The latest buzz in town is all about the very graceful entrepreneur, Harbhajan Kaur who is making everyone reminisce about their childhood days by gorging on some sumptuous besan barfi and other delectable delights.
Kaur took the plunge of starting her entrepreneurial journey at the age of 90, in an endeavor to experience the feeling of being independent. She is the proud founder of – Harbhajans Made with Love, a paradise for Punjabi food lovers.
Her relentless zeal was recently also appreciated by the big B, Amitabh Bachchan at the much-coveted platform of KBC, which gave a great boost to Kaur’s indomitable will!
In an exclusive interview, we explore more about her inspiring journey so far.
What inspired you to take the plunge and start your own start-up, Harbhajans Made with Love?
The day I turned 90, my daughter asked me if there was any unfulfilled desire in my life! I remember my eyes welling up as I told her that I have lived a very fulfilling and honourable life but don’t know how it feels to earn your own money. As the whole family sat together to celebrate my 90th birthday, they decided that I should do what I enjoy the most – cooking, and what I am best at – making besan barfi.
The next day my daughter brought the ingredients and asked me to get down to fulfilling my dream! I made some barfi and packed it in a few pastry boxes. I also made some tomato chutney, for which we got small jars. My granddaughter hand-painted some stickers and coined the tagline, “Bachpan yaad aa jaaye”. Then my daughter took me to the organic Mandi where I was welcomed very warmly, and she asked me to sit all by myself and interact with people. It was a totally new experience for me. I made everyone taste the samples and my entire production was sold out! The icing on the cake was the appreciation and love I received from everyone. I went back home feeling fulfilled and elated with my first ever income that I had earned with my own hands!
Eventually, we started visiting the market every fortnight with my products. For me, it was more about the joy of feeling productive and good about myself, than the amount I earned.
In November 2019, my granddaughter was all set to get married. She urged me to make Besan Barfi for the wedding guests and the whole family came together to help me make 300 boxes of my barfi! Soon enough, the sweetness of the barfi made waves across the city and orders started pouring in. I earned my first paycheck of Rs. 2000 and since then there has been no looking back.
When did you start and who were your pillars of support back then?
I started my entrepreneurial venture at the age of 90. The day I expressed my feelings about earning my own money, my entire family came together to support my decision. I remember my daughter telling me that my Besan Barfi, which is a family favourite, must be the first product I should sell. My grandson, who is a renowned chef in Chandigarh, assured me of his assistance in every possible way to ensure that the Barfi reaches every household in the city and beyond. My son-in-law sourced the vendors for packaging. My granddaughter, an interior designer by profession, helped me with branding and packaging. She, in fact, is the one who named my brand “Harbhajans-Made with Love”. Her husband and business partner got the first set of boxes manufactured for my Barfi. My granddaughter-in-law, a senior marketing professional, assisted my brand with all the marketing requisites. Thus, my whole family helped to turn my dreams into reality!
With the unstinted support of my family, what started as a small home-grown endeavour has grown into a thriving business. With over 3000 orders delivered through Amazon and other delivery partners, my products are now reaching every corner of the country. I have a 21.8k-strong Instagram family who showers me with their love every single day.
Tell us a little about your childhood years and your initial journey in Chandigarh Tricity.
I grew up in a small town named Taran Tarn in Punjab. We were six sisters, and I was the second youngest, raised with love, surrounded by people who loved to cook and eat. Growing up, I remember our kitchen always wafting the most delectable aromas. While my mother excelled at everyday cooking, my father enjoyed making all sorts of delicacies.
I was married at the age of 22 and a large part of my married life was spent in Amritsar, until we finally moved to Chandigarh in 1980. Since then, I have lived my entire life in the city, and it holds precious memories for me. Presently, my home is with my youngest daughter Raveena Suri, my son-in-law, and grandchildren. I am grateful to God for being surrounded by my loving family.
Your sumptuous recipes are known for making your customer feel nostalgic while remembering their childhood days. Tell us about all that you have in store.
