A few years ago, at a dinner at a friend’s home, one of the condiments served was pickled carrots, which for some reason reminded me of my childhood. My curiosity and taste buds were piqued and after finding the achar to be quite delicious, I asked where it was sourced from. The answer was a small new company called PJ’s Jars. I promptly went to their website and ordered their gajar achaar and lehsan achaar, which were delivered to my home with a complimentary jar of saunf.
Fast forward to 2022, and PJ’s Jars’ products are now readily available at supermarkets such as Ebco, Springs and Spar. And more recently, PJ’s was chosen as a Kreator by Khaadi’s Kreate Your Mark initiative, which allows their products to be distributed at Khaadi’s outlets, possibly permanently.
Launched in November 2022, Khaadi’s “non-profit platform encourages women entrepreneurs to own their ambition and dream big,” explains Tinath Saeed Fahd, Manager Communications and PR, Khaadi. In addition to PJ’s, Ayesha Basit, Founder, Ayesha Accessories and Fariha Arsalan, Founder, Interlace, were also chosen as Kreators from a pool of 20 shortlisted women-based businesses.
Being selected by Kreate Your Mark provides Kreators with the opportunity to increase their visibility – their products are not only available at Khaadi outlets initially for a limited time, they also become part of Khaadi’s supply chain, which eventually allows them to scale their business.
Speaking about the decision to onboard PJ’s Jars Fahd says, “Javeria Nakhuda and Rahma Nizami are the first women entrepreneurs to transition from the Kreate Your Mark platform to Khaadi’s supply chain partner for our home line. Their products are available at Dolmen Mall Clifton and LuckyOne Mall.”
For their part, Nakhuda and Nizami are thrilled by the turn of events and say that, “Working with Khaadi has been a journey for us. They made us think outside the box, and working with them has given us the confidence to reach for the sky.”
So how did PJ’s Jars come about? As it turns out, Nakhuda and Nizami made friends while attending IBA, and according to Nizami the idea of PJ’s Jars emerged when the two women were working at their Burmese Bowls stall (which dealt with khao suey) at Karachi Eat, and found themselves discussing a post on Facebook, which asked where a specific type of gajar achar with vinegar was available. Nizami says the ingredients mentioned in the post were similar to the ones her maternal grandmother used to make her achar, before sending it to their “entire clan and family friends, as food was a language of love for her.” Nakhuda too had a host of chutney and achar recipes from her maternal grandma. Thus PJ’s Jars came into existence in 2019, and the duo, armed with their grandmothers’ recipes, went to work and created the first batch of carrot pickles for their first customer whom they contacted on Facebook. Incidentally, the logo which depicts a woman wearing eyeglass chains, is based on Nizami’s maternal grandmother who was often called Pyari Jaan and wore the accessory frequently.
PJ’s Jars’ initial portfolio consisted of five chutneys and a solitary achar. Gradually, they expanded their offering by introducing more achars, while conducting taste tests within their existing customer base and experimenting with new products. The duo is determined to avoid complacency and continues to explore new possibilities. They even experimented with dessert jars, as well as masalas, sherbets and chutneys. Today, their product line consists of nearly 50 different products, the more recent being chilli crisps.
Kashmiri Mirch and Lehsan Chutney are among their more popular products and Nizami says that “after we launched the product, we saw a lot of brands introduce their versions as well. It makes us happy that people are starting to experiment more with food.”
Both women spend a lot of time perfecting their recipes, going as far as to say that it took them two years to finalise the recipe for their mixed achar. According to Nakhuda, “In our household mixed achar was made whenever there was a big gathering, but it takes time to recreate such recipes. I often make the achars, and Rahma is the chief tasting officer after which I ask family members what they think and does it taste like the one my grandmother or mother used to make.”
The PJ’s Jars team now has expanded to include seven people, who collectively share the entire operations from production to distribution. A major portion of sales come from deliveries across Pakistan; orders are taken through their website, as it is the only way for customers to access their entire product portfolio, as a limited number of items are available at stores in Karachi.
Reminiscing about their early days, Nizami says, “When we just showed up at a supermarket and asked for the person handling procurement or the supply chain, and whether they would stock our products. Neco’s was one of the first stores to place our products, on their shelves.” Nakhuda remembers making deliveries herself, a function that has now been delegated to members of their staff.
Similarly, their promotional strategies have changed with time and there has been a shift from the early days when they would visit stores in person. They now rely on influencer marketing as a key approach on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Endorsement from influencers such as Natasha Kizalbash and Ali Soomro carries significant weight and provides them with exposure.
The duo is aware that their prices are on the higher side, especially compared to the more mainstream brands. For example, a bottle of PJ’s Jars’ Tamarind Chutney is priced at Rs 450 while a ‘regular’ bottle is usually priced at Rs 150-200. Nizami says the reason is that, “We are a small business and we do not mass manufacture. Yet, we deliver quality products; we only use natural preservatives and high-quality ingredients, be it mineral water, vegetables or spices which are all ground in-house.”
What next for PJ’s Jars? Well, as it turns out, Nakhuda and Nizami are now focusing on increasing their presence in grocery stores across Pakistan and are hoping to eventually export their products. In fact, Nakhuda adds that customers in several countries have expressed interest in their products. The partnership with Khaadi may well be the start of something even bigger.
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