“Slowly, people started coming to me with particular needs and tastes. Some would want the pickle in olive oil, others liked it spicy, and so I began to customise.”
If someone had told Suman Sood twenty-five years ago that she could make a decent amount of money selling her pickles, she would have laughed. Today, the 62-year-old is not just an entrepreneur, but a successful one at that.
In a conversation with The Better India, she narrates her journey, the varieties of pickles she makes, and how her creations made their way to a restaurant in Berlin, Germany.
Connection between August and making pickles
“It was my paternal grandmother who believed that those born in certain months had ‘magic’ in their hands to make pickles. August, according to her, is one of these months. Fortunately for me, I was born in this month,” she begins.
All the while, she giggles, and until the end of our conversation, her voice doesn’t give her age away.
“Since my grandmother needed help in mixing the masalas and making pickles, I became the chosen one. In the process, I learnt a lot from her,” she says.
When I asked her when she learnt to cook, she laughs, “I never had to learn anything. It just came to me naturally, and once I saw that people around me liked the food I cooked, I just kept at it.”
From making pickles for friends to retailing
Suman never planned or intended to sell her pickles. She just enjoyed making them and was content in filling out big containers for friends and family.
She shares, “Slowly, people started coming to me with particular needs and tastes. Some would want the pickle in olive oil, others liked it spicy, and so I began to customise,” she says.
It was in 2015 that her daughters—Shweta and Sunakshi—convinced their mother to start her brand—Pickles & More. “All this happened because of them. Left to me, I would still be making and giving pickles to friends and family,” she says.
Like most home-businesses in India, Pickles & More also was started on Facebook, spreading by word-of-mouth.
Pickles & More in Berlin
A Google search led a German restaurateur to meet Suman in Delhi.
Recollecting that moment she says, “One fine day, I got a call, and the next thing I knew, there was a German at my doorstep asking to sample my pickles. He proceeded to take some with him and promised me that when he opened his Indian restaurant there, he would come back to buy pickles from me.”
This happened almost three years ago, and Suman assumed that the man had forgotten his promise.
Surprisingly, last month, he came back, saying that his restaurant is now up and running, and as promised he came to get pickles from Suman. “Small incidents like these have kept me motivated. I was so touched that he remembered and came all the way,” she says.
1,000 kg of pickle in one season alone
“In one season alone, I make almost 1,000 kg of pickle, and I have been doing this for almost 25 years now, so do that math,” she says, laughing.
It’s almost 25,000 kg of pickle!
She goes on to say, “So far, I have made almost 60+ varieties of pickles and am always ready to experiment with new ones. It all depends on clients and what they want me to make.”
A half kg bottle of pickle costs about Rs 250 and Suman makes nearly Rs 50,000 each month. “It makes me happy to be earning my own money, and the financial independence has changed me,” she says.
One of her bestsellers is the onion pickle, while special winter hot-sellers are gobi (cauliflower), gajar (carrot), and shalgam (turnip) pickle.
Mandeep, one of the clients who enjoyed the pickles, says, “Absolutely yummy! I found this page online and ordered a variety of pickles and chutneys as gifts for my family in the US. Opened the Gajar, Gobi and Shalgam here for a taste and fell in love. Ate 1/5 kg in three days with my husband! Fresh, crispy vegetable, perfect flavouring! Just like my grandmother’s.”
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If reading this has tickled your taste buds, and you want to try the pickles, reach out to Suman’s daughter, Shweta at +9198733 43637 or check out the Facebook page here.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)