Kalpana Jha from Mithilanchal of Bihar spent years making mouth-watering pickles and sharing them with friends and family.
“I always wanted to turn it into a business. But my husband’s profession as a civil servant did not allow me the opportunity. His job involved moving places every three years, and the prospect of a business seemed unfeasible,” she tells The Better India.
Then an opportunity presented itself in 2020 when her husband retired. They settled in their hometown of Laheriasarai, where Kalpana rekindled her wish to launch the business. “I presented the prospect to my husband, and he encouraged me. He realised that his career did not allow me to follow my dreams and immediately agreed to support me,” she recalls.
Today, Kalpana caters to pickle orders from across the country while earning lakhs.
The 52-year-old says, once decided, she discussed the business proposal with her sister-in-law Uma. “Uma works as a teacher in a private school in Darbhanga, and like me, she loves making pickles. Her pickle making skills are also popular among other staff members in her school. I asked if she would like to join my venture and she agreed instantly,” she adds.
In October 2020, they made a business proposal and started the registration process. By February 2021, the duo procured licences and other certifications to run the food business.
“In June, the same year, we launched JhaJi, the online store offering 12 types of homemade pickles made from mango, chilli, lemon, gooseberry and other seasonal vegetables like cauliflower, garlic, ginger and others,” she says.
Kalpana says that all pickles are homemade and use traditional Bihari techniques. “My 82-year-old mother shared her recipe to make the pickles, which involves roasting the spices, preparing the mix and then blending it with mango or other vegetables. All pickles are made sans preservatives. We sun-dry the pickles for at least a week to ensure they last at least for a year,” she adds.
The pickles are packed in 250 gm glass jars and sold for Rs 299 each. Kalpana has also employed about 25 people for the job. “About a dozen persons are permanent employees while the remaining work on a part-time basis,” she adds.
Uma says the unique taste of their pickles drew in customers from near and far. “We have received orders from Mumbai, Bengaluru, West Bengal, Delhi and other parts of the country,” she adds.
The business has served over 2,000 customers so far. “We are earning a revenue of Rs 10 to Rs 15 lakh per month and soon plan to have warehouses in Bengaluru and Mumbai for efficient delivery services,” she says.
However, Kalpana says that setting up a business without prior experience was a task. “I had no experience in running the business. My son Mayank helped me with marketing and other aspects of the business. I felt confident that my pickles with a peculiar taste from the region would receive acceptance from Bihari customers. But was unsure about customers from other states accepting the taste,” she says.
Kalpana says it took a considerable time to overcome these fears. “Besides, sourcing glass jars, identifying vendors, ensuring consistency in taste and maintaining the quality of products for large quantity production was another task,” she adds.
The duo also plans to extend their reach abroad. “My daughter lives in New York and has been sharing our pickles with her friends. They appreciate the taste, and I plan to expand our customer base abroad through her,” Kalpana says.
She is glad that her yearning for setting up a pickle business has become a success.
For more enquiries about JhaJi pickles, click here.
Edited by Yoshita Rao