rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Business » How they fought cerebral palsy to be entrepreneurs!

How they fought cerebral palsy to be entrepreneurs!

Last updated on: March 3, 2011 16:55 IST

How they fought cerebral palsy to be entrepreneurs!

     Next

Next
Shobha Warrier


Sundar Ram and Sri Ram, the 25-year-old twins, call themselves 'twin entrepreneurs'.

Their venture Twin Twigs manufactures 'nature-friendly leaf plates and bowls' from bio-degradable Bauhinia leaves. So what is so great about starting such an enterprise, you may well ask?

Twin Twigs is unique as the twins are different from other entrepreneurs. They suffer from cerebral palsy and learning disability and they are also spastic. While one is quadriplegic, the other is diplegic and both of them are wheel-chair bound!

If they are entrepreneurs today and contribute to the household -- albeit not much -- it is all due to the years of hard work put in by their mother and the sacrifices made by their father.


Twin Twigs can be contacted at msramesh@hotmail.com and 094444 00373, 094450 97775

Click NEXT to read on . . . 


Image: Sundar Ram and Sri Ram, with their parents Ramesh and Radha, and Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan and quiz master Siddharth Basu.
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj
     Next

How they fought cerebral palsy to be entrepreneurs!

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Early days in Bhopal

Radha and Ramesh -- both Tamilians and who give no second names -- were living in Bhopal when the twins were born. Reality struck them when the twins were four months old that there was some problem with them.

"The physical milestones which you see in four-month old babies were missing in them. That was when we realised there was something wrong with our children. We took them to a doctor and he said they showed symptoms of cerebral palsy," said Radha, the twins' mother.

"We were so ignorant about the prognosis that we thought by giving them physiotherapy, they would become alright. We started physiotherapy from when they were 6 months old. Because I was ignorant, I never thought they were not going to walk. So I was not really worried then," Radha admitted.

She further added, "Both I and my husband are strong people. Till today I have not shed a tear because my boys are 'like this'. Others have made me feel bad for having such children, but left to myself I am happy because they have given me everything a normal child gives to his or her parents."


Twin Twigs can be contacted at msramesh@hotmail.com and 094444 00373, 094450 97775

Click NEXT to read on . . . 


Image: Former President APJ Abdul Kalam greets Sundar Ram.
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj
Prev     Next

How they fought cerebral palsy to be entrepreneurs!

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Moving from Bhopal to Chennai

Looking back, Radha feels the school education her twins got in the first ten years did a lot of damage to them.

When the school found that they could not cope with the lessons and match other children, they were allowed to do all the studies orally. It was only much later Radha came to know that they had learning disability too.

As there were no good schools for children with learning disability in Bhopal, Ramesh, the father of the children quit his job with a pharmaceutical company and decided to move to Chennai.

It took him more than a year to find another job but this time it was as a real estate developer.

In the meantime, Radha chose to learn more about the disability that her children were suffering from.

"I wanted to know everything about what my children were suffering from. I wanted to equip myself well so that I could help them in all ways," Radha said.


Twin Twigs can be contacted at msramesh@hotmail.com and 094444 00373, 094450 97775

Click NEXT to read on . . . 


Image: Sundar Ram and Sri Ram, with their parents Ramesh and Radha, and helpers.
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj
Prev     Next

How they fought cerebral palsy to be entrepreneurs!

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Admitting at Vidyasagar

Once in Chennai, Radha came to know about Vidyasagar, a school for children with disability. Only after her children went to Vidyasagar, did she learn what exactly cerebral palsy was.

She also learnt that they have learning disability as that part of the brain was affected.

She enrolled herself for a course on physical and neurological disorder to understand her children which changed her entire perspective on human beings.

"I learnt about many disorders, including cerebral palsy, autism, learning difficulty, mental illness, mental retardation, et cetera."

Her intention was not only to make her children independent but also to help other parents like her. The gap between her children and other children of the same age was widening and it caused her a lot of anxiety.

But she understood one thing: they learnt many things from experience rather than from books. She started taking her children everywhere so that they learnt to cope with the situations people face daily out in the world.


Twin Twigs can be contacted at msramesh@hotmail.com and 094444 00373, 094450 97775

Click NEXT to read on . . . 


Image: World Chess Champion Vishwanathan Anand greets Radha and her sons Sundar Ram and Sri Ram.
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj
Prev     Next

How they fought cerebral palsy to be entrepreneurs!

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Years spent at Vidyasagar

Sundar Ram and Sri Ram were at Vidyasagar for 10-11 years. They had to first unlearn a lot before learning new things.

That was because they were not taught or trained the correct way in the first ten years of their life.

At Vidyasagar, Radha also became a trained Special Educator.

"They were shaped as human beings at Vidyasagar. Even I learnt how to handle them by handling so many other children. Today they are two independent young men, thanks to one of their teachers, Susie, at Vidyasagar."

