JhaJi Store - The Success Story of Pickles

JhaJi Store - The Success Story of Pickles
JhaJi - Taste of Mithila

Located in the north of the Indian state of Bihar is the historic city of Darbhanga. Also known as the ‘cultural capital of the state’ and the ‘Heart of Mithilanchal’, it is a part of the richly fertile Indo-Gangetic Plains. According to history, it was the capital of the Mithila region and the seat of the Darbhanga Raj. Its rich culture boasts centuries-old traditions of literary arts, folk art, and musical form.

Darbhanga is also a well-known tourist destination with palaces, ponds, temples, and wildlife. The city of Darbhanga is closely associated with the two great Indian mythologies – Ramayana and The Mahabharata. It is a deeply embedded belief that the Pandavas resided in this region during their exile. Mithila is also the known birthplace of Sita, the consort of King Rama.

It is from this place of history, tradition, and beauty that hails the dynamic duo – Kalpana Jha and Uma Jha, the co-founders of JhaJi Store.

Founders Of The JhaJi Store
The Beginning Of JhaJi
JhaJi Inside Shark Tank India
JhaJi Store - How Do They Do It?
Conclusion

Founders Of The JhaJi Store

Sisters-in-law Kalpana Jha and Uma Jha, both have their family roots in Darbhanga having lived and schooled there and later even married there. Kalpana Jha’s husband has been in the service of the Indian Government which meant they were moving cities every two to three years. The family finally came back and settled in Darbhanga post his retirement. Kalpana Jha has earned an MA in Psychology and has been a homemaker all her life. However, she always dreamt of doing something of her own. With constant encouragement from her family and initial financial support from her husband, she decided to convert her passion for making pickles into a commercial activity.

Kalpana Jha and Uma Jha - Founders, JhaJi Store
Kalpana Jha and Uma Jha - Founders, JhaJi Store

Uma Jha shares her passion for cooking and developing recipes with her sister-in-law. Hailing from a family of Civil Servants, Uma has also experienced a life of constant transfers. Wanting to study LLB, her education was left incomplete due to her early marriage and children. Her husband pursued his career as a college professor in Darbhanga. Undeterred, she took up teaching in the same private school that her children attended and continued teaching children between the third and sixth standard for nineteen years. Her chosen subject was Hindi Literature and Hindi Language. When Kalpana shared her business vision with her, Uma willingly joined hands with her and so began their journey together.

The Beginning Of JhaJi

Named after Kalpana Jha’s husband, whom she lovingly refers to as JhaJi, this is a business that pays homage to the deep-routed Bihari tradition of pickle making. Conceptualized during the trying period of the Covid-19 pandemic in the year 2020, the two co-founders began the arduous journey of procuring the necessary food licenses and conducting the all-important shelf life testing through an accredited laboratory. This process lasted for about 6 months as the nearest testing laboratory was located in Kolkata. Then began the small-scale operation of them procuring the raw material from their home garden and making the pickles in their own kitchens.

Setting up primarily as an online business, and launching it in June 2021, their initial marketing efforts were concentrated within Bihar and the Delhi area through advertisements on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. The first-ever jar of mango pickle was sold to her neighbors. From then on, orders came in from the neighboring city of Sitamarhi, followed by Delhi. Quickly, JhaJi Stores built a customer base of 10,000 people within Delhi. It was Kalpana Jha’s dream to expand JhaJi Stores to a national presence, that, then, led them to Shark Tank India in 2021.

JhaJi Inside Shark Tank India

Two months, growing popularity and a happy customer base led the ambitious duo to apply to Shark Tank India. They were first called for Delhi auditions in August 2021 and clearing that, were invited to Mumbai in October 2021 to present their business to the Shark Tank judges. Although unsuccessful at securing funding from the judges, they came away with invaluable insights and feedback from them.

JhaJi Store in Shark Tank India

Also, their appearance on Shark Tank in 2021 gave them a publicity push as more people became aware of their business and the products. They returned home to an influx of orders that kept growing. In a bid to fulfill the rising demand the duo, then, applied for and received a bank loan. The business grew consistently as orders multiplied. Kalpana and Uma hired more staff from the village, primarily women who had worked as household help and had lost their jobs during the pandemic.

