SALALAH, Oct 14 – It is a business that began with the passion of a housewife, who loved to cook food for her children, husband and relatives. She would add pickles to spice up the taste buds and would never know that the good wishes she was earning from her family and friends would turn into a full-fledged business model. It would be hard to find a better example of what a united family can achieve than Umm Khalid Pickles. It began in 2005 when Hilal Said Ahmed al Habshi of Maabela started doing a business of bringing fresh chillies from Africa and selling them to hypermarkets in Muscat.
“After getting the chilly cargo from East Africa all the family members, including my wife and children would help me in segregating the best stuff from the lot to take them to the hypermarkets. A lot would be wasted in the process. My wife would do re-sorting of the chillies which could not reach the market and make pickles out of them… everyone liked them and it became a practice that my wife would make pickles and they would be distributed among the friends and relatives,” said Al Habshi while taking part in an exhibition in Salalah.
In fact it was an idea of Al Habshi’s son Khalid, who found her mother’s pickles so tasty that suggested her to make pickles in large quantity, pack them in some used jars, and sell. It started in 2007 on a very small scale. The idea picked up and got a brand name Umm Khalid Pickles in no time. In ten years Umm Khalid Pickles has several types of pickles with two of them launched very recently.
Encouraged by friends and relatives, Al Habshi requested the managements of hypermarket chains like Lulu, Sultan Centre and Carrefour to keep Umm Khalid Pickles. The response is so good that Umm Khalid has become a household name in many areas in Oman. Al Habshi now markets more for Umm Khalid Pickles than the fresh chilly he brings from Uganda and other neighbouring countries.
The family has a small factory just behind their house in Maabela. It is equipped with basic facilities like chopping equipment and packaging tools. Al Habshi is all praise for the authorities like the municipality and Riyada (Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises).
“They come regularly for inspection and tell me to incorporate or remove as per standards for the best practices. I am planning to do some expansion, as I am hopeful of getting some land from the government.
Everyone in the family including the youngest among the siblings, Said Hilal al Habsi, 13, work for the family business. “I do contribute in packaging and marketing of the products whenever needed,” said Al Said who is a grade IX student in Seeb International School in Muscat,
“I am proud of my mother. I take active part in making pickles in mixing spices, cutting the stuff etc. I do admit that it is a great training ground for me. I am learning a lot here,” said Al Habshi’s daughter Jawhara, a standard XII student.
Al Habshi admits that the venture is a success story for his family and model in every member of the family is benefiting. “We are growing slowly and it makes you feel really good when you get some incentive out of your efforts. I am happy with whatever profit I get,” he says.