Straight From the Hills! - Jessica Jayne talks with You & I

An economics graduate from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, Jessica Jayne started her own venture in the area of product development after a brief stint in audio engineering at SAE Chennai. Her experiences and education led her to become a serial entrepreneur, and she has launched innovative and creative businesses along the way, such as Sharkfin Merchandising and Shiny Happy. Having lived in the northern hill station of Shimla over the past few years, removed from many of the typical commercial beauty and wellness products, she took an interest in local recipes, remedies, and more. Her first tryst with gutti ka tel (apricot kernel oil) was a massive success, with friends and family fast spreading its goodness. Thus was born Pahadi Local, a brand based on the philosophy of bringing everything pure from the magnificent hills into our everyday lives.

How did the idea of Pahadi Local develop?
Pahadi Local was the result of a serendipitous encounter with Himachal’s gutti ka tel (apricot kernel oil). I am a Bombay girl who moved to Shimla for a few years. This was the only product that saved my skin during the harsh winters. This was when I began to fall in love with all the local simple products of the mountains. I developed Pahadi Local as a brand with a commitment to give back to the regions of the source.

Since this is a niche industry, it must be necessary to innovate constantly. What’s your mantra to keep that going?
On the contrary, we are taking a slow and steady route to build Pahadi Local. We want to take time to introduce and educate our customers about our offerings in the wellness and skincare sectors. Since most of them are lesser-known in the plains, we are adding more products to our portfolio rather slowly.

What are your approaches and key challenges in the business?
My approach is to be honest and build a conscious business. Everything we do and every step we take must be mindful and eventually beneficial to the source. Being a new brand, we face challenges almost every day. Logistics is the toughest; moving raw material in the mountains in the middle of snow, landslides, and other environmental aspects must be factored in.

With the increasing awareness of natural and chemical-free products, a few other companies have sprung up in this field. How do you set yourself apart from the rest?
Pahadi Local is pure by definition. Our philosophy is ‘source to bottle’, which does not allow any kind of formulations or permissible stabilisers. The words natural, organic, and pure are being used quite loosely in this industry, which is why we urge our customers to read the back of the bottle so they can make a conscious decision about using any product.

What do you find most frustrating about what you do? And what’s most rewarding?
I’m an entrepreneur. Nothing is frustrating; they are all learnings that are going to help me along my way. I have a positive approach to failure and believe in certain takeaways. The more time we spend getting frustrated, it takes our focus off our goals. This is something my business partner Udit Sheth taught me in the early days of business. Building a brand from scratch and making sure we stay truly committed to our source, even while scaling, is the most rewarding part of my journey.

What inspires you?
Simplicity and humility.The simplicity of any product or design has my full attention. Humility is something I have seen and learnt from my mentors. Like Anita Lal, founder of Good Earth. She is such an outstanding lady, always kind and grounded. No matter who she is, she has built India’s most beautiful and luxurious brand.

What are your hobbies and interests?
I have started learning to dive and study coral conservation. It directly impacts the industry that I am in, and is important to take a holistic view to make a difference in every way one can.

What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained?
I travel to the hills and just breathe!        – as told to Sumana