Correcting their mistake, Sharks present Rs 85 lakh cheque to JhaJi founders
Kalpana and Uma Jha, founders of JhaJi Store that offers traditional pickles and chutneys from Mithila, failed to receive funding in Season 1 of Shark Tank India. In Season 2, Sharks Namita Thapar and Vineeta Singh visited their factory and presented them with a Rs 85 lakh cheque.
Thursday January 05, 2023,
5 min Read
In the first season of Shark Tank India, sisters-in-law Kalpana and Uma Jha wowed the “Sharks” with their pitch-perfect explanation of their pickles and chutneys business they had started just six months ago.
Kalpana (52), a homemaker, had moved back home to Darbhanga after her husband’s retirement. And Uma, a teacher by profession, had no knowledge of running a business. But they decided to take forward what Kalpana knew best–making pickles traditional to the Mithilanchal region.
And thus,was born and pitched smartly by the two women at Shark Tank India Season 1, impressing the judges with business terms like “average order value” and more. Though their pitch caught the attention of the judges, they did not commit to any kind of funding.
“We were not disheartened. After the episode was aired, we received an overwhelming response, and what we normally sold in three months was sold out overnight,” Kalpana told HerStory in an earlier conversation.
A little more than a year later, JhaJi Store has grown over 400%, with monthly sales touching over Rs 25 lakh.
But the best was yet to come. In July 2022, the Shark Tank India team from SonyLIV told the women that they would visit their factory in Darbhanga to record their progress and shoot some footage of their processes.
“While we were expecting the team, we were given the biggest surprise of all. Namita Thapar and Vineeta Singh had also come along to visit us,” says Uma.
Namita Thapar, Executive Director, Emcure Pharmaceuticals, and Vineeta Singh, Co-founder & CEO, SUGAR Cosmetics, are sharks on Shark Tank India.
It was not a casual visit. The first episode of Season 2 showed both Namita and Vineeta enjoying each process–whether it was stirring the pickles in huge cauldrons or pasting the labels on the bottles.
They also expressed regret at not investing in them earlier. In fact, Vineeta shared that her mother was miffed at her for not giving the women a chance in the earlier season.
Namita says, “The beauty of having regrets is you can correct them.”
In the end, Vineeta and Namita presented them a cheque for Rs 85 lakh, an investment from them and Jharkhand Angels.
Vineeta tells HerStory, “Amidst the arrays of pitches that come to Shark Tank India, one hour often is not enough for Sharks to evaluate a business and its potential. And looking back at the pitch post the episode, not investing in JhaJi & Co. had been a regret of mine, which I happily resolved in Season 2.”
“When we had the JhaJi dynamic duo pitch last season, even my mother, who appreciates women entrepreneurs, mentioned that she saw certain potential in their business model, which further encouraged me to invest in their journey,” she adds.
According to Namita, what clinched it was that two women entrepreneurs all the way from Darbhanga dared to dream big.
“The investment was an appreciation of their courage, of the impact they are having by hiring so many women employees and of their aspiration to take something uniquely Indian to a global platform,” she says.
“We felt touched that they visited us and took interest and took part in every process in the factory. The women working with us were also overjoyed on seeing them,” says Uma.
Meeting a huge demand
Before the fresh infusion of funds, JhaJi Store had been growing steadily. It started off by employing around 5-6 people, but now there are around 50 people working, and most of them are women. It employs an additional 25 women during busy seasons.
Jhaji now has 20 SKUs and hopes to include more according to seasonal demand. It will soon move to bigger premises within the village.
“We will be able to hopefully meet the huge demand after moving to this bigger factory,” Kalpana says.
She also points out the pickle-making process is laborious, and while women take care of most processes, they need men for the heavy lifting.
It’s evident that starting up on their own has done a world of good to these enterprising women.
“I was a homemaker until I was 51-years-old, and would even hesitate to talk to people. Now, I can manage so many employees in the factory. I feel that I should have started this much earlier,” Kalpana says with a laugh.
Uma has left her teaching job and has joined the business full-time. “This business gives me a lot of satisfaction; interacting with the women at the factory, understanding their lives and concerns is a wonderful opportunity,” she says.
This nanad-bhabhi duo says they are “blessed for the work they do”.
“Initially, I thought whether the Rs 12 lakh I borrowed from my husband would go to waste. Now, I see how the lives of our women have changed after they started working with us. Apart from financial independence, they are also able to support their families without compromising on their household duties. Some of them can give their children a good education too,” Kalpana says.
Uma says that the women bring in their daughters and husbands to help, and JhaJi Store has become one big happy family. While they scale, they have also employed marketing and finance experts to make the process seamless and professional.
They have also become role models for women all over the country to dream big.
“If I can start up at this age, I’m sure many women out there with the right skills can move forward. There will be challenges, but if women work together, they can achieve whatever they want to. Remove the fear from your mind,” says Kalpana.
“Namitaji and Vineetaji are great inspirations and role models for today’s women. Today, women have the right support and opportunities to start their own businesses. However, no work is big or small; it’s how you approach it,” Uma says, as she signs off.
Edited by Megha Reddy