Indian cuisine is diverse, but pickles are an inseparable part of meals across the country and mothers — and grand-mothers — are proven to be the best pickle-makers.
With people mostly swearing by the home-made product, pickles are not only an innovative Indian way of lending more taste to the simplest meal, but a historic method of food preservation, rooted in poverty, famines and many food products being season-specific. With women being in charge of cooking, mothers and grandmothers were also deeply involved in pickle-making, trying out a lot of experiments and explorations to keep the product tasty and long-lasting.
The age–old tradition has been carried by the women of families over generations but has never received its due or value. Two MBA graduates from Kerala now plan to change this.
With their startup Athey Nallatha (meaning “Yes, it’s good”), Hafez Raman (29) and Akshay Raveendran (26) are turning the art of pickle-making into an empowering act by building a community of passionate women and uplifting their mental, physical and financial states by generating employment and earnings.
At Kochi-based Athey Nallatha, mothers are designing, standardising, consulting, researching, manufacturing and curating the most rare and indigenous fusion pickles sourced from different parts of the country. With proper technical training for all processes involved in the pickle-making, they are developing and redefining Indian pickles to a nutritious and healthy variant by incorporating the right mix of herbs and spices.
Having started with involving four mothers in the manufacturing of pickles in August 2020, Athey Nallatha currently has 49 mothers from different parts of Kerala actively collaborating with them – from the manufacturing to sales process. They have started their distribution to all the major cities in India including Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Delhi, among others.
“Besides being listed on Amazon, we undertake international shipments, are present in several retail outlets majorly across Kerala and in some specific outlets in Bengaluru. We are able to make a 2x growth every month since we launched last year,” says Hafez.
THE INITIAL JOURNEY
From the time they were studying in their MBA course, Hafez and Akshay had this shared vision of becoming a social entrepreneur someday. Hafez believes that social entrepreneurship is a mindset. “Like a Civil servant, a social entrepreneur is an integral part of every nation. Be proud to serve,” he adds.
“When the pandemic was at its peak last year, many people were losing their jobs at an increasing rate. My mother asked me about the possibility of generating employment. That’s when we thought of starting a social venture with middle-aged mothers. Parents played a crucial role here. Without their consistent and continuous support, the venture couldn’t have been made real,” he adds.
The startup has different offerings for the mothers. They can either work for the startup as a part of the manufacturing process and can earn up to Rs 900 daily or can work as an exclusive member of Athey Nallatha. Besides, they can work for the product development and product design, finding new and indigenous products across the nation or be a part of the sales wing, wherein they can get 25 per cent stake of the product without any burden of sales targets.
Through its project called Nallatha, the startup aims to help people earn while sitting at home during the ongoing pandemic. “They can make sales for Athey Nallatha and earn a portion of the revenue without any target. We are also providing free training on the same. Several people have joined the community so far,” says Hafez.
Besides getting financially rewarded, mothers are getting more recognition socially.
“We have seen their smiling faces. Not just because they are getting benefited monetarily, but they are getting recognized for the work they are doing. Their job is valued here. That’s the most prized for me and Akshay,”says Hafez.
52-year-old Jijji Nandan from Panangad, Kochi says she has seen a huge difference in her life, as she is now working for something which is valued. “Being able to socialise, to generate earnings for myself and for my family, being able to work for a common vision; all these have changed my lifestyle and the way I am perceived in life,” she adds.
SPICING IT UP WITH THE RIGHT MIX
Pickles contain a number of nutrients our body needs: dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. However, studies show that 90 per cent of the pickles available in the market use sub-standard ingredients and may be problematic to their consumers, especially BP patients. Ordinary pickles may be low in calories, but most are very high in sodium—which can be a problem if you don’t eat them in moderation.
Athey Nallatha aims to redefine the utility of pickles, to transform them into a healthier variant, by avoiding their bad effects, with its products which have been formulated as ‘Fusion Pickles’.
“Packaged pickles contain preservatives that can increase the triglyceride levels in your body leading to a risk of several health problems. This is not true for our pickles. We use organic, natural and high-quality ingredients and source fresh and toxin free fish, meat, fruits and vegetables. Our product development team has done tremendous work to make the product a health-oriented one. This was established by intermixing the right fusion, usage of right proportion of herbs and moderate and quality usage of spices. For example, we had consulted several nutritionists and food designers to create a particular standardised fusion pickle. Choosing papaya as a fusion with prawns makes sure the ill impacts of over-consumption of prawns are mitigated by using papaya, which eases the bowel movement and fastens the digestion process,” says Hafez.
Also, by adding neutral and moderate amounts of spices and other ingredients, the pickle can be a good replacement for its curry. For example, if the pickle is fish and mango fusion, it is equivalent to fish curry.
The startup offers six varieties of fusion pickles — Chemmeen Connection ( Prawns-Papaya), MunthiriValliyum Thenmavum (Grape – Mango), Jalpushp 2.0 ( Fish-Mango ), Tandoori Pickles ( Raisin-Gooseberry ), Gulabi Chicken (Chicken-Beetroot ) 250 and Indo-Arab Connection ( Lime-Date ).
Due to the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic, it has become challenging for the startup to operate its logistics and supply chain.
“Since we designed the mode of pickle making as a labour-intensive one by strategically not involving any machines, we have to feed many mothers. This strategy not only enables more jobs in the market, but also will neutralise the injury to the market by unexpected calamities,” says Hafez.
The founders want to keep up to the meaning of Athey Nallatha. “We will keep the goodness and goodwill of the company intact for all the upcoming products inside our mind. Whatever products we design, they will be a solution to an existing social problem. Focus will be more building and widening this community of mothers throughout India to greater figure and prospects,” says Hafez.