THE RISING
Forbes India|May 07, 2021
European-style breads have gone mainstream in urban India, thanks to a growing bunch of bakers, and a push from the Covid-19 pandemic
JASODHARA BANERJEE

Not too long ago, authentic European-style bread were available only within the confines of cafes and restaurants of five-star hotels. Outside of them, bagels were often nothing more than ring-shaped, soft, white bread, while croissants were crescent-shaped versions of the same thing. Urban India, accustomed to consuming various forms of commercial, white bread for several decades, was yet to get a taste of, let alone develop a liking for, European bread each of which comes with its distinct flavors, crusts, textures, and characteristics.

In the last few years, however, thanks to the enthusiasm and efforts of a growing bunch of bakers, European style bread have become more mainstream than they ever were, becoming available in multiple cities, cafes and restaurants, grocery stores and online delivery platforms, and even delivered to your doorstep. So now, a bagel is not light and fluffy anymore, but dense, moist and chewy, like it is supposed to be, and croissants are light and flaky, with layer upon layer of buttery goodness. And then, of course, is the sourdough, which has emerged as the unlikely hero in a year plagued by Covid-19.

“When we started the bakery we made a decision to not have a bakery and patisserie together and instead focus only on bread, even though cakes is where you make the money,” says Aditi Handa, head baker and co-founder of The Baker’s Dozen, who started her journey as a baker with one outlet in Mumbai’s Prabhadevi neighborhood in 2013. “A lot of people told us, ‘How much bread will you sell? How will you make a sustainable business out of it?’ But when you have fallen in love, whether it is with a boy or bread, nothing else seems to matter.”

The beginning was not easy either, with clients not accustomed to an entirely new range of flavors and textures. “I think my sales team hated me and would keep telling me that no one wants to eat the bagels I made,” she laughs. “But I insisted on boiling the bagels, as they should be, and eventually it has paid off.”

From the single outlet in Prabhadevi, The Baker’s Dozen has grown to three branded stores in Mumbai and 21 delivery outlets pan-India and plans to expand to 50 stores across 15 cities by the end of 2021. With a massive scale-up in demand, manufacturing moved from its initial unit in Mumbai’s Wadala neighborhood to a larger space in Navi Mumbai, and finally to a 25,000 sq ft unit outside Ahmedabad. It is no surprise that revenues too have kept pace with this growth, rising from ₹6 crores in 2018-19 to an expected ₹20 crore in 2020-21.

From the Navi Mumbai unit, Handa started supplying to Pune, and then to Bengaluru. “We wanted to keep our processes artisanal, but at the same time, scale it up, which is a difficult proposition. So we wanted to have a central manufacturing facility, as well as improve the shelf life of the products so that they could be transported to different cities,” says Handa. “Since we don’t use preservatives, we turned to use ‘modified atmosphere packaging’, which is similar to how products like paneer are packaged.”

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