Kalpana Jha & Uma Jha
In an inspiring session with the Co-founders of the JhaJi Store, we follow their journey while learning and re-learning lessons of life.
Kalpana and Uma, the sister-in-law duo are the Co-founders of the JhaJi Store, a direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand that sells traditional homemade pickles and chutneys. Based out of a small town in Darbhanga, Bihar, the two ladies set out on their entrepreneurial journey in their early 50s, driving home the lesson of ' it's never too late to start ‘. They kicked off under the name of Mithila Pickles and Chutneys Private Limited, which later fleshed out and flourished into their home brand, the JhaJi Store. The business has an amazing online presence with a thoroughly monitored marketing campaign.
When the pandemic struck and stalled the world, Kalpana and Uma saw the window of opportunity that was being presented to small businesses online and jumped on the bandwagon to officially launch Mithila Pickles and Chutneys Private Limited on 23rd October 2020.
“I had always wanted to do something of my own, ever since I was young. But I got married, had kids, and my husband had a government job with frequent transfers; so, the opportunity never arrived. Although during the covid times, my kids had come home and my husband was nearing his retirement. That's when I asked my family if the time seemed right, and all of them encouraged me to go for it. This is how I started my business and fulfilled my life-long dream at the age of 52. Thankfully, my Bhabhi Uma who lives nearby also agreed to join me as a co-founder when I informed her about the decision. She is a food-enthusiast herself, and together we embarked on this journey, only to never look back,” Kalpana elaborated.
JhaJi Store offers over 15 different varieties of traditional homemade pickles with the authentic taste of Mithila. In a highly competitive field of the foods and snacks industry what sets them apart are the flavors and ingredients unique to their region. After about three decades of making these pickles and chutneys that were loved and adored by their families, Uma and Kalpana knew that it was time to share the bona fide taste of Bihar and its food culture with the country and subsequently, the world. The JhaJi Store prides itself on serving handmade, sun-dried, and traditional savories that emerged from the kitchens of the local housewives of Bihar. Their products are free from preservatives, artificial colors, or any additives, as they only use locally sourced fresh produce of fruits, vegetables, and spices.
JhaJi Store’s unique Mithila pickles were an instant hit among their consumers, and they sold to over 2,500 customers within the first four months of starting their venture. Inspired by their initial success, Kalpana and Uma even participated in ‘Shark Tank India’ to raise capital for expanding their business, but with none of the Sharks interested, they moved on only to be offered an undisclosed amount from Velocity.in, one of India’s largest revenue-based financiers. Since the airing of their Shark Tank episode, Kalpana and Uma saw a massive surge in demand for their pickles and chutneys from all over India. This has accelerated their vision of launching new products and ramping up production. But things haven't always been easy for them either, starting in their early fifties came with their own set of challenges along with the prolonged and tiring process of setting up a successful business. It took 6 months of trials and tribulations of getting food licenses, finalizing packaging, making 100s of kilos of pickles and so much more before they were even a little bit close to launching.
For Kalpana and Uma, JhaJi Store is a business with a purpose, the business spends 2% of its revenues directly towards the cause of girl child education. Intending to make traditional Mithila savories a household name across India, this is what they had to say about their passion, “We believe that we are lucky that everyone on our team is very thankful for the opportunity we have at hand. You see, the pin code ‘846001’, where we are, has very few meaningful employment opportunities, more so for women. In such a scenario, all of us realize that we have a huge chance at creating a business that can employ 1000s of people, and help improve our lifestyles. This is a stark and life-changing realization. Moreover, we are very lucky that our customers leave us positive reviews every day, which is the ultimate fuel to our fire.”
This was Kalpana and Uma’s advice for other aspiring women entrepreneurs,
"Anything is possible. Don’t let anyone put you down with their negativity. Train, practice, and perfect your art, this is how you’ll find success. It may not happen right away, but be at it every day as consistent efforts are the only way to sustained success.”