Every day, Ankit Anubhav handwrites about 10 love letters. No, he does not have multiple girlfriends. He writes to the girlfriends of others — people who have commissioned him to write letters on their behalf for a fee. Anubhav is the co-founder of The Indian Handwritten Letter Co. (TIHLC), which describes itself as “your personal letter writer”. The business, Anubhav says, is growing fast: The six-month-old company has sent over 2,500 handwritten letters — most of which are love letters.
Not just TIHLC, a few other start-ups launched in the past few months such as Letteramail and Callyally also write letters for their clients — and personal letters is their most sought-after service. These enterprises write letters in languages such as English, Hindi, Marathi, Telgu, and they say there are many takers — at Rs 99 a letter. Most orders come from Delhi/NCR, they say.
Their founders say people send emails, Facebook and WhatsApp messages these days, but they are devoid of feelings and emotions. “Typing a message is a mechanical process. People are realising that and they want us to deliver deeply felt handwritten messages on their behalf to their near and dear ones,” says Anubhav. “We want to turn handwritten letters into a lifestyle product and enable people to send letters the way they send flowers and cakes to wish their loved ones. They do not necessarily bake the cake they send.”
The founder of Letteramail, Sumanyu Verma, gives a similar reason. “In this digital age, all conversation happens on screen, but when you write a message with pen on paper, you think and come up with beautiful ideas and emotions. The recipient feels that you actually care,” says Verma, 27, who co-founded the company with his friends. “Emails are deleted or junked, but a lot of people like to keep the handwritten letters,” he says.
Like TIHLC, Verma’s firm too mostly writes personal letters. How does it work? Type a letter, mail it to them and they will handwrite it and send it to whoever you wish. Letteramail and Callayally say they ask their clients to email exactly what is to be handwritten, and don’t want to go beyond correcting the grammar and converting the email into a handwritten letter. “We can help when clients know what to say but are out of words, but we avoid telling them what to say,” says Verma. “Seventy per cent of the letters we write are personal.”
Anubhav says his company helps with the content. “At times, the brief we receive is open-ended, and we have the freedom to write whatever we want,” he says. “We try everything to make the letter appealing. But we seek the approval of our client before it is sent out.”
Last month, he was approached by an ailing woman, who wanted to write to her granddaughter. “We spent an hour with her in the hospital to understand what she wanted us to convey. The letter we wrote had anecdotes from her life aimed at instilling values,” says Anubhav.
Writing personal letters, he says, is challenging and satisfying. “Though one has to be very careful about the content, you feel good when the letter has resolved the differences between two people,” he says. Recently, he wrote a letter for a young man whose girlfriend had not been taking his calls, replying to his Facebook and WhatsApp messages for six months. “The boy emailed us the note with some background on what went wrong. We penned an emotional letter, ending it with the hope that she would reply. And his girlfriend did reply,” says Anubhav, whose firm writes 35 letters a day, half of them lover letters. He has a team of in-house and freelance writers who have “both good handwriting and empathy”. “Most of our love letters are from boys to their girlfriends. We also hire professional calligraphers to write beautiful letters,” says Prahlad singh, a software professional, who founded Callyally.
Recently, a man living in Dubai requested Verma to write a letter to his wife in Kerala to mitigate her sense of loneliness as they had been living away from each other for months. “Relationships in India are more complicated than in the West, and so there is greater need for conveying emotions in writing. Many people cannot vocally express their feelings to their loved ones... That is where letter writers like us help,” says Verma.
Why would people outsource writing personal letters? “We all like to handwrite and receive letters from our near and dear ones. But these days people do not have time to write, buy stationery and post letters,” says Singh.