Induben Sumanlal Jhaveri’s motto was very clear when she started it Khakhra Business in 1965 – “Only sell what you would feed your children.”
Her company has been working according to this principle for more than five decades.
“It all started in a small room in her home in Ahmedabad where she would weigh up to 5kg on her own Khakhra per day,” says Ankit Jhaveri, third-generation owner of the company and grandson of Induben, in an interview with The better India.
“She started this business to support her family financially. She never imagined that her one-bedroom operation would eventually grow into an empire that now has a turnover of over Rs 20 billion,” he adds.
That was so loved Khakhra She made sure that the snack’s name became an epithet – Induben ‘Khakhrawala’ (Khakhra-Manufacturer).
For the uninitiated, Khakhra is a dried and roasted version of a papad. A common snack in Gujarati and Jain households, this cracker is made by mixing flour, salt and masala and formed into a dough by adding oil and water.
When Induben first started, she traditionally only prepared a handful of flavors methi (fenugreek) and jeera (Cumin). However, today you have the option to choose from over 100 flavors such as jalapeno cheese, pav bhaji, pani puri, and more.
The origin story
In 1965, at the age of 43, Induben, mother of three children, ventured into entrepreneurship.
Induben’s eldest grandson Nishit Jhaveri, who is also part of the company, says it was more out of necessity – her husband’s health was deteriorating and someone needed to run the household and look after the children.
After hearing stories about his grandmother from his father Hiren, Nishit says, “Besides manufacturing khakhras to sell every day, she would also run the household. Their day often began before dawn and ended long after the household had gone home.”
He continues: “Given that she came from a conservative family, it wasn’t seen as a good thing to make progress outside of her home. There were several occasions when people reprimanded her for going into business. However, for her, the only driving force was to work to improve the situation of her family.”
Known for her exceptional culinary skills, Induben worked hard from 1965 to 1970 when she was able to relocate to Mithakali in Ahmedabad’s upscale residential neighborhood of Navrangpura.
She remained at the helm of the business until 1981, when she died at the age of 53.
When she first started the business, the market bought khakhras was very limited, says Ankit. This was another hurdle that the entrepreneur was able to overcome with consistent quality and good value for money, he adds.
After Induben’s death, it was her daughter-in-law, Smitaben, who carried on the tradition and made the establishment ever stronger.
“1990, my father and my mother [Smitaben] decided to expand the business and invest in a shop close to where they live. In order to be able to do this, my father left his job in the textile factory and invested his time and money to set up their very first shop,” recalls Nishit.
From Khakhara, Thepla and more
Ankit marvels at his grandmother’s entrepreneurial spirit and remembers how she took out a loan to buy his father a scooter [Hiren] so he could make deliveries all over the city.
He says: “At a time when women were mainly confined to doing household chores, she certainly paved the way for herself and others who had a desire to make a difference.”
Until 2010, Ankit did not look into the family business. He says: “During college, I thought I would enter the corporate sector. When I entered the business, Induben Khakharawala had only one branch operating. I am proud of my contribution to building this brand.”
While Nishit and Ankit had participated in the business since early 2000, it was only after Hiren retired from active business that the duo assumed full responsibility.
At this point, Satyen Shah, a graduate engineer, also joined the company as a partner. Speaking of the brand’s expansion, he says, “We’ve often noticed that people traveling to Ahmedabad make it a point to stop at the store to buy Induben’s snacks. Even those who traveled from Ahmedabad to other places took them, sometimes as gifts and sometimes just for themselves.”
A 25,000 square foot manufacturing unit was acquired in 2010 as part of expansion plans. “We are now looking at establishing franchise models across India and also outside the country,” says Satyen.
Today over 650 products included Khakhra are sold in the store.
This includes different types of namekeens (appetizers), sev, gathija, Dhokla, chacri, pickles and chutney, confectionery, ready-to-eat food mixes and baked goods.
Munil Shah (40), a resident of Ahmedabad, says: “We have been buying for as long as I can remember Khakhra and so many other snacks from Induben Khakhrawala. It’s something you will always find in our home. Even when we travel abroad, the first thing we pack is the dry snacks from this outlet.”
He continues: “Today there are several shops all over the city that sell the same products. However, the ghee Khakhrawhich is one of their specialties remains the best there is.”
While some of Induben Khakhrawala’s processes are automated today, the focus remains on maintaining the same quality that the visionary entrepreneur started with. To the freshness of khakhras, They come in vacuum-sealed packets, which also helps keep them fresher longer, especially for those shipping those packets overseas.
Induben Khakhrawala has over 18 stores across India and exports its products to over eight countries including the US, UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Thailand and Dubai, says Satyen.
The company employs over 200 people, with a particular focus on hiring women, he adds.
Talking about how the current owners are expanding Induben’s vision of serving authentic homemade snacks, Satyen says: “We often travel abroad and visit managed factories – for example the chocolate factory and even perfume factories in some countries. We are working on something similar to give people a glimpse of how our products are made. Why not take a guided tour to see what’s happening inside? khakhramake a factory?”
If you want to place an order at Induben Khakhrawala, click here.
All images courtesy of Induben Khakhrawala
(Edited by Divya Sethu)