In July 2022, the sisters-in-law received a surprise visit from two Shark Tank judges, Namita Thapar, and Vineeta Singh, resulting from the public support that they received through the show. Impressed with their ongoing efforts to grow the business, the judges invested in JhaJi Store. With the additional funding that they received, Kalpana and Uma have now built a larger factory that has been inaugurated very recently.

Namita Thapar & Vineeta Singh invested in JhaJi Store
Namita Thapar & Vineeta Singh invested in JhaJi Store

JhaJi Store - How Do They Do It?

The journey to building a business operation began in earnest with the sale of that first jar of pickle. Every concern was dealt with meticulously.

Packaging

Both women were sure that pickle packing would be in glass bottles. However, the biggest concern at that point was the unavailability of packaging materials like bubble wrap, cartons, and glass bottles in Darbhanga or the surrounding areas. Slowly and surely, they contacted various manufacturers in Delhi and began ordering larger quantities of these materials. Over time, they have built a system that operates on storing of advance inventory required for one quarter.

JhaJi - Packaging in glass jars
JhaJi - Packaging in glass jars

Delivery

This was a bigger challenge for them as they realized that there were a few issues that needed careful handling. First was breakage and leakage. Packaging in glass bottles initially led to quite a few breakages as well as leaking problems. Over time, through trial and error, they developed a packing process that has significantly reduced both and they are now working to eliminate the problem in its entirety. The second issue was the delivery timeline. Couriering the orders from Darbhanga took anywhere between 10 to 12 working days to reach their destination leading to a few complaints. The resourceful duo dealt with this issue by opening warehouses in Patna and Delhi. Their products reach the warehouses by trucks and are stored there before being shipped to their respective destinations. This has reduced their delivery time to 3-5 working days.

Staff Hiring

It was Kalpana Jha’s wish to provide work to the women of the village who had lost their jobs as household help during the pandemic. These women were not educated and came from impoverished backgrounds. However, their centuries-old traditions ensured that they were skilled in the art of pickle making. Hence their joining the workforce of JhaJi Store served a dual purpose. Slowly as the business grew, so did the workforce. What began as a business with only 6 staff members, currently hires a permanent staff of 50-55 employees and a daily-wage staff of 30-35 women. The business also hires 30% male staff that help in all the heavy work as well as delivery.

JhaJi Store - Staff
JhaJi Store - Staff

Quality Control, Cleanliness & Hygiene

Every process at every stage of pickle making is currently done manually keeping to the highest levels of hygiene and cleanliness. Even the fruits and vegetables are hand-selected ensuring that strict quality standards are maintained.

JhaJi Store - Quality Control, Cleanliness & Hygiene
JhaJi Store - Quality Control, Cleanliness & Hygiene

Raw-Material Procurement

Most of the raw materials are sourced locally from wholesalers and farm owners.

Conclusion

In just a couple of years, JhaJi Store has expanded its pickle repertoire to 15 flavors and they even fulfill special requests from their customers. In their first year of operations, they reached a turnover of INR 1.5 crore and aim to reach INR 3 crore by this year's end. It is their five-year aim to reach a total turnover of up to INR 12 crores. With their new factory, the duo is aiming at increasing their staff strength to a total of 150 employees and also installing machinery in the future. With increasing infrastructure like roads, electricity, and water within the state, Kalpana and Uma are looking forward to a bright future. Here’s wishing the enterprising duo the very best from the StartupTalky Team.

FAQs

Do you use any preservatives to make these pickles?

There are no preservatives, additives, or colors in the pickles. They source the ingredients, including fruits, vegetables, and spices from local farmers near Darbhanga, in Bihar.

What is the shelf life for these pickles?

The shelf life of these pickles is 14 Months. All pickles have been tested for shelf life by a NABL, FSSAI-accredited lab in Gurgaon.

What type of oil do you use to make these pickles?

The pickles are made using Mustard Oil, in the traditional Bihari way.

How much is the delivery time?

They take 3-7 days to make a delivery of a product.

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