She’s 94 years old, been a homemaker all her life, and was born in Tarn Taran, a small town close to Amritsar. Meet Harbhajan Kaur, a 94-year-old entrepreneur. In conversation with her granddaughter, who tells us about the journey of Harbhajan Kaur and her globally famous brand Harbhajan’s. Harbhajan’s journey story is so inspiring that even business tycoon Anand Mahindra took to Twitter to call her ‘Entrepreneur of the year’.
The making of Harbhajan’s…
Harbhajan had a nice, big family who was fond of food and her father was extremely passionate about cooking. Not just the regular food but he loved making relishes like besan burfi, which is Harbhajan’s one of the specialties, is actually her father’s creation. They used to make everything at home, no outside food. Everything was made from scratch at home. Also, people didn’t have that convenience at that time, so they use to make everything at home. So Harbhajan imbibed the same habits from her father and started making things for her family after she got married. Her in-laws were very encouraging and she has made food all her life. Just like if it’s someone’s wedding or any occasion, she used to make seasonal things like halwa, sharbat, achaar, chutneys, besan burfi, panjiri, ice creams, etc.
Harbhajan is very inquisitive when it comes to cooking. She is always interested in knowing what this (food) is made of. She’s 94 and still experimenting. The curiosity to know more drives her. Learning new techniques and just putting her heart out in the food she makes is a speciality. She eats all cuisines and is very fond of eating and feeding. Harbhajan made food all her life, for her husband, in-laws, children, grandchildren, etc. Till now, even at this age, she has never rested in the afternoon and she always has something or the other that she wants to make every day.
Back then, in the no internet aged, her recipe hunting process was a different game. Asking someone, experimenting with food ingredients or eating something, and then observing it that is how all of her food skills evolved.
Harbhajan started living with her daughter when she lost her husband, almost 10 years back. So one day she was sitting with her daughter and they were talking about life over a cup of tea and her daughter asked whether she wants to do something in life or is she happy.
To which she replied, “Yes I am happy but I can’t sit idle, because I have never sat idle whole my life. Since everyone is busy in their work so I get bored and don’t know what to do throughout the day. I just have one desire in life that I have never earned a single penny. I want to be self-independent. I want to know the feeling of being independent.”
Her daughter replied that you should do something that you have been doing all your life and take it to the world. They have been nurtured all their life with her food and she should take it to the world and see how it goes.
The very next day they made the food and took it to a small market. Within an hour everything was sold out. Then they started doing this fortnightly for six months till Harbhajan’s name got established.
Briefly, it came with a thought that she wanted to be independent. “I don’t know what’s different because I have been doing this whole my life”, Harbhajan added. Nothing is different except for the volume. She also said that I am making the most of my bonus years in life.
Taking the legacy forward…
Of course yes! There’s an inspiring story, human touch, great product, legacy, quality of the product, there’s everything a brand really needs. There’s a huge benchmark to fill in, Harbhajan’s family encourage her and they would take it out to generations. As of now, this is what Harbhajan enjoys completely. She gets up in the morning and keeps on settling down things what she is going to cook and buy today. Her family does not want to take this from her, till the time she can work, she will continue to do so.
The internet breakout…
That was the first experience of getting international recognition. There were a lot of articles in print and a lot of interviews beforehand. It was mostly regional and nothing went national. So overnight, Anand Mahindra posted about her and she became a national icon. Harbhajan’s family told her about this and she felt really happy. Coming from Anand, she mentioned, is really a big thing and she has a lot to do now to meet those expectations.
The reaction of the family on becoming the Internet crush…
On asking the reaction of the family, Supriya replied that it was really great. Their generation is familiar with social media things but she isn’t. So they told her that this is what the internet is and how she is ruling it. She understands what Google, Youtube, Netflix, etc. is. She sometimes learns cookery on the internet but she is not a lot interested in it.
“We take much pride in what she is doing and how she is so passionate about it.”- Supriya
She’s still is extremely grounded and doesn’t feel pride that she got international recognition. She still feels that she needs to do a lot to get better and that there might be something worth in me that she got such a good response.
Supriya exclaimed, “We have been very fortunate that we have inspiration at our home. We don’t have to look out or readout for it. There are so many people who do a lot of things for inspiration, taking it from somewhere, for us, we have it at our home. She encourages us, gives us strength, motivation, and inspiration to life. Just like she adds a chapter in her life every day, she adds a chapter in our life as well.”