This story is about a grandmother who wore several hats in the past and is still passionate about living a full life.
The lockdown curtailed her travel and a hip surgery following a fall ensured that she had to be at home for a considerable period of time. While music and her regular chats with her children kept her busy, that was not fulfilling enough for this lady and she wanted to be engaged in more productive activities. This lady is none other than my mother, Saroja Jagadeesan.
When the ladies got enthused in the lockdown
All of us were stuck at home and managed to work or be engaged in other worthwhile activities. Many ladies in our apartment complex used this opportunity to put their passion to work and started baking cakes, bread etc. There were others whose expertise was in North Indian delicacies like chaat etc; and another group which catered to the non-vegetarian tastes. With limited options available and eating out restricted only to the adventurous, these goodies were quickly lapped up. Technology played its part with several WhatsApp groups created for the different types of cuisine.
And the Grand Mom became a Pickle Entrepreneur
In the midst of all this, my mother, who was already itching to do something to keep her occupied, expressed her desire to use her culinary expertise; and remarked that if the young ladies in the neighbourhood could cook and sell, she could also cook something she is good at.
We in the family were fine with whatever she could do, as long as there was not much of a strain for her. Over dinner one evening, she suggested making mango pickles or ‘oorugai’ of the South Indian variety, which goes by the name of ‘vendhaya mangai’. All of us readily agreed as it was less laborious; and, with our housemaid taking charge of the mango cutting process, my mother had only to use her knowledge and seventy-years of experience in this field. Besides, this particular type of mango pickle is not readily available in the market and very few ladies know how to make it.
Planning out each stage of operations
The decision regarding the product having been made and the production process clear in her head, the first job was to work on the sourcing of the raw materials for the pickles. It was then that we realised that we were nearing the end of the mango season and no stocks were available at our regular shops. A bit of running around by all the family members and, we managed to get mangoes for the initial batch of pickles.
The next job was to procure food grade containers in order to pack the ‘oorugai’ for onward dispatch to the end user. Some more running around and the containers were in place.
Once all the raw materials were bought, production started and batches of mango pickles started to fill her kitchen shelves. A little bit of quality check and the product was ready for the customer.
Getting customers was the easier part; with one post in the residents’ WhatsApp group fetching enough orders, much more than we had bargained for; and in any case more than the quantity which could be made in the first lot.
There was one job which was still to be done; and that fell on my shoulders, being a finance guy. This was to price the final product. That was not difficult, as my father was very clear from the very beginning, that ‘profit motive’ was not the reason my mother was getting into this. Yes, the costs should be recovered and the residents who buy should like the stuff and ask for more. With that objective in mind, the price was fixed and within a day, the entire first lot flew off the shelves! A couple of lots were made thereafter and all the stuff was sold. We were left with just a couple of bottles for our use.
An enjoyable experience and some learning reinforced
Once the job was done, I sat down to see how this whole exercise took shape and what went into its planning and execution of this pickles venture. The following four aspects helped deliver a positive result –
- My mother’s passion and confidence was what kick started this project.
- Next was the opportunity brought in by the lockdown and the choice of product.
- Family support was available which was a good example of team work and lastly,
- The pricing which was just right.
It is possible that this endeavour is scalable, but whether my mother is keen on that remains to be seen.
All said and done, an interesting exercise and my mother’s first foray into entrepreneurship. For us, it was also a wonderful family activity and a great way to keep my mother occupied in these testing times.
Yes, as I write this, my mother has already started exploring other options in the pickles domain and it will not be too long for her next offering to be ready for launch in this festive season.
J.Krishnan is a practicing Chartered Accountant; and a Travel and Photography Enthusiast.
He has clocked over 100,000 photographs till date, of people and places; with a significant number at Indian Heritage locations. Read more about him in his profile .
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