Hafez Rahman and Akshay Raveendran launched Athey Nallatha, a small-scale pickle manufacturing business, which employs Kerala's homemakers.
While many lost their jobs during the pandemic, two MBA graduates quit their jobs to start a venture, employing mothers and homemakers. Today, their brand, Athey Nallatha — which means ‘That’s good’, empowers middle-aged mothers to prepare pickles on a small scale.
Launched in July 2020, today Athey Nallatha employs over 30 mothers to ensure the hygienic and nutritional value of the product is kept intact. The brand claims to avoid “harmful preservatives” and uses only high-quality ingredients.
The founder of Athey Nallatha, Hafez Rahman, says, “While speaking to my mother about the pandemic one day, she asked me to start something new that would generate income for others during the lockdown. So I discussed the matter with my friend, Akshay Raveendran, and we decided to start something which provides employment to mothers.”
Before Athey Nallatha was conceptualised, Hafez worked as an HR professional and Akshay worked in the marketing department of a sports brand. But deciding on what to sell was the easiest decision for the duo thus far.
Hafez, 28, says that they got the idea to sell homemade pickles as it is a must-have in most Kerala homes. The duo went to the market to find out how ordinary pickles are made for cheap prices. “During our research, we understood that the local brands pick up low-quality food items to make the product. There was a need for good quality pickles in the market,” the Kochi native says.
Asked why he thought of employing homemakers, and Hafez says, “I believe that the taste of pickles improves when prepared by mothers. No chef will be able to replicate that taste.”
Hafez’s mother, Alisa Ashraf, says, “During the initial days of the lockdown, I saw many in my neighbourhood losing their jobs. To help them I suggested that Hafez start a venture of his own. Today, I am the happiest and very proud that my son employed over 30 women, myself included, in his venture.”
A fusion of pickles
The company makes five pickle varieties that have a unique mix of ingredients. Co-founder Akshay, 25, says, “We have a variety of fusion pickles such as — A Chemeen Connection which is a mix of prawn and papaya pickle; Munthirivalliyum thenmavum, a Grape and mango pickle; Indo-Arab Connection pickle that has lime and dates; Le meilleur Beef which is a mix of beef and carrot and Jalpushp 2.O which is a fish and mango pickle.”
The price of a 250 gram pickle jar starts from Rs 179 and goes up to Rs 249. All these fusion pickle variants are prepared after consulting a nutritionist. The team is also planning to launch other fusion pickles, including chicken and prawns and brinjal and scarlet gourds.
The 25-year-old adds that all the pickles have health benefits which are listed on the pickle bottles too. While one improves bone health, another helps with digestion and others still improve blood quotient and boosts energy. Akshay says, “Our journey began with 13 mothers and now we have around 34 mothers on our team. We wish to expand our venture by adding more mothers into our group from different parts of Kerala.”
A venture that started by the duo’s own mothers selling homemade pickles has now turned into a platform for mothers from different parts of the Ernakulam district.
Jijji Nandakumar, who is one among the many mothers at Athey Nallatha says, “I started to work with the team six months ago. My son is Hafez’s friend, which is how I came to know about the venture. As I love to cook, my son asked me whether I would be interested in joining the team. At the age of 54 I am happy to say that I earn Rs 18,000 monthly from making pickles.”
She adds, “I believe experience is the biggest key to success. And with all my cooking experience at home, this job is worry-free. During the lockdown days, I used to work from home and now I go to the main facility in Thrippunithura, Kochi, to work. But the brand allows me the flexibility to work from home whenever I want.”
The art of homemade pickling
As the first step, the sales team collects the pesticide/fertiliser-free, community grown raw materials from Kerala’s organic farmers. They then distribute it to homemakers and scattered units in different parts of Kerala where the mothers work.
The homemakers are assigned jobs, such as cutting, peeling and frying the vegetables and meats, based on their preferences. Once the pickles are ready for packing, a team at Athey Nallatha come to the homemakers’ doorstep for its collection.
Ensuring all measures related to coronavirus are met, the team brings the homemade components to the main facility in Thrippunithura for the final step which is conducted by Alisa Ashraf herself. From there, Alisa prepares and packs the pickles in bottles with the help of other team members.
The duo tell me Athey Nallatha receives the most number of orders from South Indian states, including Kerala and Tamil Nadu. “People residing in Gulf countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have also shown interest in the pickle and we are working on our supply chain for the same,” Akshay signs off.
To order from Athey Nallatha, one can do so on their website or contact them on 95671 35217.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)