It makes me proud to say that the recipe of the famous Besan Barfi is over 110 years old. As a young girl, I remember my father making the Besan Barfi for the family and over the years I have done the same, making the barfi for my children and then my grandchildren, passing the unique taste of this traditional recipe from one generation to the next. Every bite of this barfi reminds me of my childhood, and today, my children and grandchildren resonate with the same emotions.
All my other products also embody the spirit of a traditional Punjabi household. The product range includes pickles, chutneys, masalas, Panjeeri, sharbats and squashes and each recipe is curated by me. With the influx in online orders, I have now trained a ‘women-centric’ team who bring my recipes to life and ensure timely production, packaging, and delivery of all orders, ascertaining the highest customer satisfaction.
How does a regular day in your life look like?
I start my day with Ardaas (prayer), thanking God for everything he has given me and my family, and seeking his blessings for the day ahead. I then enjoy my breakfast with my children and grandchildren, before they head out to their respective jobs.
For me, it is impossible to sit idle. I strongly believe that it is better to wear out than to rust and my daughter Raveena ensures that my days are fulfilling. She is my biggest support system at home. She is an artist, and at 50, started her own pottery studio. Together, we believe that we both have got a second chance at life, to fulfil our dreams and every day we inspire each other and encourage ourselves to do better. We both love our ‘chai pe charcha’ and for years we have been enjoying our tea-time chat sessions!
I love cooking and thoroughly enjoy my time in the kitchen. With my daughter’s or house-help’s assistance, I try to cook one dish every day for my family, based on their ‘farmiash’, be it gur ka halwa, kulfi, khatte aloo or paapri chaat. To keep myself busy, I also indulge in another favourite hobby – stitching and knitting. For as long as I can remember, I have stitched my own suits, kids’ clothes, and frocks for my granddaughter. Till date, whenever my health permits, I sit with my needle and thread and stitch some magic.
Even at this age, you are as graceful as ever – what is the secret behind your beauty and fitness?
That is very kind of you, thank you. Age is just a number. At heart, I still feel young and ready to take on the world. Given a chance, I would be in the kitchen all day, trying new recipes, meeting new people, and interacting with professionals like you. However, I do have to give my body rest.
However, I will let you know the secret of my youth! Fresh milk, pure desi ghee and homemade makhan (white butter) has kept me going! I rarely eat any outside food! Yes! In my home, I make everything in my kitchen, with my own hands. My children and grandchildren have been brought up solely on homemade foods, including basic things like ketchup. Always remember, what you put inside, will show on the outside!
With God’s blessings, even at 96, I love eating sweets and have a hearty appetite and I know for a fact that when the day comes, I will eat meetha and then go!
However, I also believe that sometimes it is ok to slow down. I take adequate rest at short intervals, listening to the demands of my body. Take rest, breathe, and then move ahead. Do not be in a hurry to accomplish your goals, give yourself time and just take one step at a time. You will see how the magic unfolds.
How do you anticipate the future of natural and organic delicacies in our country
With the growing awareness of the importance of natural, locally produced, and organic foods and with more and more people choosing to live a healthier lifestyle, I see a potential rise in the organic food market. Nothing beats the value of a traditionally cooked homemade delicacy, and I have been an advocate for this my whole life. I encourage everyone to shop local, go for organic products, eat nutritious home-made food, and you will live a long and healthy life!
One message for all your customers in Chandigarh Tricity?
Times today are tough, especially for the young generation, and failure is often inevitable. But never be afraid of failures. Keep trying. Sometimes you just need to re-strategize, and tackle a problem in a different way. Take that first step and then work towards the next. Remember, “khade hon nu jgah mil jaye ta baithan nu aapey mil jayegi” which means that once you attain success through hard work, nothing can stop you from soaring high!
Do not waste your time brooding over your past failures; instead, use this time wisely to focus on your future. Jindey Raho. Rab Rakha