Has recent news dampened your spirits? At a time when there is so much negativity in the world, we have a story to cheer you up. The story of Ginny’s planet – a social enterprise that seeks to bring unity in diversity – and encourages conversations on disability.
They have a unique way of doing this too – with dolls!
We got in touch with Shweta Verma, Founder of Ginny’s Planet to know more about this unique little enterprise, and how they are changing the world, one doll at a time.
Ginny – and her tiny planet
Started in June 2019, Ginny’s Planet seeks to be different from other social enterprises. Founded by social entrepreneurs Shweta Verma and Jamal Siddiqui, Ginny’s Planet wants to:
- Train children and adults alike on empathy
- Inculcate a positive outlook towards diversity
- Help encourage topics on disability
“Ginny’s Planet aims to build a world where no one is considered the odd-one-out on the basis of differences. We believe that disability is also a part of human diversity, imperfections are a part of our lives, & everyone should have opportunities to flourish.” – Shweta Verma, Founder, Ginny’s Planet
Who is Ginny?
Ginny is a doll created by Shweta Verma and Jamal Siddiqui, founders of the social enterprise. Ginny the doll aims to trigger important conversations about inclusion among kids through stories featuring her.
The doll too is unique. She is a 4-year-old with a radial club hand, nine fingers and she wears a brace to support her wrist. Ginny’s adorable face also has spectacles to manage her vision problems.
Ginny helps kids with disabilities realise they are not alone.
While Ginny is the lead, a doll named Sai will be introduced next. Dolls and action figures aim to trigger conversations between children and peers as well as adults on aspects of human diversity.
Why Shweta Verma introduced Ginny to the world
Shweta’s decision to set up this social enterprise came from her own experiences. She attributes Ginny’s planet to her own journey as a social work professional and a mother.
Her engagement with people with disabilities, their families, & teams working on their issues made her vision clear. She wanted to create an inclusive world for kids and adults everywhere.
“ The trigger to move faster with urgency, however, came with the birth of my son & his conditions. My son was born with multiple congenital problems. Over 100 clinic + Hospital visits & interactions with other people led to a deep empathic recognition of the challenges that a child with disabilities/ medical conditions and their parents face.” – Shweta
Shweta states that although health systems in Delhi (where her family is based) are equipped to handle so many things, the journey of parents and the child is not an easy one.
Taking care of children with disabilities should be handled with empathy, tenderness and healthy communication. Unfortunately, that seems like a long road in the Indian medical system.
What does Ginny’s Planet want to do?
With Ginny’s Planet, Shweta Verma and Jamal Siddiqui aim to build a community where no one is seen as the odd-one-out on the basis of differences. They are doing this through dolls and storybooks and training workshops on empathy and diversity.
“ We want to change the current path by creating a more empathic world! We know it’s a tough journey because we are trying some different means- our dolls, storybooks, and our training workshops for children (among other things). But I wanted to try these.” – Shweta
Hence, to get the support and guidance in place, Shweta Verma did two things:
- Shweta applied for a fellowship program for social entrepreneurs by SSE India and joined their 2019 cohort. Soon, she launched Ginny’s Planet!
- Shweta also started a crowdfunding campaign before registering Ginny’s Planet. Through the contributions of her friends and relatives, she and her team were able to launch their initial products.
Ginny’s Planet got registered on 28th June 2019.
Who lives on Ginny’s Planet?
Ginny’s Planet is headed by Shweta Verma and her husband, Jamal Siddiqui.
Since November 2019, Ginny’s Planet has seen a lot of support from the India Inclusion Summit (held annually in Bangalore). In fact, Jamal was one of their fellows for the 2019 cohort.
“We were the youngest enterprise in their fellowship. And that fact helped us feel that we were on the right path!” – Shweta
Raising empathy and awareness among people
It’s all about the conversation! Shweta and her team work day in and day out to build a network of awareness, empathy, and diversity respecting people. Their goal – is to help raise future leaders & decision-makers.
“We believe that if the future needs to be different, then future decision-makers too should be different!” – Ginny’s Planet
Ginny’s Planet also offers workshops on the themes of empathy, diversity, understanding disability as diversity, learning through inquiry, and so on.
How the world received Ginny
Ginny is making waves in the country. Ginny’s Planet has also received appreciation and recognition for its work from customers, online magazines, peers and civil society groups.
The social enterprise has been featured in magazines like Newzhook, TimesNext and Shweta and also bagged the Women startup entrepreneur of the Year award by Adgully & Sheroes!
