The tiny dollop of pickle in the corner of your plate or your banana leaf must never be taken for granted. Sometimes it is all it takes to make a bland meal delicious, and lives. The Hudli Project appreciates the transformative ability of pickles beyond the zing they add to individual plates: a subscription-based pickle manufacturing unit in Khadigram, Hudli has prevented an entire village from emptying out, by providing its women with employment opportunities.

The Hudli Project was founded by three Bangalore-based data professionals – Amit Vadavi, Adarsh Muthana and Pronoy Roy. Through their website, the team works on generating sustained employment for 125 women in the Hudli village. Given their experience in data analytics and solving retail related issues, the trio (who met while working at Mu Sigma) connected over the need to apply their skills for a larger cause.

Photo credit: The Hudli Project
Photo credit: The Hudli Project

“We worked for one of the largest retailers and solved retail issues using analytics,” said Muthana. “But we always wanted to do more. We just decided to solve a different kind of problem, where we could employ our skills better, and it would make sense to us as well. Something for a good cause. That is why we decided to quit our jobs and start this project.”

Hudli, located in the Belagavi district of northwest Karnataka, soon became the focus of their work. “Amit’s great-grandfather was a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi,” Muthana said. “He was with him in Sabarmati Ashram, and he was sent by Gandhiji to help set up a Khadigram in Hudli. Gandhiji wanted villages to be the strength of India, and he wanted to set up industries, so that people would stay there and work towards empowering the nation. In August last year, Amit was talking to his grandfather about the village and the Khadigram, when he suggested that Amit should visit the village.”

Vadavi’s visit to Hudli turned out to be more than just an exploration of the family legacy. He found that Khadigram also manufactured soaps, incense sticks, khadi and poppadums. The brand had great products, but the lack of awareness among urban consumers combined with a lack of appropriate marketing channels hampered the growth of its small scale industries. Vadavi shared the information he had gleaned with his two colleagues, and together, they decided to bring digital marketing, e-commerce and good logistics to the villagers.

Photo credit: The Hudli Project
Photo credit: The Hudli Project

“We chose to focus on women-centric job creation as this would translate to all-round strengthening of their respective families and the entire village as a result,” said Vadavi. “The pickle factory in the Khadigram employs only women, other factories have both men and women working on the products. There are about 25 women working on pickles at the moment. Our goal is to provide employment for 100 more women.”

There was also a more practical reason why the trio chose pickles as their main retail product. “Pickles have a low inter-purchase cycle,” Vadavi said. “The time between consumption of various bottles of pickles is less when compared to, say, buying khadi. As a product, the pickle lends itself to both caterers and individual consumers.”

Vadavi’s visit in August 2016 planted the seed for the project, and the team spent the next few months working on the concept, paying multiple visits to the village. The Hudli Project opened its doors to customers in January 2017 with two subscription plans, priced at Rs 1,440 for 18 months and Rs 960 for 12 months of pickle delivery respectively. The pickles come in three flavors – mango, lime and mixed vegetables, and are sold under the brand name “Jawan” after the famous slogan “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan”. They are delivered all over the country.

Photo credit: The Hudli Project
Photo credit: The Hudli Project

The team’s video on Hudli village and the goals of this project, has received more than 1,90,000 views and close to 2,700 shares on Facebook.

The Hudli Project now receives support not only from individual consumers but also through bulk purchases from commercial kitchens, restaurants and grocery stores. Even the villagers have noticed the increased attention and the flow of orders. “People can buy pickles anywhere,” Roy said. “They choose to encourage this project because they like the product and they know that support will be extended to an entire village through this simple act. Some of our customers don’t eat pickles, but buy our products and gift them to family and friends.”

The project is entirely self-funded. The trio hopes, eventually, to inch towards their goal of 30,000 customers.

“While our current goal is to make Hudli self-sufficient, on a long term basis, we hope to create a prototype which can be implemented in other villages making them financially independent,” Muthana said.