"Susie suggested that instead of formal education, they should be trained to be independent by giving them vocational training. She taught them about the future and planning in a very informal way. It was she who helped them grow from boys to young adults. Those with good hand function can do many things, but not my children," Radha said.

Sri Ram tried to learn other skills like using computers but he was upset with the way he was treated at the computer centre. He came home and said, "I don't like them. They don't understand me. They are very rude. I don't want to go there." That was the end of computer training.


Twin Twigs can be contacted at msramesh@hotmail.com and 094444 00373, 094450 97775

Click NEXT to read on . . . 


Image: Sudnar Ram at work.
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj
Prev     Next

How they fought cerebral palsy to be entrepreneurs!

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Becoming entrepreneurs

Both Sundar Ram and Sri Ram got excited when Radha told them that they could be independent and start their own enterprise.

From the ideas suggested by her, they chose to make leaf plates and cups which they had already been trained to do at Vidyasagar.

Radha had to talk to them for many days to make them understand what it was like being entrepreneurs. It was like moving them from boyhood to adulthood, but Radha succeeded in her endeavour.

Radha and Ramesh chose Twin Twigs as the name for the enterprise, and on January 15, 2010, it was launched officially though the preparation started a year ago.

By then, Karthik, another 24-year-old, had joined the household to help the twins. Karthik also became a part of Twin Twigs.

If Sundar Ram and Sri Ram are the twin entrepreneurs, Karthik is the person who supports the venture. Though of the same age, Karthik has dedicated his life to the twins and has become a part of the family.


Twin Twigs can be contacted at msramesh@hotmail.com and 094444 00373, 094450 97775

Click NEXT to read on . . . 


Image: Karthik helping the twins.
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj
Prev     Next

How they fought cerebral palsy to be entrepreneurs!

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

"I would say the three of them manage the unit quite well," Radha says.

Both of them, along with Karthik, accompanied Radha and Ramesh to Mysore to buy Bauhinia leaves.

Radha and Ramesh involved the twins in every aspect of Twin Twigs. They were taken to the place where the Bauhinia leaves are plucked and the machines are made.

"We did so because unless they have a visual image, they don't understand what it is and from where it comes. Their understanding of things is different from what we understand. They cannot think beyond a certain limit, "Radha confessed.


Twin Twigs can be contacted at msramesh@hotmail.com and 094444 00373, 094450 97775

Click NEXT to read on . . . 


Image: The products that Twin Twigs manufactures.
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj
Prev     Next

How they fought cerebral palsy to be entrepreneurs!

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Twin Twigs born

With Rs 500,000, Twin Twigs was born.

The first day was full of excitement for the twins. For the first time after her sons were born, Radha had tears in her eyes.

"It was the day I was waiting for: making my children independent. If they can do something like this, many others like them also can."

The first six months were spent on training both of them. When they were told that they were going to contribute to saving the earth, they both got excited as they were taught about saving nature at Vidyasagar too.

The products (10-inch and 7-inch leaf plates and 3-inch bowls) were launched at a relatives' wedding where they gifted their products and a brochure to all the guests.


Twin Twigs can be contacted at msramesh@hotmail.com and 094444 00373, 094450 97775

Click NEXT to read on . . . 


Image: The twins have not let their handicap become a hurdle to their success.
Photographs: Reuters
Prev     Next

How they fought cerebral palsy to be entrepreneurs!

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The first order for 100 plates and 100 cups came after three months of the launch from a friend of Ramesh in Bhopal. The biggest order for 10,000 pieces came from a hotel from Bhopal in August 2010. Today, every third month, they send 10,000 pieces to the same hotel.

The orders are so huge that the twins cannot handle them alone, so they have appointed two tailors and another person to help them. So far, they must have sold 25,000 plates, cups and bowls each.

Sundar Ram, who loves meeting people and talking to them, goes out with Karthik to take orders and deliver the leaf plates and cups, while Sri Ram is involved in production alone.

Radha admits that it is a big achievement for the parents though the twins look at it as just another job. They hand over the Rs 1,500 they earn to their mother and say, 'Now we also contribute to the family expenses!'


Twin Twigs can be contacted at msramesh@hotmail.com and 094444 00373, 094450 97775

Click NEXT to read on . . . 


Image: They also contribute monetarily to the family!
Photographs: Reuters
Prev     Next

How they fought cerebral palsy to be entrepreneurs!

Prev     More
Prev

More

When asked about their ambition, Sundar Ram says, "I want more people in the unit," while Sri Ram just smiles.

Radha also has ambitions for Twin Twigs, "I want to induct more children like Sundar Ram and Sri Ram into the unit. We will have more children with disability as they don't get jobs outside."

"My plan is to have 50 per cent disabled and 50 per cent able-bodied people in the unit," she says.


Twin Twigs can be contacted at msramesh@hotmail.com and 094444 00373, 094450 97775

Click NEXT to read on . . . 


Image: The products that the twins' unit makes.

Prev     More