Related read: 10 successful business ideas for women in India
Ginny’s impact on the world
Ginny’s team directly influenced 690 children + 2000 adults (teachers/corporate employees).
Here’s an example of how Ginny starts a conversation between children and parents:
“ I’m a father of three girls, and when I heard about the Ginny doll, I wanted to see how my kids would react or relate to it. So I ordered one online. It started our first conversation in my family about disability and diversity and inclusiveness.
My six-year-old daughter Warda was quick to observe the design features like specs and brace and asked a lot of questions. 9-year-old Fatima read the story of Ginny. This experience created a narrative that I shared with my colleagues and it further led to discussions on biases and prejudice we hold towards disabled people. I think Ginny is creating a space in this world where disability is accepted as diversity.”- Syed Mohd. Yunus
Indirectly, Ginny’s work has influenced over 3000 people all over the country through partnerships, workshops, and collaborations with schools and corporates who participated in the training offered by Ginny’s Planet.
A lot of Ginny’s beneficiaries include people who battle mental illnesses, women from poor communities & the migrant population. Ginny’s Planet has also helped women facing gender-based violence, and tribal communities.
Overcoming challenges down the road
The social enterprise turns 4 years in June 2023! The team has already done a few training classes, sold products, and generated revenue of over 5 lakhs.
But people and organizations are still getting to know what they are about.
“ Paid training workshops are still hard for us to acquire. This is one of our challenges. Schools and people find it a challenge to take up the training because of the payments attached to them.” – Shweta
A prime struggle is finding sponsors, and it is a time-consuming affair. Their support network continues to help in diverse ways, including spreading the word about what Ginny’s Planet does.
While there is a large repository of ideas for stories, activities and products, limited funds are becoming a problem for converting their ideas to reality.
Finding a co-working space
“We hope more and more co-working spaces will become accessible so that we can use diverse spaces for our work, discussions, and other aspects.” – Shweta
The team is following up with the service providers at their current co-working space and also plan to launch a campaign this year on the need for accessible co-working spaces.
How Instamojo helps Ginny’s Planet
Ginny’s Planet, like several NGOs and social enterprises, uses Instamojo to collect payments, sell merchandise and share payment links. Their reason goes beyond affordability.
“We are using Instamojo to sell our products and training workshops. Before instamojo, our products were available only on other online platforms. We were facing delays and issues in uploading our products or changing their description. So, Instamojo was a huge relief!” – Shweta
These platforms also require barcodes of the products, which again adds to the operational costs. Luckily, Instamojo does not have any unnecessary charges!
Ginny’s Planet is now present on @linktree to use @instagram efficiently! Now our followers can go to online shop on @instamojo + visit our website + check our videos on @YouTube + get to our blog + access free downloads! So here we are: https://t.co/Kzo4dxkgQ6 #socent #diversity
— Ginny’s Planet (@GinnysPlanet) March 23, 2020
Ginny’s Planet’s first customer – Sampad Swain!
As soon as Shweta and her team set up on Instamojo, they got a customer. Believe it or not, it was our Founder himself, Sampad Swain!
“ Sampad Swain’s act of promoting us through his tweet as soon as he bought one of our products, bowled us over! That’s when we realized how being with Instamojo is going to be a different journey!” – Shweta
Instamojo’s ‘Pay what you want’ feature
Social enterprises like Ginny Planet uses Instamojo’s ‘Pay what you want’ feature to give customers the liberty to pay any amount they deem fit for the purchase.
“ This helps us seek support from our well-wishers without starting a separate crowdfunding campaign! Most of the time, we ask our customers to reach our products via Instamojo online store!” – Shweta
Instamojo’s very own Mojo Star
Ginny’s Planet is striving to make the world a little bit more loving and a little less cruel to people who are different. Their compassion and dedication are why they are Instamojo’s very own Mojo Star!
Mojo Stars is our initiative to highlight and celebrate the stories of extraordinary small business owners who are living their entrepreneurial dreams on Instamojo!
What’s next for Ginny?
In the current context of coronavirus spread prevention, Ginny’s training workshops are impacted to some extent. That’s when they came up with a creative solution – short videos to talk about various themes related to empathy and diversity.
Ginny’s Planet has been hosting regular workshops for children. Instamojo was the obvious choice to host this event! Their workshops are designed to promote and inculcate empathy in children and not with lectures but intriguing conversations.
During this tough time, support small businesses like Ginny’s Planet. Help them make a difference. And if you have a business idea, you know where to sign up!