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International student launches startup as Australia's indifference continues

FLORALRESTRICT supports 8 international students from 4 countries

COVID-19 revealed many truths. But, one of the biggest checks has been Australia’s lack of sincere concern for its international students. Despite the fact that international education injects about $32 billion into Australian economy every year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison in one of his press conferences, told foreign students, “it’s time to go home”.

Ritika Saxena, an international student from Lucknow, India, was left deeply frustrated by the insensitivity and decided to do something to change the situation. With the help of a continued fundraiser, she launched online face mask store, FLORAL RESTRICT, where international students design, produce and ship floral face masks. This has further generated a micro-economy for the students.

We speak with Ritika to know about FLORAL RESTRICT, excerpts below:

What made you start FLORAL RESTRICT?

FLORAL RESTRICT was founded at the start of August, after the novelty of baking, cooking and virtual catchups had worn off. The reality that COVID is here to stay and is impacting international students needed to be addressed. International students are one of the groups severely impacted as they are unable to return home due to border closures and cannot sustain themselves here due to the closure of hospitality, retail and other industries that international students usually work in. 

As an active volunteer who cares about the community we live in, it frustrated me that I could not do more to help because of the Stay at Home directions. This led to the birth of floral face coverings named after increasing restrictions handcrafted by international students – FLORALRESTRICT. Hardly any creativity there.

What is the “behind-the-scenes” process? How do you source the material, who makes them and who ships them?

We get the material from Spotlight, at the moment Vanshul usually cuts the fabric, Anju sews, Evelyn packs and dispatches them! We have a turnaround time of one week as the face coverings go through the production line.

While there are definitely more efficient ways of doing this, I take pride in the fact that our face coverings are 100% made by international students from start to end. Jenslie and Teddy helped us out with our recent collaborations with Future Female Conference and Spark Deakin's Accelerator Demo Day! Rableen, Ishan, Simran and Shubham help out with our media and comms and I look after our day to day management partnerships, finance and general oversight!

How is this initiative helping in giving back to the community?

Our mission is to support international students by engaging them in the creation of face coverings and donate all of our profits back to the community - half to organisations supporting vulnerable Victorians and the other half to the international student community. Through this campaign so far, we have been able to raise $10, 122 and are supporting 8 international students from 4 countries!

How has Australian government failed to recognise its international students as vital parts of the community during COVID?

COVID has really revealed how Australia feels about the international student community. The very limited support by some states has been more of a tick box approach which is just enough to silent the critics but does not do much in terms of actual support for the international students. International students have been excluded from any COVID-related financial support schemes implemented nationally. There have not been any centralised measures to look into offering support for those students who are stranded overseas and yet are paying rent and bills and are unable to vacate their accommodation.

I do acknowledge the state funding in Victoria; however, it is appalling that an international student like me who pays international fee is ineligible because, for example, I study on a graduate visa. To cut a long story short, the limited support that has been offered to students has been more for the government's own reputation as opposed to the welfare of the students.

 Anything else you would like to share with us?

Please help support this campaign by purchasing one of our face coverings from our campaign today! We need your help to continue supporting international students and feeding our profits back into the community and make this random idea into a sustainable project in a way that delivers maximum impact. Help us be a part of this change and proudly wear your FLORALRESTRICT face covering knowing that your actions have supported so many others!

To buy their Christmas special masks, click here and consider supporting.

About the author

Dilpreet is the founder of South Asian Today. More about her can be found here.



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