but are highly durable. They can last up to 100 years. If it’s a big trunk box we take a day to finish it. If it’s a smaller, 4 to 5 pieces can be done and we make as many as 6 trunk boxes per day.

 Are you interested in teaching the making of trunk boxes? 

I am very much interested in sharing my knowledge with my employees.  I have four people working under me who have been trained completely on this craft. They have been working for 5 to 8 years with me and each individual has experience and skill in each category of trunk box making. They are more of my reflection, when it comes to working as a team we have perfected the art of making trunk boxes 

What are Stencils? Do you still make them?

Stencils are used to print logo, numbers or alphabets that are repeatable and consistent across all products where they are embossed on. Though Stickers and computer designs have become popular, stencils still continue to have its demand in the industry as this is considered user-friendly. Previously drawing logos, text, numbers for stencils was done manually but now computers assist to design them. It is widely used in industries like BHEL and rice Mandis. 

What do you think about kairaasi?

Kairaasi team when they found me for the first time - asked me specific design to make, which was 7 to 8 years back. They shared with me on how the boxes were sold and gave me another order again for a specific design. They also involved with me in providing ideas and we jointly explored options of making it. Using my bit of creativity I was able to innovatively make trunk boxes for Kairaasi which was much appreciated by their team.