Started during the lockdown in 2020, Gujju Ben Na Nasta is a perfect example of the proverb 'Age is just a number'. This strictly homemade venture offers a range of pickles, Gujarati snacks, and full-fledged meals made by 77-year-old Urmila Jamnadas Asher.
Back in 2020, when the pandemic was being cruel to many people, Harsh Asher was also affected by it. He had to shut down two of his shops, which was another big trauma for him as he had lost his lower lip in an accident back in 2019. After the incident, Harsh preferred to stay at home as he was going through an identity crisis. One random day, when Harsh saw his 'Dadi', Urmila Jamanadas Asher, making pickles like usual, something struck him, and with this one thought, Gujju Ben Na Nasta was born.
"Gujju Ben was even earlier known for her cooking skills, especially for her Gujarati delicacies. In fact, she had even been to London as a cook for some Gujarati families 6 to 7 times. During the lockdown, I saw her making achaar, and since homemade food was in demand, and people were making food for those who weren't well, I thought what can we do, and thus we decided to make pickles, as she was already making it for her old customers", said Harsh Asher, Urmila Ji's grandson and her partner in Gujju Ben Na Nasta.
Since Urmila Ji had always been cooking for a long and people loved her food, she already had a loyal customer base. Keeping this in mind, Harsh drafted a message and shared it on social media platforms. "The message did wonders, things did go viral, and Dadi's pickles were picked up very well as it was homemade. I also think we all have someone, a dadi, a nani, or a Gujju Ben in our homes, who makes food for us with love and so Gujju Ben Na Nasta represents them", he further added.
By the next 20 to 25 days, this duo had received hundreds of orders, and Dadi had prepared around 400-500 kgs of pickles. "It was all word of mouth publicity. There's no secret recipe, I'd say. It's just homemade food with a lot of love, and it worked out well. Plus, Dadi's energy is inspiring. Even to date, I can't beat her when it comes to hard work. I bow down to her as even at this age, she works for 12 to 14 hours everyday", said Harsh with a big smile.
Gujju Ben Na Nasta started with a variety of pickles, but as they are seasonal, Harsh added snacks like thepla and dhokla to the menu. With the increasing demand and love, people were showering, he then took another step and started offering proper Gujarati meals. "The food industry is very challenging, as it's all about labour-intensive work. It was just me and dadi initially, and trust me, she was working like a machine. She would say, "tujhe nahi karna hai to tu chod main khud karlugi". At that time, we had tied up with many societies and it worked out well. And, so we added a few more people to our team and Dadi trained them. Today, we are a team of 7 and it's going great", said Harsh.
Well, that was about year one of Gujju Ben Na Nasta, and it's been a huge success. Dadi has been touching hearts with her generous smile and tasty food. She and Harsh have even spoken at TEDx. The credit definitely goes to Dadi for her immense hard work and amazing cooking skills, but an equal share goes to her grandson Harsh as well. He now plans to make Gujju Ben Na Nasta a global brand and has many things in the pipeline.
"Indians are travelling all around the world and so the long-term vision is to have Gujju Ben Na Nasta on International airports. We've been receiving orders from America, South Africa, Australia, and sometimes we can't cater to them. So, I feel it's the need, and I think only then it'll be justice to Dadi's hard work. We are currently serving only in South Mumbai, but definitely planning to scale up. Our pickles and Khakhras will be on Amazon, Flipkart, and other marketplaces very soon", he mentioned.
We hope to see Urmila Ji, a.k.a Gujju Ben Na Nasta, on new heights and wish Harsh and Urmila Ji great luck.
"We can't send paneer matar to London, but we can share the recipe all across the world, and so that's why, we thought of creating a YouTube channel. We made 3 recipes each day and it was also very necessary as Dadi was in the kitchen all the time. This way, I have taken her out of the kitchen, so that her essence is not lost", he said. Other than this, it's not just the food that brings people close to Dadi, but her vibe and her cheerful smile too. "There was a lady who came to visit Dadi from Virar. She was a cancer patient at stage 4. She ate and was so inspired by Dadi that she kept talking to her", he further mentioned.
If you are craving something to eat, you can check her YouTube channel, as Dadi is sharing her delicious recipes on it.
Quick 5 with Urmila Jamnadas Asher, a.k.a Dadi :
1. Any cooking tips: If the food turns out to be very salty, add one peeled potato and it will suck the salt out of it.
2. Your favourite food: Oh, well I love Paneer Matar, Paratha, and Puran Poli. Sometimes even I order all these online.
3. What's the secret of your energy Dadi? Nothing beta, it's all given by God. Also, what will I do by sitting at this age? So I keep doing this and that.
4. One thing you love about shooting videos for YouTube: It's fun making videos as we have a great team. All I think is 'Paka ke hi to dikhana hai.. Dikha denge :D"
5. If not cooking what will we find you doing Dadi? Playing Candy Crush!!